Thursday, June 21, 2007

Management Approaches to PR Planning

The evidence would suggest that optimised relationship development practice needs to adopt and develop a range of management skills to be able to execute complex communication systems which includes a high level of uncertainty and change.

In effect, we need to be able to plan for surprises.

Such management skills come from a range of disciplines. For the most part, they do not replace existing practice but add and extend it.

This means that the practitioner needs to know and understand the management practices needed for planning and implementing complex programmes in order to be able to develop online strategies. Being conversant with such techniques has to be an elementary skill including such ideas as:

Aid to decision making such as: Pareto analysis; Paired Comparison Analysis; Grid Analysis; PMI (Plus/Minus/Interesting'); Force Field Analysis; Six Thinking Hats and Cost Benefit Analysis. Other methodologies include Impact Analysis, Avoidance of Group Think, Inductive Reasoning and an approach developed by Charles H.Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe in their book The Rational Manager (1965).

Aids for project planning such as: Time estimating; scheduling; cost analysis; Gantt Charts; Critical Path Analysis and PERT; 'Stakeholder Analysis'; Change management and the ADKAR model.

Such approaches are part, and will, of course, be included in any of the traditional Public Relations planning models (Gregory andTheaker ; Smith and many more) which can be summed up as: Research, landscaping, situation analysis, objective setting, Identifying publics, Key messages, Strategy, Tactics, Timescale, Budget, Crisis issues and management plan, Evaluation

As we move into Internet mediated Public Relations, there are notable adaptations to these models. User Generated Participants increase the level of risk involved. We have to face the needs and responses of Internet users, their selection, use and satisfaction with channels for communication to pull content and their capability to participate in the relationship dynamic. We find that the nature of the Internet means we have to adapt many processes that were once adequate and now need to be updated.

Online Public relations is not linear. Stuff happens! This means that there is a constant need to continually research, landscape, perform situation analysis and re-visit objectives. Plans have to be fluid.

We now have to adopt practices from other disciplines where management of the unknown is common. There is a great deal of useful management experience in this field and De Meyer, Loch andPich ( De Meyer A, Loch C, & Pich M 2002 ) offer insights that can be used by relationship management practitioners. An adaptation is is offered below.

First off, they offer a picture of what uncertainty looks like. They offer an approach to uncertainty-based management which derives planning, monitoring and management style from an uncertainty in four uncertainty types — variation, foreseen uncertainty, unforeseen uncertainty and chaos.

PR can also take from research in the financial disciplines that Internet traffic data, displayed in time series, has a number
of characteristic properties, widely known as "stylised facts", which are different to other kinds of time series:
· They tend to be long-tailed, i.e. there is a higher frequency of very extreme events than would not be expected with say normally distributed data (issues arise frequently and randomly all the time);
· They tend to show long-range dependence, e.g. the autocorrelation function (management of events and issues) returns decays to zero at much slower rates than conventional time series models (the Internet has a 'long memory' and 'time shifts' information).
· They exhibit volatility, i.e. the apparent variance (from the plan or anticipated outcome) is not a constant but tends to fluctuate irregularly (for optimum effect, plans need frequent tweaking).

To develop PR programmes using these techniques offers a greater certainty of success and reduction of risk (the combination of the probability of an event and its consequences - ISO/IEC Guide 73).

Risk Management is a well established discipline with an excellent literature. Its application in PR is less well developed than for many other disciplines such as financial, project management, Health and Safety. Contributors to the literature include: (C. Chapman and S.Ward, “Project Risk Management” (Chichester, United Kingdom: Wiley, 1997), 7. R.L. Kliem and I.S. Ludin, “Reducing Project Risk” (Hampshire, United Kingdom: Gower, 1997), 10-25. Chapman, “Project Risk Management,” 10, 241.). The Institute of Risk Management has an excellent guide that will be helpful to PR professionals working in both on and offline practice.

So now to extend this thinking....