ABC Company's Public Relations: Strategic Plan | Free Essay Example

ABC Company’s Public Relations: Strategic Plan

Words: 5579
Topic: Business & Economics
Updated:

Executive Summary

In the current competitive business environment, it is increasingly becoming important for companies to come up with plans for improving efficiency in production, effectiveness in marketing, and a positive relationship with various stakeholders. This strategic public relations plan seeks to help this company to develop a close relationship with various strategic stakeholders. It seeks to ensure that ABC Company can achieve growth in the market despite the stiff competition, existence of close substitutes, and many other challenges that exist in the market.

The plan is designed to ensure that this company not only reaches to the customers and members of the public during the crisis but also do so at times when it is enjoying prosperity and peace. If implemented properly, it will enable this company to become one of the leading players in Bahrain’s green energy sector.

Situational and Organisational Analysis

Public relations is increasingly becoming a critical aspect of an organization as firms struggle to find ways of remaining competitive and maintaining a positive image in the market. In the past, public relations was considered part of the marketing unit and was only active when addressing major issues that were meant to promote the company’s image or protect it from possible negative publicity. In this section, it will be important to look at the situation and organization analysis of ABC Company before focusing on the best approach it should take in its public relations activities. According to Weintraub and Pinkleton (2015), several models have emerged that help in conducting an organizational analysis.

In this research project, the SWOT model will be used to analyze the internal environmental forces at ABC Company. The main strength of this company is its flexibility and ability to use emerging technologies. It makes it easy for the firm to withstand the new market forces with ease. Its team of experienced managers and highly skilled employees has also made it easy for this company to achieve success in the Bahraini market. However, the major weakness that ABC Company faces is that it is a relatively small firm, which has limited financial power.

It may not afford an expensive public relations project at this time that it is still struggling to achieve growth. The market presents several opportunities that this company can take advantage of in the market. The growing middle class in Bahrain means that the market size is growing locally. The purchasing power of the targeted customer is increasing. The increasing popularity of clean energy, which is the main product for this company, is also creating growth opportunities locally.

However, it is important to appreciate that various threats exist that this company will have to deal with within the market. The biggest threat is the existence of stiff competition from established companies. The existence of alternative products in the market also limits growth opportunities. As Smith (2013) suggests, a firm needs to learn how to use its strength to overcome weaknesses and threats in a way that will enable it to take full advantage of the market opportunities. ABC Company must learn how to do that.

When conducting a situation analysis, one can use different models based on the focus of the study. In this case, Porter’s Five Forces will be used to analyze cases in which public relations will be critical in enabling this company to achieve success in the current competitive marketplace. Figure 1 below identifies the five forces in this model that a firm should always take into consideration when conducting a situation analysis.

Porters’ Five Forces
Figure 1. Porters’ Five Forces (Weintraub & Pinkleton 2015).

The threat of new entrants in this industry is relatively high. When developing a plan for strategic public relations, this company will need to find ways of convincing its customers that it offers superior value compared with the new entrants. The biggest threat that this company faces in the market is the existence of substitute products, which are considered relatively cheap and readily available.

The public relations department will have to find a way of convincing the target audience that the substitutes are a threat to the environment and unsustainable in the long run. The existing rivalry among the current competitors in the market is another issue. To overcome this challenge, the public relations department should work closely with the marketing department to strengthen the brand of the company and the products it offers.

The bargaining power of the suppliers and that of the buyers is another major concern. The best way of dealing with these two issues is to engage the buyers and suppliers in ineffective communication that can yield a win-win relationship between this company and these stakeholders. The following table 1 is a proposed budget that this company should use to achieve the desired goals.

Source Bahraini dinar Expenses Bahraini dinar
Budgetary allocation from the finance department 11,300 Social media expenses 3500
Mass media (television and radios) expenses 2800
Print media expenses 2400
Internal communication expenses 1200
Miscellaneous expenses 1400
Total 11,300 Total 11,300

Table 1. The Proposed Budget.

Discussion of Potential Issues and Risks

When developing a strategic public relations plan, it is important to take into consideration the potential issues and risks. According to Melanie (2014), identification of issues and risks makes it easy to know how to develop a plan that can easily overcome the challenges during its implementation. One of the major issues that this company should be ready to deal with is the misuse of social media.

Smith (2013) says that unlike the mass media where journalists are bound by a standard code of ethics, social media is always exposed to misuse, and sometimes it not easy to hold people responsible. The director of public relations must know that the messages released to the public through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many other social media outlets may be subject to unfair criticism.

Such events may cause damage to the image of the firm, especially if individuals give misleading accounts of their experience with the company just because of their selfish interests. There is also the risk of cyberattacks when using digital media to reach out to the target audience. Some unscrupulous individuals may use their cyber skills, gain control of the firm’s digital platforms of communication, and cause a serious breach that may have a devastating impact on the firm’s brand and products.

The strategic public relations plan should be implemented in a continuous manner instead of being considered as a mechanism that is used to address crises, especially in cases when the image of the firm is under serious threat. Breakenridge (2012) warns that it can be a major threat to the success of the public relations department if issues are only addressed when a crisis erupts. It is important to develop the loyalty and trust of the public.

That cannot be achieved within a day or two. The department needs to maintain close interaction with the members of the public regularly. Events organized by the company such as corporate social responsibility should be publicized by this department. Sometimes the top management may ignore the relevance of this department in fostering a conducive working environment within the firm by keeping employees informed of important events at the firm.

If the top management ignores this role, it may bring a major issue within the firm when the director of public relations makes an effort to reach out to the firm’s employees when it is necessary. It may be seen as a conflict of interest because a department may exist that would be seen to be more appropriate to pass such a communication. Underfunding is another major issue that this department may face; especially in instances where the top managers feel that there is no urgent need to maintain a big budget for public relations.

Identification and Prioritisation of Key Public Stakeholders

According to Smith (2012), an effective public relations plan should identify and prioritize key public stakeholders. The process helps in determining areas where the emphasis should be placed to achieve the most desirable outcome. The primary and most important stakeholder is the customer. The ability of this company to achieve success directly depends on its ability to develop a pool of loyal customers. Customer loyalty is specifically important during times of crisis. When the public image of a firm is under threat because of a mistake committed by an employee or just malicious information coming from unscrupulous individuals with selfish interests, customers will be concerned.

If a firm maintained a positive relationship with these customers, they may be interested in knowing the truth about the crisis and may give the firm a second chance. However, if their loyalty is wavering, then times of crisis offer them the opportunity to become loyal customers of the competing firms. The interest of this category of stakeholders should always be given priority at all times, and when a crisis emerges, the primary goal of the public relations officers should always be to reach them as soon as possible with information that will address their concerns.

Members of the public, who may not necessarily be direct clients of the company, form another key public stakeholder group. These people may not be direct customers, but their views and demands may define the success or failure of a firm. If the public feels threatened by the existence of a firm, they can force its closure. Their views also affect customers directly. The department will need, therefore, to ensure that any issue straining the relationship between the company and members of the public is addressed within the shortest time possible. According to Chew (2013), the government is another very important public stakeholder when developing a public relations plan.

It is the body responsible for approving and regulating the operations of any organization within the country. Whenever there is a miscommunication or misunderstanding between this organization and the government, quick measures should be put in place to address such concerns. Other key stakeholders who may need to be taken into considerations in this plan include suppliers, business partners, competitors, and non-governmental organizations keen on promoting the use of green energy.

SMART Objectives and Key Messages

When developing a plan, Smith (2013) advises that it is important for one to come up with SMART objectives that define what needs to be done during its implementation. The objectives help in defining activities that should be undertaken at various stages during the implementation process. At the end of a project, stakeholders often look at how successful the team was in achieving the set objectives. In this paper, the researcher seeks to achieve the following objectives:

  • To ensure that ABC Company develops a sizable pool of loyal customers in the market within the next three years.
  • To create a close working relationship between this company and its suppliers, partners, and other strategic stakeholders.
  • To have a system that can effectively address the crisis that may emerge within the shortest time possible.
  • To help the company achieve a 50% growth within the next 12 months by working closely with the marketing department.

To achieve the above objectives, the department will need to work closely with various stakeholders within and outside the firm. It should understand the changing forces in the market and how internal wrangles can be addressed. The entire workforce should work as a team, able to use its diversity as the strength to achieve the desired goals instead of considering it a dividing force. It should be the responsibility of the director of public relations, working very closely with the top management unit, especially the human resource manager and the marketing manager, to develop key messages targeting various groups of stakeholders discussed above.

Key messages targeting customers should inform them about what the firm is doing to meet their ever-changing needs. Emphasis should be on how the firm is keen on delivering the best value to them other than just making profits.

At times, the message may explain the superiority of the company products compared with that of the rival companies, changes in price or quantity, new outlets from where the company can get the products of the firm. To members of the public, the message should explain how the firm is keen on protecting the environment and what it is doing to improve the livelihood of the locals. To the government, the key message should be about the company’s commitment to the law of the law and payment of tax.

To non-governmental organizations, the message should talk about the possibility of forming partnerships to help improve the environment and to positively transform the lives of the locals. The suppliers will be interested in timely payments, new and efficient ways of making payments, and ways in which the engagement can be made more beneficial to both parties. To the employees, they will need to be informed about internal changes and plans that will have a significant impact on how they undertake their responsibilities within the firm.

Communication Strategies

According to Gregory and Willis (2013), once objectives have been set in a given plan, the next important phase is to come up with approaches that will help in achieving them. In this case, the strategic public relations plan will need communication strategies that can be used to achieve the desired goals. Different key stakeholders will be reached with the help of different communication approaches. Mass communication will be the most important strategy that will be used to reach out to the key public stakeholders. As shown in the budgetary allocation, mass media will play a critical role in this plan.

Given the limited funds available at this initial stage, the firm will mainly use Facebook to reach out to the audience. Facebook is chosen because of the high number of locals who visit the site regularly. This platform will help the public relations department reach out to the customers, members of the public, and other important stakeholders targeted in this plan. When dealing with the suppliers, e-mails and newsletters will be important.

That is so because sometimes each supplier may need specific information regarding his or her engagement with the company. Newsletters may also be appropriate when engaging specific organizational customers who are highly valued by the company.

The interactive communication strategy will also be used as a way of achieving the set goals and objectives in this public relations plan. Government officials may visit the company from time to time as they supervise the operations of this company. In such cases, interactive communication may be the best approach to take. In a face-to-face engagement, the public relations officer can answer the relevant questions that the officers may have regarding the firm’s operations.

Plans of the firm can also be explained, though in such cases an official letter should be included just in case a reference may be needed. Interactive communication may also be effective when engaging in organizational customers. The firm can use direct telephone calls to these clients to explain the issue of concern and to ensure that the message is passed effectively.

When engaging with internal stakeholders, especially the employees, internal communication strategies may be used. Memos are often used because it is a simple and effective way of passing a message. However, Breakenridge (2012) warns that memos can only be effective communication tools if the firm has created a culture where internal players are used to going through the memos. Communication via training is another strategy that can be used, especially when planning to introduce change within an organization. In such forums, the public relations officers may help the relevant department in explaining to the employees the need to change from one system to another.

As Chew (2013) advises, the choice of the communication strategy should depend on the nature of the information, agency, and the audience targeted. When the information targets a wider audience, the strategy should be based on mass-communication such as social or mass media. When it targets specific important stakeholders, then interactive communication where the instant response is gotten should be appropriate.

Discussion and Details of Appropriate Forms of Outcome

The primary objectives of this strategic public relations plan were outlined in the section above. At this stage, it will be important to discuss the appropriate forms of outcome based on those objectives. One of the most important outcomes would be to have a situation where this company develops a pool of loyal customers who can easily be swayed by the negativity that may be peddled by individuals keen on destroying the firm’s reputation.

It is expected that an effective system of communication will be created between the firm and its customers that will make it easy to address any misunderstanding within the shortest time possible. It will also be desirable to ensure that the firm creates a cordial relationship with members of the public. The firm relies on the public to get employees, customers, suppliers, and social support. Effective implementation of this plan should help this firm be properly understood by the public at all times; even it is hit by a crisis.

As a firm that operates in the green energy sector, ABC Company will be expected to work closely with non-governmental agencies keen on protecting the environment. If this plan is implemented, it will be possible for this firm to create that much-needed relationship with these stakeholders as it seeks to expand the market share. These entities may play a critical role in ensuring that this firm gets new organizational buyers. As explained in the objective, it will be desirable if this company can achieve a 50% growth in its market share by the end of the year through proper implementation of the plan.

Another appropriate form of outcome would be a cordial relationship with the government. Through the systems and structures put in place, any misunderstanding between this firm and the government should be addressed within the shortest time possible and in an effective manner. Internally within the organization, it is expected that the plan will promote integration among employees, ease the processes of change, and enhance continual communication between the management and the employees.

Rationale

Introduction

When developing a strategic public relations plan, one needs to understand the current internal and external forces to determine what the required outcome is within a specified period. In the past, the public relations office was considered a unit within the marketing departments. However, the emerging forces in the environment have demonstrated that it should be considered an independent department with clearly outlined functions. In the plan developed above, these functions are outlined, and strategies are proposed that can help the firm to achieve the desired goals. In this section, the researcher will provide a rationale for the strategic public relations plan based on various theoretical concepts.

Situational and Organisational Analysis

The situation and organizational analysis provide a detailed explanation of the internal conditions of the firm and external forces within the industry that have a direct impact on its operations. The analysis creates background information upon which the plan is developed. It identifies areas within the organization that needs to be addressed so that the plan can be primarily focused on that.

Theory Drawn and Alternative Approaches

In this section, two models can be drawn to help in explaining the current forces that this firm faces, and how a strategic public relations plan can be developed to enable the firm to achieve success. The first model is the SWOT analysis. This model makes it possible to evaluate the internal strength and weaknesses of the firm, and the market opportunities and threats. Through this model, it is possible to understand the most pressing forces that the company faces.

The other model that was drawn in this section is the Porters Five Forces. Before developing a strategic public relations model, it is necessary to have an understanding of the industry forces that may affect the operations of the firm. Competitive rivalry within the industry, bargaining power of buyers, bargaining power of suppliers, ease of entry of new entrants, and the threat of substitutes all define the strategy that a firm should choose. Other alternative situational analysis models such as PESTEL would also apply in this section to help have a deeper understanding of the external environment.

How the Theory Has Informed Recommendations

The two models have informed the recommendations made in this section by stating what is lacking at the firm and how it can be addressed. These models have made it possible to understand how the plan would work within the firm and the appropriate way in which the department can plan for its limited resources to achieve the desired outcome. It formed the basis upon which the entire plan was based.

Discussion of Potential Issues and Risks

In this section of the paper, the focus was to discuss potential risks and issues that this firm may face before, during, or after the implementation of the plan. The goal is to come up with an effective way a plan that will be capable of addressing these risks when they occur. The person trusted with the implementation of the plan must understand the existence of these risks and know how they can be overcome to help the company achieve its desired goals.

Theory Drawn and Alternative Approaches

In this section, the Risk Management Model can be drawn to help in understanding the steps that need to be taken in handling each risk identified. It starts with the identification of risks. A firm must identify potential issues and risks before they occur. The next step, as shown in figure 2 below, is to analyze the risk. An effective system should be capable of identifying possible risks, the likelihood of their occurrence, the impact they may have in case they occur, and the areas that will be affected by the occurrence.

The purpose of the analysis is to create a real-life scenario where the occurrence of the risk affects various departments. Through such analysis, it becomes possible to come up with possible an understanding of the magnitude of each risk. The next step is to come up with a treat.

After identifying and analyzing the threat, the goal will be to come up with a possible solution. As Chew (2013) says, each risk is unique and requires a unique solution. It is possible to come up with a general model of how to solve a group of problems. However, it is necessary to ensure that the model is redesigned to meet the specific nature of the risk being addressed. The next step is to monitor the outcome of the treatment. At this stage, the focus will be to determine if the desired goals can be achieved through the model. The last stage is to make the report. If the model is working well in addressing the problem, then the focus will be to address a new issue. If it is not, then a new model will be needed to address the problem.

Risk management model
Figure 2. Risk management model (Gregory & Willis 2013).

How the Theory Has Informed Recommendations

The concept of the above model has informed the recommendations made in this section of the plan. As suggested in this model, the plan emphasizes the need to have a systematic approach to solving various risks within the company. It is suggested that the solution should follow a clear pattern so that if the outcome is not desirable, then that approach can be abandon for a better one.

Identification and Prioritisation of Key Public Stakeholders

It is important to appreciate that when developing a strategic public relations plan, it is important to identify and prioritize key stakeholders. The identification and prioritisations of the stakeholders are particularly important when the resources are strained. It makes it possible to identify areas that should be given priority. Through this approach, it will be easy for the public relations director and his or her team to know individuals who are of critical importance to the company based on various factors.

Theory Drawn and Alternative Approaches

In this section of the plan, System Theory Model was drawn. This model explains how a firm should respond to cases of emergency in case an undesirable event (risk) has occurred. This theory holds that however effective a firm may be in preventing risks from occurring, some of them are way off the control of a firm. The only option for such a firm is to come up with an effective response mechanism.

As shown in figure 3 below, whenever a risk occurs, it is important to ensure that three forces interact. The forces include people, machines, and the environment. An effective response system requires people who will undertake various activities to address the problem. Individuals should have the necessary skills to address specific problems. The machines are needed to help in the coordination and controlling various activities in the system. They are also needed in the actual response process to a problem.

The environment must enable the machine and people to interact effectively when addressing the problem. Once the three have interacted, the theory states that the first stage is to collect information. The players should know what caused the risk to occur, the level of damage, the work to be undertaken, other risks that may be associated with the issue that occurred, and mechanisms needed to address the problem.

After collecting the information, the team needs to weigh risks. Risks that have a significant impact on the firm and those that may lead to other major problems must be addressed first. During the decision-making stage, the goal will be to ensure that the approach taken would reduce the impact of the risk as much as possible. The last stage is to perform the tasks after all other issues have been addressed.

System theory model
Figure 3. System theory model (Marsh, Guth & Short 2016).

How the Theory Has Informed Recommendations

This theory has informed the recommendations made in the plan. It has helped in explaining the relevance of various stakeholders when developing a strategic public relations plan focused on addressing the crisis. Other than identifying and prioritizing the stakeholders, one must understand the interrelationship when trying to address a crisis.

SMART Objectives and Key Messages

Setting objectives is critical when developing a plan. It points out what is to be achieved within a specified time and in a measurable manner. According to Melanie (2014), the setting of objectives helps the team involved in the plan to have a clear picture of the possible outcome of the project before it is implemented. It also makes it easy to evaluate the performance of the project to determine the level of success.

Theory Drawn and Alternative Approaches

In this section, the goal-setting theory can be drawn to help explain the objectives and key messages discussed in this paper. The process of setting goals, or objectives, involves taking into consideration many factors as shown in figure 4 below. One must start by taking into consideration the need to involve employees when setting goals. Given that they will be actively involved in its implementation, they should be made part of the process of setting objectives.

When they are involved, cases of resistance to change are reduced. It is advisable to tie goals to the work unit. It means it is easy to transfer the goal from the paper to an actionable instruction. It also identifies specific stakeholders who will be involved in the implementation of each goal. This theory also emphasizes the need to ensure that goals are specific. It should be void of any ambiguity that may complicate its implementation. In this theory, it is recommended that one should ask supervisors or junior managers to set their own goals in line with the strategic objectives. In so doing, these supervisors will be offered the opportunity to actualize the vision of the firm but in small ways within their departments or units.

The theory emphasizes the need to hold regular performance meetings. In such meetings, it is recommended that the managers should embrace candor. If some employees are underperforming, they should be told so and advised on how to improve instead of pleasing everyone for the sake of maintaining a united team. If an employee or a unit is recording an excellent performance, the top management should make appropriate recognition, appreciation, and if possible give a reward to motivate others to follow the same path. The theory emphasizes the need to ensure that focus is maintained in relevant areas.

Resources should only be spent on projects with the potential to give the desired outcome. Efforts should be made to prioritize areas of high returns instead of making blind investment decisions without knowing the possible outcome. The goal-setting theory encourages the need to align the reward system with results. It means that those who achieve the set goals in the best way possible should be rewarded. Alternatively, those who fail to register the desired outcome should be reprimanded but helped to understand what should be done to achieve the desired success.

Goal-setting theory
Figure 4. Goal-setting theory (Melanie 2014).

How the Theory Has Informed Recommendations

The recommendations made in this section were informed by this theory. As stated in the plan, the goals were very specific, to ensure that employees understand what they need to do to achieve the desired success. When setting the plan, it was appreciated that ongoing feedback and coaching was important when developing key messages targeting different stakeholders.

Communication Strategies

Communication is a critical component of a plan. Once one has come up with a vision, it is important to share it with others and convince them about the shared destiny. In this project, the strategic public relations plan involves reaching out to the different stakeholders with an appropriate message with the view of influencing their pattern of thinking. The public relations department must have effective communication strategies and approaches that can enable it to engage various stakeholders and influence their views and perceptions in a way that is favorable to the firm.

Theory Drawn and Alternative Approaches

Westley and MacLean’s Model of Communication was drawn in this section to help explain specific issues (Smith 2012). This model looks at interpersonal and mass communication as may be necessary from time to time. According to this theory, Melanie (2014) these two forms of communication should always be used together if possible because of the strength of one of the weaknesses of the other.

Interpersonal communication such as face-to-face communication is very effective when instant feedback is needed. It is easier to convince someone to accept a given concept when using interpersonal communication because the audience can ask questions and get instant feedback. On the other hand, it cannot be effective when dealing with a larger group of people. Mass communication is very effective when targeting the masses. The message reaches the targeted large audience in a relatively short time. However, it takes very long to get feedback. Another major weakness of this approach of communication is that it lacks the personal appeal that the alternative approach (interpersonal communication) has.

How the Theory Has Informed Recommendations

This theory informed the recommendations that the researcher made on the various communication strategies needed for the goals in the set plan. The plan has proposed several communication strategies that should be considered based on the target audience, cost, time within which the message should be delivered, and other relevant factors.

Discussion and Details of Appropriate Forms of Outcome

In case the plan is implemented effectively, it would yield the expected outcome. As discussed in the plan, the desired outcome is based on the set goals and objectives. The desire is to achieve the set goals informed the outcome that was discussed in this section of the paper.

Theory Drawn and Alternative Approaches

Clayton Alderfer’s ERG (Existence, Relatedness, and Growth) theory was drawn in this section when discussing the outcome (Melanie 2014). The theory is based on Maslow’s theory (hierarchy) of needs. One of the most important goals of the plan is to ensure that the existence of this firm is not threatened. The set plan should help this company to overcome threats that may arise in the market during its operation.

It is equivalent to the basic needs for survival in Maslow’s theory. After achieving the basics, the next important outcome that is desired is the relatedness or interpersonal relationship. This firm needs to form close relationships with all the key stakeholders discussed in the sections above. At the apex of the outcome is growth. If the existence is assured, sustainable, and mutually beneficial relationships are developed, the firm will be set on its path to impressive growth in the market.

How the Theory Has Informed Recommendations

The theory above has informed the recommendations made in this paper. It has helped in emphasizing the need to have a clear pattern when it comes to defining the outcome. The most basic of the outcome is the need to ensure that there is survival of the firm. The plan should then develop useful relationships to enable it to achieve growth.

Conclusion

In the current competitive business environment, ABC Company must find ways of remaining sustainable in its operations. The strategic public relations plan developed in this paper seeks to promote the brand image of the firm in the local market and improve its relationship with the public. If implemented effectively, it will enable this company to achieve impressive growth in its market share.

Reference List

Breakenridge, D 2012, Social media and public relations: eight new practices for the PR professional, FT Press, Upper Saddle River.

Chew, R 2013, The Fundamentals of public relations: a practical overview of the art and business of public relations, Book Baby, Melbourne.

Gregory, A, & Willis, P 2013, Strategic public relations leadership, Routledge, Quebec.

Marsh, C, Guth, D & Short, B 2016, Strategic writing: multimedia writing for public relations, advertising, and more, Taylor & Francis Group, London.

Melanie, J 2014, Positioning theory and strategic communication: a new approach to public relations research and practice, Routledge, Ottawa.

Smith, R 2012, Becoming a public relations writer: a writing workbook for emerging and established media, Taylor & Francis, London.

Smith, R 2013, Strategic planning for public relations, Cengage Publishers, London.

Weintraub, A, & Pinkleton, B 2015, Strategic public relations management: planning and managing effective communication programs, Taylor Francis, London.