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PLANNING PUBLIC RELATIONS PROGRAMS

Kelly (2001), Ledingham and Bruning (2001), Wilson (2001), and Woodward (2000), suggest the following in planning public relations programs or activities: research, planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and stewardship.

Research

Research is the first phase of public relations planning, and aims to identify the needs of the community in the organization's area of expertise. At this phase, a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of an organization's environment is required. Ledingham and Bruning (2001) advise creating a list of all key constituencies, circulating the list throughout the organization to gain insight into the relationships between the organization and the key publics identified, and identifying the needs of the community. The research phase should target all internal (e.g., employees, board members, and volunteers) and external (e.g., donors, clients, government officials, and members of the media) stakeholders, and should help identify the relationships between the stakeholders and the organization.

Planning

Information gathered during the research process is used to further the second phase: planning. The planning phase will specify problems related to communication (e.g., image problems, lack of community or financial support, or crisis management). This makes it possible to define the audience, the communication effect, and the message. The planning will identify necessary funding expenses related to printing, mailing, and labor costs. A public relations budget should be cost-effective.

Implementation

The implementation aims to design activities related to the objectives stated in the planning phase. This is the phase during which a public relations campaign is being launched to raise awareness on key topics or issues of interest.

Monitoring

At the monitoring phase, organizations carefully observe and track behavioral, environmental, and attitudinal changes through surveys, questionnaires, or observation, to measure community response regarding the public relations plan. For example, nonprofit organizations may monitor whether there is correlation between the implementation of the public relations plan and increase in monetary and nonmonetary supports received from the overall community.

Evaluation

During the evaluation phase, organizations assess the effectiveness of a public relations plan. Evaluation can include facets of planning, process, and outcomes.

Stewardship

The last phase is stewardship, which is the opportunity for organizations to prepare the foundation for future interactions with stakeholders. As Kelly (2001) explains, stewardship "not only ensures continuity in the public relations process but also promotes ethical behavior by practitioners and their organizations" (p. 283).

COMMUNITY RELATIONS AND FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY

Community relations programs aim to show how an organization practices its social responsibilities. These programs are targeted at the macro level, the community at large, and specific segments of it. The micro level is focused on the individual, client, or patron. These programs start with the organization's strategic plans and values. Program values guide the strategic planning, assist in recruiting, help with preparing grant proposals, and fund-raising. Community relations programs and activities should be based on mutual benefits, value and worth, long-term viability, and return on investment.

 
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