What do you think of when you hear VW, Sony and Blue Bell? The first thought for people who work in public relations would be: nightmare or disaster. Making organizations and people look good is not as easy as it sounds – a complex strategy stands behind it and quite a bit of project management knowledge is necessary in order to deliver a successful PR campaign.
The Public Relations Society of America defines PR as such: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” So the core of PR is effective communication which has to be planned and implemented carefully and the goal is always to influence public opinion positively towards an organization or individual. How does project management come into play? PR professionals have to juggle multiple clients and campaigns, thus, they can benefit a lot from thorough knowledge of PM methods to manage their work load.
Relationship between PM and PR
Every organization, no matter how big or small, needs public relations in some way. In a climate of intensive competition, image and reputation is important for businesses to set themselves apart from their competitors. Smaller businesses often hire a PR firm to manage their public communication, bigger businesses and corporations often have their own PR departments. The processes in PR are similar to those in project management. A PR process usually comprises of 4 steps:
- Analysis of the situation
- Planning the strategy
So a PR campaign always starts with a comprehensive communication plan that entails information on time, cost and scope. Just like a project manager needs to determine the project goals, the PR manager needs to set the communication goals clearly.
On the other hand, project management relies on PR as well. Particularly high profile and publicly funded projects depend on good PR to succeed. It’s vital to promote the project and get the public’s approval if you want to implement the project successfully.
Which PM best practices for better PR?
Appointing a ‘project manager’
Every PR campaign needs a PR manager who leads the endeavor by developing a PR plan and choosing the right people for their team. The PR leader is responsible for the successful implementation of the campaign and, like a project manager, they need to have hard skills, such as creating budgets, assessing risks and managing change. But they also need to have exceptional communication skills, emotional intelligence and be quick thinkers, particularly when dealing with challenging situations that leave them with little to no time to respond.
PR campaigns and strategies are often complex and comprise of a lot of tasks and steps. First of all, you have to determine the scope. It’s important to keep the scope in control, as a poorly defined scope and objective can cause you a lot of problems in the long run. In PR, you need to define exactly what constitutes as ‘success’. Discuss this with your client and make sure that you’re both on the same page. Regularly check-in with your clients and update them on any changes you’ve made to the scope.
After you’ve defined the scope, you can use project management methods such as the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to divide the project into smaller, better manageable tasks. Next, devise a comprehensive schedule and task plan. Gantt charts, which also show the critical path, are the best ways to visualize your campaign plan.
Budgeting is one of the most important skills for a PR professional. However, it also proves to be a challenge, because costs are extremely diversified. There are costs for the planning of press conferences and events, personnel costs, material costs, advertisement placements, administration costs etc. The main concern of clients is of course to keep these costs as low as possible while getting the most out of a PR campaign.
PR agencies can greatly benefit from a project management software. The software can support the PR manager in planning their campaign calendar. The calendar can include planned events, media placement schedules, publishing dates of press releases and so on.
When deciding on a suitable PM application, make sure that it includes a documentation feature. You can assign documents to individual tasks and projects, thus avoid paper chaos as well as making your measures more transparent to your client. It will be easier for you to justify eventual changes to the scope or a rise in costs as they can track the progress of the campaign and see the ROI on their investment.
A project management software can also immensely enhance collaboration. Features such as Kanban boards or messaging and commenting features within projects make communication between team members much easier and more effective.