Month: April 2016

CAP 220: Then & Now

Way back in January, I didn’t know a whole lot about the world of PR and what it is all about.  My first blog was a preliminary guess as to what I would be exposed to in this course and while I wasn’t totally wrong, I had just a tid-bit of the knowledge I have now.  Having muscled through this course, I have experience in putting PR practices to use though it will take more real-world experience to master them.  This blog is a deeper look into what I knew, what I didn’t and what I finally learned in CAP 220.

In my first blog of the semester, I wrote about celebrity image and how the only thing I knew about public relations is how celebrities and companies need to maintain a positive image.  But there is more to PR than just that.  It includes paving the way for a product to be brought to market, keeping customers coming back, and how to communicate effectively with a target public.  In this course, we learned a lot about goal setting and evaluation which is critical to the success of a public relations campaign.  In order to reach the overarching goal of the campaign, one needs to know what steps to take and that really came to life in the campaign book.  Through developing objectives, strategies, and tactics, I was able to see how campaign goals are reached and also how PR is a process that cannot be completed overnight.  There are many steps and processes that need to play out that sometimes take years to complete.  There are planning, execution and evaluation stages that all take place on their own time.  Sometimes they happen in one month or one year.  Putting together the Gannt chart for the campaign book taught me that timeline.  It was difficult at times to differentiate between the objectives, strategies and tactics because they all seemed so similar.  But after seeing how each one feeds into the next, it became easier to go through the process and define what exactly what we wanted to accomplish by the end of the campaign.

At the start of this class, I wasn’t sure how my business background would differ from a communications background.  It was cool to see different theories and processes that come from the school of communications and the school of business and how they are different but ultimately accomplish the same thing.  For example, there is a heavy emphasis on the research process in both areas but in my Ad/PR classes, there seems to be more concern over citation and formatting.  Wherein my business classes, there isn’t as much emphasis on using the correct citation format, rather just giving credit where credit is due.  Also, in business, there tends to be the belief that public relations practices are not a necessity.  After having this course, I realize that having good PR is critical to keeping a business profitable because ultimately, consumers pay for good products that come from companies with a good reputation.

In addition, learning the difference between marketing, advertising, journalism, and public relations was something I found very useful.  Although they are very similar, they each have distinct characteristics that make them each their own concept.  Marketing is more about the product itself and putting a company in a position to make a profit off the product.  Public relations is a broad scope that focuses on specialized publics through multiple channels and can aid marketing and advertising efforts and use them as tools for success.

Some things I find useful going further into my education, co-curricular groups, and ultimately into a career are the ability to manage crises, write a press release, and brainstorm solutions to a problem.  Learning ways to effectively handle a negative situation helped me put out fires in my student organization and put us in the best possible position to maintain our reputation.  I wrote my third blog on the crisis surrounding Chipotle when they had an outbreak of E. Coli.  Reading about what they did to save their customer base and get people to come back after such negative publicity, taught me that when you are transparent and open with our customer and they feel like they can trust you again, you can come back from almost anything.  I’m sure I will put crisis management skills to use for years to come.

In my internship with Grand Valley athletic marketing, I was responsible for planning a themed basketball game called “Kids Day.”  The skills I acquired through learning about how to write a press release helped me communicate with the outside Grand Rapids community about the event and inform the public.  Not having had that skill, I would be ill prepared to handle something of that magnitude.  That was when the classroom came to life for me.  I was actually using skills I learned in a class and applied them to something that was happening.

Although this course was a pain in my butt sometimes and it was hard to learn all about what PR is while directly applying it to a semester-long project, it taught me a whole lot.  Not just about Ad/PR but also life in general and how to deal with other people in the business world. Looking back, I didn’t know as much as I think I did about PR when this class began but now that it’s April I can take a deep breath and know that, if nothing else, I made it out alive.

Check Yourself

Because the art of public relations and maintaining a brand image can be such intangible concepts, it can be difficult for non-PR practitioners to see the value.  For advertising, journalism, and marketing, the impact of a campaign or story is more obvious.  It can be measured in sales quantity or dollar amount, number of views or clicks on a web ad, or number of subscribers, views, or shares of a newspaper.  Public relations isn’t easy, but it’s just as, if not more important than its related fields.

The return on investment (ROI) is a financially measured value that is defined in the PR realm as money generated from a public relations campaign less the costs of implementing that campaign (Obrien, 2013).  Also in Obrien’s article, he mentions the importance of determining the desired outcome of a public relations campaign.  If one does not know what they wish to accomplish, it’s difficult to quantify the results in the end.  In addition, looking at the company’s position before the campaign is launched as well as one year in the past helps us determine more accurately, the impact of the campaign.  What was the company culture like before the PR efforts were put into action?  What was going on one year ago that could have contributed to the position that the company now finds itself in?  These are both important questions to ask while analyzing the ROI.

It’s easy to see the ROI as simply an accounting calculation, which part of it is just that.  But, it also has to do with meeting intangible needs like social media metrics and public opinion.  CEOs and business professsionals who may not be as versed on the field of public relations tend to focus on outputs rather than outcomes (Oakley Owens, 2013).  This implies that people who are not of the PR mindset like to see numbers and actual hard data to prove that what PR activities are happening are worth it.  That is difficult to quantify because some things like public perception are difficult to gauge.  Outcomes are broader.  Big picture things like how did this campaign affect a consumers mindset, and did it lead them toward our product and away from a competitor or vice versa?  However, while PR continues to grow and become a vital area in the business world, top level executives who are infamous for belittling public relations have vouched for its importance and its impact on their bottom line (Lee & Yoon, 2009).

So PR is important but is it measured the same for everyone? No.  While it’s easy to look at survey results or media placements, that’s not the whole story, and it’s not even the same story for every entity.  Depending on the size of the business or entity, public relations practices change, and with it, ways to evaluate effectiveness.  Lee and Yoon (2009) speak on the model of the 4 levels of effectiveness.  This model looks at practices from an individual, program, organizational and societal perspective (Lee & Yoon, 2009).  This way there is an all-encompassing evaluation of the business’ efforts.  Individual focuses on the efforts of the individual practitioner and how well they perform, program level deals with the campaign itself and how well it achieved its objectives and overall goal, organizational impact looks at the ways the organization’s mission and bottom line have been affected, and finally, societal – whether the public relations practices have a positive or negative impact on equilibrium in society (Lee & Yoon, 2009).  This confirms what was mentioned in Obrien’s article about aligning all departments in a business and keeping their efforts consistent toward one goal (Obrien, 2013).  I thought the model described in Lee and Yoon’s piece was interesting because it seems to touch all the major players in PR activities; people, campaign, company, and consumer.  I think keeping this model in mind could help a practitioner efficiently evaluate exactly what impact they are making.

 


 

References

Lee, Suman, & Yoon, Youngmin. (2009) Return on investment (ROI) of international public relations: A country-level analysis. Science Direct. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811109001404

Oakley Owens, Yasheaka. (2013) What is Public Relations ROI? YoakleyPR. Retreived from http://yoakleypr.com/wp/public-relations/what-is-public-relations-roi/#.VwF-N_krKM8

Obrien, Archie. (2013) 10 Ways to Measure ROI of Public Relations. Everything-PR. Retreived from http://everything-pr.com/roi-public-relations/41033/