Thursday, July 13, 2006

To Plan or How to Plan

There is a dichotomy in management which we face in planning and management of Internet mediated Public Relations.

In planning and management of Internet mediated Public Relations (99% of all practice in Internet mediated in some form) we need to understand these problems in order that a well formed Corporate PR strategy can be developed.

From the ideas such as Drucker's 'Management by Objectives' to CIPR definition of Public Relations as the “ planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics” there is an assumption that planning as a core management discipline will be SMART, that is, Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, and Time-Specific. We start at the beginning and work through to the conclusion, evaluate our effort and file away as 'finished'.

On the other hand there is a view of “radical transparency” which is a management method where nearly all decision making is carried out publicly. All draft documents, all arguments for and against a proposal, the decisions about the decision making process itself, and all final decisions, are made publicly and remain publicly archived.

"“The case for corporate transparency is compelling. With perfect corporate transparency, everyone within a company has access to relevant information. Management accurately represents the drivers of the business. Annual budgeting is replaced with a system of continuous planning supported by a collaborative process. Every manager knows exactly how his or her decisions affect other aspects of the company. There is visibility into how external changes impact internal matters. And the organization is able to predict precisely how the market will respond to various activities."”

Corporate Transparency makes organisations efficient. It means that information that can be trusted and available to people who need it when they need it in an environment where they can act on it will be more efficient that one where gate keepers restrict access.

Corporate Transparency and Internet Transparency are different.

The Internet facilitates transparency, it is one of its great features. We use it a lot. Organisations are transparent online in many ways.

In every sector, public, private, not for profit, organisations make their supply chain available to vendors to take advantage of enhanced production scheduling and just in time deliveries. The employment of the best practitioners in the world in design and development may mean using an expert half way round the world requiring open and transparent interaction. To produce goods and services we use contractors and expose our needs and aspirations to them on line. Then there is process information, interaction with eGovernement Internet enabled regulators and public utilities, There are recruitment and employment policies, markets, product distribution, pricing, and customer care all to be made clear, all using multiple channels for communication and in a mashup of digital data, plain conversations and all manner of other digital techniques in-between.

Much of this information is open and in the public domain, some is password protected or encrypted.

In addition policies are made public, it saves having to deal with every enquire with paper, post and people.

Internet Transparency also means our competitors, and a vast array of stakeholders can find out a great deal. In some cases, being open means that critics have ready answers and in social media, criticism is often answered by ordinary people who point to corporate content that makes policies and practice clear. In addition, all information is (almost) eventually available to everyone online.

This means that Internet transparency has the power to be disruptive.

Internet transparency interrupts the plan.

This changes the nature of Public Relations planning.

It means that monitoring and evaluation have to be a continuous part of all activities at every stage of the plan and the plan itself needs to be constructed to allow for change as an organic part of the process.

There has to be a response mechanism in the PR plan than will allow fundamental change even to the extent of changing the aims of the organisation.

The extent to which this is evident can be seen by example. BP, stopped being a company that provided oil based fuel and became a company that is about finding, producing and marketing the natural energy resources on which the modern world depends. It embraced competing technologies and diversified into renewables. It tells its shareholder that returns will not be maximised but optimised to 'underpin growth by a focus on performance, particularly on returns, investing at a rate appropriate for long term growth'.

Rick Wagoner CEO of General Motors does not head up an auto maker which ' remains committed to leading not only from a business standpoint, but economically, socially and environmentally as well'.

These are titanic shifts for major corporations in less than a decade.

The shift did not come because of government pressures but because their operations could be juxtaposed with economic, environmental, social and political counterpoint on a global scale and affecting all their key stakeholder groups.

Internet disruption is gaining pace. Evidence of how it changes organisations ranges from the IMF to retailing.

In the relationship management model (and by that I do not mean relationship management as interpreted by Steve Mackey at Deakin University, Australia. My interpretation is more fundamental) there is a dynamic in which there is constant shifting appreciationiation of values mutually held between the organisation (a nexus of relationships) and its constituency.

It makes planning and management very dynamic.

Picture: Gilera Nexus 500