In summary, the key points I have learned from this week’s readings are that effective public relations programs and campaigns come to fruition when practitioners possess the ability to think and practise strategically, that strategies produce greater levels of efficacy when guided by thorough scheduling and budgeting, that despite the common likening of strategy and tactics, the term strategy relates to an overall plan encompassing organisational goals and objectives while the term tactics is reserved for the tools which enable practitioners to garner such desired ends, and that although practitioners may have many tactics at their disposal, precisely which tactics are best to employ depends upon many different factors from organisational goals and objectives to the targeted audience.
Johnston and Zawawi (2004) assert that the first important steps in constructing a strategic communication plan are formulating vision and mission statements because they establish a goal oriented foundation and direction for the organisation. The vision statement describes the position in which an organization envisions itself to be at a specific point in the future and the mission statement is simply a brief outline of what practical steps must be undertaken in order to arrive at that point. Johnston and Zawawi (2004) also emphasise the importance of monitoring the progress of a strategic communication plan. To do so they suggest the development of ‘key performance indicators’ or KPIs which enable an organisation to assess performance within specific time frames.
When assembling the framework for a strategic communication plan Johnston and Zawawi (2004) argue that it is essential to determine a budget. It would be wise, they claim, to possess a general understanding of how and where money moves within the organisation as this resource is in most cases limited and different departments will be in competition for funds. The greater understanding a department possesses concerning the flow of money within the organisation the better equipped they will be to plead their case. When a budget has been determined the next step is to begin scheduling precisely what goals or objectives are to be met by particular dates and times. Organisation is key to the success of a strategic communication plan.
When dealing with tactics an extremely important distinction for public relations practitioners to make is that between controlled and uncontrolled communication. Controlled communication is that in which a practitioner controls every aspect from the development of a message to its delivery. Examples of controlled communication include publications such as internal newsletters, direct mailings, and annual reports. Uncontrolled communication is that which can be disregarded altogether or substantially altered by the recipient. A prime example of uncontrolled communication is a media release as the journalist or editor acts as a gatekeeper and the decision to alter or disregard a story altogether lies with them. With that in mind, Johnston and Zawawi (2004) conclude that it is important to have balance of both controlled and uncontrolled communication.
My learning builds upon previous learning about public relations in that prior to this reading I, too, carried the common misconception that strategy and tactics were one and the same rather than complimentary entities and that I had not recognised the distinction between controlled and uncontrolled tactics. I found the perspective of the journalist’s or editor’s position as the ‘gatekeeer’ to be quite true once I had given it some thought and that it would be wise for practitioners to keep that in the forefront of their minds.