Immediacy is only one aspect of the job: planning and strategy in public relations

4 years, 8 months ago

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Making time for serious strategic planning is a long-term investment in the future of an organisation. By Amybel Sánchez de Walther.



The daily demands of life within an organisation often means tasks relating to the implementation of communications activities take precedence. Communicators, however, should where possible strive to replace this constant focus on immediacy with more thought about long-term objectives and revenues. 
 
It’s imperative to think beyond a particular season. In order to reach a convenient position in the market, the structure, strategy and whole vision/purpose of the organisation must be taken into account.
 
The challenges and goals of the moment should not be considered as mere procedures or expenses without a broader context. Instead, think of them within the framework of strategic planning and development.
 
Planning and strategy represent a long-term investment that benefits the organisation quantitatively (in terms of returns and added value) and also in terms of fortifying the intangible assets of the organisation that represent its culture and sole identity in the face of the competition.
 
Aspirational view
 
Strategic planning within corporate communications has a broad and aspirational view with respect to the future. It is the opposite of actions meeting superficial and short-term requirements. 
 
Organisations should not find themselves heading towards uncertain fields that put the institution at risk. But even the most challenging of scenarios may be full of opportunities to improve the quality of communications among internal and external audiences.
 
Beyond scheduling, a strategic perspective implies the extended commitment of PR practitioners to the key stakeholders of the institution: at this level ‘segments’ or ‘sectors’ are not considered. Instead, the issue is networks and groups interacting through ICTs and spreading diverse opinions capable of disrupting the company´s reputation and actions.
 
Working on the design of a communications strategy implies that PR practitioners shall consider the nature of the actions and behaviour of the institution, which determine its identity and attributes ("know-how") and if these activities are subjected to parameters that make possible relationships with the publics ("letting know"). 
 
Coherent and consistent
 
In that sense, it means that every plan should be coherent and consistent with organisational values and culture: we should not pretend to be something we are not and nor should we put into action a flamboyant and pretentious campaign offering information that does not match the corporate reality.
 
In addition, the strategic plan should be informed by the communicative history of the organisation in order to establish aspects aimed at improving and making changes, so as to adjust to the new strategy. 
 
The analysis of difficult conditions is also useful for understanding the external context caused by the development of previous plans and experiences. This is where PR practitioners use research methodology: without a professional capability to analyse and examine the available data, communicators will not be able to create a genuinely effective and appropriate strategy.
 
Analysis tools
 
One of the key points is to study the context, which may be viable through the use of tools like the widely known FODA [SWOT] and PESTEL analyses. The diverse dimensions surrounding the actions taken by the organisation may be translated into political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental factors. 
 
In fact, it is also crucial that PR practitioners focus on the workforce and partners of the company in general: employees are precisely the most important and strategic customers as they know the very nature of the institution internally. An approach to the models deployed by the competence is also valid to structure an effective and attractive response to the customers.
 
Thus, the strategic plan of communication is fed from a mapping of publics that comprise the corporation´s personnel, shareholders, suppliers, distributors and investors as well as consumers, leaders of opinion, means of communication, governmental organisations, NGOs, community groups and ecologists among others. 
 
Qualitative and quantitative field research is also necessary to understand the opinions and judgments of these publics. This should complement the cumulative documentary research carried out during the examination of the context.
 
In sum, the concept of strategic communication merges the philosophy and the existing culture of the corporation with the tendencies identified inside the publics (comments, opinions, experiences, prejudices, etc). This makes it possible to structure a group of essential guidelines for reaching the goals and targets of the organisation as well as reinforcing the culture and shared beliefs.
 
By further enforcing the values and corporate vision, it makes it possible to strengthen an organisation’s competitive attributes. In turn, this will exert significant influence on the climate and performance of the organisation.  
 
 
Author’s Details
Dr. Amybel Sánchez is IPRA President for 2015. An IPRA member for eight years, she has been the representative member of the Latin American Chapter since 2010.
 
Currently, Dr. Sánchez serves as the Director of the Research Institute of the Professional School of Communication Sciences at Universidad de San Martín de Porres in Lima, Peru. She holds a PhD and MA in Communication and Public Relations. Her publications focus on the evolution of Public Relations in Peru within both an academic and professional context. As part of her contribution to the development of PR and communications, she serves as a jury member for several local and foreign associations.
 
Dr. Sánchez believes that an ever closer relationship between the business world and the academic community is essential in sharing knowledge and improving society.  
 
 

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Amybel Sánchez de Walther

Dr. Amybel Sánchez is IPRA President for 2015. An IPRA member for eight years, she has been the representative member of the Latin American Chapter since 2010.

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