Sample Research Paper: What is a PR Plan?

Business WritingPublic Relations and Branding
Feb 10, 2022

Planning is a significant part of any business endeavor. A start-up company needs to conduct a feasibility study to identify the viability of the business. An existing organization may need to create a financial budget to ensure the efficient use of its finances. A struggling business can greatly benefit from an effective marketing plan that increases customer demand. Planning can make the process of establishing a business easier and more manageable. This leads many entrepreneurs to prioritize the planning stage for their businesses and set the objectives for their marketing, financing, and sales department. Aside from these, there is also the PR department and its creation of PR plans. PR plans allow organizations to establish their public image through PR programs and secure their reputation from potential harm.

Public Relations Definition

The term “PR” is short for “public relations ” which refers to an organization’s relationships with the public. The Public Relations Society of America or PRSA (n.d.) defined the term as a strategic communication process that builds the relationships between organizations and the public. The public relations field focuses on communication with the public, which involves the use of language and words. Since PR requires a focus on communication, PR professionals must possess essential skills that will help them establish relationships within and outside the organization. The “public” that PR refers to includes customers, investors, competitors, and other community members. A PR professional must be able to communicate effectively with these different types of individuals and create strategies for relationship building.

While the public relations field may seem straightforward, it requires proper planning and management. According to the Public Relations Society of America (n.d.), public relations include influencing, engaging, and building relationships with key stakeholders to create positive public perception. This process can include researching public opinion, counseling management, protecting organizational reputation, evaluating objectives, planning organization efforts, managing staff, and overseeing content or product creation. This extensive list illustrates the responsibilities of a PR professional and the key role they plan in achieving an organization’s main objectives.

What is a PR Plan?

It is essential for a PR department or professional to write a PR plan for various reasons. This will allow them to set their objectives and identify possible public image issues. A PR plan will act as an organization’s road map that will contain details in achieving specific objectives. Based on the PRSA’s definition of PR, a PR plan will include steps on managing public opinion, establishing proper management practices, protecting the organization’s reputation, conducting PR programs, and creating organizational content. Additionally, since it is a type of business plan, it will involve setting objectives, budgeting, and a feasible timeframe to achieve the objectives.

An effective PR plan will depend on the organization’s approach to research. Conducting extensive research will allow an organization to establish the correct objectives, strategies, and tactics. The research will then act as the foundation for each step in the PR plan, from program execution to evaluation (Anderson et al., 2009). It can also act as an excellent informational tool that provides data regarding organizational issues (Turney, 1998). For example,  a food and beverage company with customer service problems may create a PR plan that focuses on promoting their facility’s cleanliness. The PR plan will likely be ineffective since the public relations issue of the company is about their customer service and not their sanitation practices. A PR plan must begin with an effective research methodology as it will affect the succeeding steps.

Importance of a PR Plan

The main purpose of creating a PR plan is to set the PR objectives of an organization. With this, PR planning clarifies the intentions of an organization (Turney, 1998). It sets a unified goal that each member must try to achieve. The organization can create standards or policies that will aid in achieving its desired public image. For example, a car company can establish a policy that requires its employees to recycle paper as a way to promote an eco-friendly brand. Aside from developing positive publicity, this can also increase workplace productivity and ensure that each member is engaged in the values of the organization.

While members of the organization become more engaged in its objectives, PR professionals can utilize PR planning as a way to learn more about their company. Planning allows an individual to ask questions and validate their assumptions regarding an organization (Turney 1998). As PR professionals conduct research and develop plans, they also learn more about the organization’s operations. They can then develop better plans to address public relations issues as well as understand their role.

As an organization faces issues regarding performance and public image, the role of PR planning becomes more significant. According to Netetska & Mechenkova (2020), organizations cannot avoid experiencing crises but can effectively address them through corporate social responsibility and public relations. Any organization will have to face financial losses, staff issues, management conflicts, and other crises. PR planning can help mitigate the effects of the crises and resolve issues. Furthermore, PR professionals may be able to predict possible organizational crises through their research. For example, a PR professional may learn that investors are threatening to pull their investments. They can utilize this information to create a PR plan that will prevent the investors from leaving, thus, mitigating a potential financial crisis.

Lastly, as a PR plan sets organizational objectives, it promotes an efficient organizational process. Anderson et al. (2009) stated that setting objectives can lead to prioritization, reduced disputes, efficiency, successful programs, evaluations, and unification of PR and organizational objectives. A PR plan allows an organization to prioritize specific objectives and prevent other members to focus on unimportant goals. Prioritization then leads to fewer disputes since members understand the goal and are less likely to engage in disagreements. This can further result in the unification of PR and organizational objectives as different departments try to achieve a common goal. A good PR plan will lead to successful programs that achieve the PR goals of the organization. The process then ends with the evaluation of whether the organization achieved the objectives or not.

Difference Between PR Plans and Marketing Plans

Due to the many types of business-related plans, some individuals may find them difficult to differentiate from one another. It can be easy to think that a PR plan is similar to a marketing or advertising plan. However, it can be quite simple to remember the plans’ functions through their names.  The difference between a PR plan and a marketing plan is that the former focuses on an organization’s public image while the latter aims to increase product awareness and sales (Theaker, 2001). A PR plan will mainly involve steps in developing good publicity which can have indirect effects on an organization’s income. PR plans may not involve promoting products or services but giving information to the public. Alternatively, marketing plans tend to have a direct influence on sales as it directly promotes products and try to persuade customers.

Tips in Writing a PR Plan

Utilize Social Media as a Platform

Most business plans today take advantage of technology and the Internet to achieve their goals. Professionals writing a PR plan can also utilize them in their strategies and receive positive results. According to Pakura & Rudeloff (2020), social media platforms have positive effects in establishing an organization’s brand and reputation. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, offer an accessible medium where organizations can reach the public and effectively communicate with them. A company can create a social media page for free and communicate with its customers through their posts. Additionally, social media platforms allow environmental scanning processes through targeted promotions, follower responses, and page performance statistics. These tools can be useful in PR research and evaluating the effectiveness of PR programs.

Plan Ahead

Starting the PR plan process early can lead to successful results for PR professionals. According to Vercic & Zerfass (2016), organizations that planned PR strategies have more successful communication than those that do not have strategic approaches (cited in Pakura & Rudeloff, 2020). PR professionals can utilize this by establishing strategies early on to promote effective communication and prevent potential disputes. They can look at sample PR plans and adopt strategies before they even conduct their initial research  Additionally, Pakura & Rudeloff’s (2020) study also stated that long-term planners are more successful in branding and building reputation on social media than their competitors. This further supports the premise that planning can lead to effective PR strategies.

Keep Corporate Social Responsibility in Mind

Public relations and corporate social responsibility have a close relationship as they both focus on an organization’s role in society. Netetska & Mechenkova (2020) utilized aspects of public relations to develop strategies for corporate social responsibility. The authors stated that PR provides useful tools to implement corporate social responsibility practices. For example, philanthropic responsibility practices can help establish an organization’s public image. An organization can conduct charity events that will associate its brand with charity, thus improving its public image. Through the use of corporate social responsibility, PR professionals can easily develop programs and address CSR concerns.

Conclusion

A PR plan is an organizational road map that sets objectives to establish its public image and positive relationships. It is an essential tool for PR professionals and organizations as it provides important information regarding a company. It can help identify issues, address concerns, prevent disputes, and improve work performance. While a PR plan does not directly affect an organization’s sales performance, it influences the overall operation of a business. It can dictate whether a particular activity is beneficial or disadvantageous. A PR plan ensures that an organization maintains a healthy relationship with the public and prevents potential publicity crises to occur.

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Reference List

Anderson, F., Hadley, L., Rockland, D., & Weiner, M. (2009). Guidelines for Setting Measurable Public Relations Objectives: An Update. Institute for Public Relations. Available at https://www.instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/Setting_PR_Objectives.pdf . Accessed February 9, 2022.

Cabot, M. (2012). Introduction to Public Relations. San Jose State University. Available at https://www.sjsu.edu/ajeep/docs/IntroToPR.pdf. Accessed February 9, 2022.

Chingwaramuse, V. (2021). Public Relations an Underrated Profession. The Standard. Available at https://thestandard.newsday.co.zw/2021/07/25/public-relations-an-underrated-profession/. Accessed February 10, 2022.

Netetska, T. & Mechenkova, N. (2020). The Aspects of Public Relations in the Structure of Corporate Social Responsibility. Available at http://repository.kpi.kharkov.ua/handle/KhPI-Press/48568. Accessed February 9, 2022.

Online.maryville.edu. (n.d.) What is PR? A Guide to Understanding Public Relations. Maryville University. Available at https://online.maryville.edu/blog/what-is-pr-a-guide-to-understanding-public-relations/ . Accessed February 9, 2022.

Pakura, S. & Rudeloff, C. (2020). How Entrepreneurs Build Brands and Reputation With Social Media PR: Empirical Insights From Start-Ups in Germany. Available at https://doi.org/10.1080/08276331.2020.1728490. Accessed February 9, 2022.

Prsa.org. (n.d.). About Public Relations. PRSA. Available at https://www.prsa.org/about/all-about-pr . Accessed February 9, 2022.

Theaker, A. (2001). The Public Relations Handbook. Routledge, pp 5-6. Available at http://103.5.132.213:8080/jspui/bitstream/123456789/273/1/The%20Public%20Relation%20Handbook.PDF. Accessed February 9, 2022.

Turney, M. (1998). Public Relations Planning is Essential. Nku.edu. Available at https://www.nku.edu/~turney/prclass/readings/plan.html. Accessed February 9, 2022.

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