Before you get to the fun parts of PR – the organizing of press events and the pitching of awesome stories – you need a plan. And before you can thoughtfully write a plan, you need to do some research. This helps you ensure that the plan and tactics you write will truly move the mission forward for your non-profit organization.
Here are some key activities for the research phase of PR planning:
1. Define the problem. Starting with the problem you hope your PR plan can solve ensures that you are able to summarize what is happening now that isn’t quite working. Drafting a problem statement needn’t be a big affair – all you really need to define is the current situation including the source of the concern, where it is a problem, who is impacted by the issue and how, and when it is a problem. You also want to clearly state why this issue matters to your non-profit organization and the people you serve.
2. Analyze it all! Dig deep here to understand the internal and external factors influencing your organization in regards to the issue you want to solve with your PR plan. This includes looking into current messaging and media coverage about your organization to identify current positioning (which may offer clues as to how you could change that with your plan) and also understanding current programs in place to address the issue. Look at a traditional SWOT analysis from the communications perspective to get an idea of how your plan might best leverage opportunities.
3. Understand the baseline. Knowing how your audience perceives your non-profit organization and how they act based on that perception is key. You can gather this information through formal or informal research, but even the loosest inquiry is better than designing a plan in the silent solitude of your office. Ask the people and then listen to them.
The best PR plans are built on a solid understanding of the people the organization needs on board to make the magic happen, as well as an awareness of what constraints the organization works under. The more you, as a PR professional, understand those aspects, the more impactful your plan will be.
I’m curious: Have you ever been surprised by a finding in the research phase?