The Value of Planning in Public Relations

I wrote this as part of an assignment in my PR Planning and Problems course, taught by Tom Hagley at the University of Oregon. It was written partly in response to material from his book “Writing Winning Proposals: PR Cases.”

After I was exposed to the process and value of planning, it seemed completely obvious why planning is absolutely necessary in the practice of public relations. Without a plan, how would we know what to do? How would we know when to do it? And how, in the end, would we know that we did well? Without a plan wouldn’t we just be basing our entire operation on guesswork, hunches, assumptions, and improvisations? In retrospect I can say, without a doubt, “well duh!”
So why the stress on planning and the constant reiteration of the importance of creating a plan based on solid research, a firm understanding of the client and situation, and comprising necessary elements like budget, timeline, objectives, and goal? Let me ask this: How often do we do things in life without a plan? Probably very frequently. We don’t formally write up our career goals complete with timeline, analysis of our current situation, and measurable objectives. Nor do we do the same for vacations, shopping trips, or educational courses. Each of these activities might have some form of planning; we might bring a list to the store with measurable objectives like “get eggs,” or we might plan a budget for a vacation. But for many of us we fly by the seat of our pants, relying on our brain to keep us on track and our feelings to tell us whether or not we’re successful at the end. This is all well and good – I’m not advocating writing up a complex plan every time we dash out to the grocery store. But relying on our private, spontaneous brilliance alone does not prepare us to successfully complete a public relations campaign. The client needs to be assured that we fully comprehend the situation. We need to be assured that we understand the situation. We also need guidelines to stay on track and evaluate our progress along the way. Planning forms a foundation to any public relations work, just like it forms a foundation to nearly everything we do in life (we don’t simply find ourselves in Australia, wondering how we got there). The key difference is the necessity of formal, focused planning in public relations practice to ensure the goals of the client (and firm) are not only mutually understood but also achieved.

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