Public relations is planned, persuasive communications designed
to influence significant public.
-John Marston, The Nature of Public Relations
Communications professor John Marston has defined public relations is by its four functions:
The acronym “RACE” also represents the four endlessly repeating steps of the PR process. Think “Wash, rinse, repeat.”
- Research: Gain a thorough understanding of the situation facing your organization, how it relates to your organization’s mission and what is needed to improve the situation.
Communication requires marketing research – before talking to any group, person or target segment, do your homework. You would not talk about no-gun rights to a 2nd-Amendment-loving citizen unless you wanted to alienate them. How are you going to get your message across and have it be accepted? Research.
- Action: Decide upon a plan of action to address the situation. Set a time frame and goals. Enact the plan.
Once you have figured out what there is to know about the situation, person or group – plan what to do and say. PRs do this all the time. “Shooting from the hip” is not a friend of the PR unless we have already figured out a plan first and are improvising from that plan.
- Communication: Use the appropriate channels of communication to deliver your messages to your target audiences so they have the most positive outcome.
Figuring out where to communicate is just as important as communicating. You need to get a message out to your employees and have it be accepted. Discover where they get their valued information from – a particular person? A certain Internet forum? (Hint: research and plan)
- Evaluation: Review the effectiveness of the first three steps and make changes where needed. Of course, on a smaller scale, evaluation is a continuous process: a modification here, an edit there. But a formal evaluation should be a distinct part of every public relations process.
In my opinion, this is where PRs can get weak. Once the campaign is over, it’s over. But to me, this is the most valuable part. Did it work? Did it get the expected results? What are the analytics and where did it contribute to the bottom line? What do we need to do better?
After you do all this, then what? Wash, rinse, repeat.
This RACE is so fundamental it can be used with anything.