COMMENT: PLATFORM; Speed is of the essence in strategic plans

In these fast moving times, PR will have to find a quicker and more efficient method of strategic planning, says Dr Joachim Klewes

In these fast moving times, PR will have to find a quicker and more

efficient method of strategic planning, says Dr Joachim Klewes

‘Public relations lacks strategy’ is a common enough complaint about the

reactive mentality of many PR practitioners. This complaint - usually

expressed by those in related disciplines such as advertising and

management consultancy - is often justified. The failure of PR people to

use a scientific approach is as alarming as the lack of strategic

planning models within the discipline.

The first part of this observation - lack of utilisation of theory -

may be explained by the gulf between science and practice. It stems from

the inability to articulate the outcome of scientific research in an

understandable way on the one hand, and PR practitioners’ reluctance to

receive and process that information on the other.

The second part, that there are almost no strategic planning models in

PR is far more worrying. Not that the hot air generated by our

colleagues in the advertising business on this topic produces better

results, but the lack of strategic creativity in PR concepts is matched

by the workmanlike simplicity of many PR teaching seminars.

Strategic planning procedures which are both scientifically-based and

manageable in practice - such as methods for determining the relevance

of PR target groups, for example, or defining the strategic PR messages

for these groups - are rare. This is why ‘gut feel’ improvisation and

‘decades of experience’ are apparently so highly valued as planning

resources in public relations.

In our time of high-speed management it is often perceived to be more

important to be the first to arrive at a solution than to go by the book

every time. In other words, it seems that the reality of management has

become too fast for public relations strategy. Before they are

conceived, formulated and agreed upon, your PR plans may have already

been overtaken by new developments. More speed is needed in

communications as well as elsewhere.

We need a planning process that is not merely a formal instrument for

structuring facts and opportunities, but a process using a limited

number of proven tools which can be swiftly applied. For it is even more

important in these fast-moving times to define goals correctly and not

lose sight of them.

The key to this new type of PR strategy is that it must be integrated

with overall business planning and must be compatible with

communications disciplines on either side of PR.

There is also another more important requirement - one that is more

difficult to fulfil. The problem here is not so much the time needed for

the intellectual development of the strategic public relations plan.

Rather the challenge lies in finding the right balance between a

sensible, but time-consuming, integration of several corporate levels

and external consultants, and the rapid implementation of a concept

developed jointly with top management.

The bad news is that there is no longer time in today’s professional PR

set-ups for the traditional view of ‘strategy’. The good news is that,

with a selection of a few theoretically-grounded planning tools, and

staff who know how to use them, strategic PR planning is possible.

But top management must devote sufficient time to this type of strategy,

if it is to work. Is strategy dead? Not at all. The era of high-speed

public relations strategy has just begun.

Dr Joachim Klewes is managing partner of German PR agency Kohtes and


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