Public Relations Plans

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Public relations plans can help natural resource and outdoor recreation organizations position themselves at the forefront of natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation planning. The conservation of the nation's natural resources and enhancement of outdoor recreational opportunities ultimately depend upon the positive opinions and attitudes of Americans toward these issues, as well as their commitment to act on their behalf. The key to instilling this commitment is through effectively designed public relations campaigns and programs.
Three Benefits of Public Relations
The three primary benefits of public relations are:
1. Public relations is the most effective way to form a favorable public opinion.
Advertising and marketing will not do it alone - an effective public relations campaign is needed. Public relations helps form favorable public opinion through implied endorsement of non-biased industry authorities (the press and trade analysts). Consider which holds more weight - an advertisement about an agency or organization's new product or service or a positive article about the agency or organization's new product or service? It's easy to toot your own horn, but more difficult to create third party objective endorsement of your organization.
2. Public relations costs much less than other types of advertising promotion.
The cost of mailing press releases which hopefully will be viewed by large audiences cost less than a direct mail campaign or a display ad in a trade publication which are also limited to small specific audiences.
3. Public relations can assist in recruitment and retention of quality employees.
Employees like to work at a place that is well known and well thought of in their community. Effective public relations campaigns can help to boost morale and keep internal workings running smoothly.
Target Markets
Responsive Management research shows that how people relate to natural resource management and outdoor recreation issues are affected by a variety of factors - gender, age, ethnic background, income, level of education, place of residence, knowledge of the issues, and a variety of other personality factors. It is clear that public relations efforts must target specific groups with specific messages. There is no such thing as a "general public." Varying groups of the public have very different information and outreach needs. Public relations strategies that have traditionally worked in rural parts of the country may not work in urban areas. Likewise, programs and messages that will work for 18-24 year-olds may not work for the elderly. By targeting specific groups with specific messages, public relations efforts will become more effective, and their outcomes can be more effectively measured. By clearly defining the objectives of targeted public relations programs, success can be measured by comparing knowledge levels, perceptions, attitudes, and public opinions before and after implementation of these efforts.
Public Relation Systems
To ensure that a natural resource or outdoor recreation organization's public relation activities are focused and effective, a system is needed. This system is a public relations campaign that strives to answer three questions:
1) Where are we now?
2) Where do we want to be?
3) How do we get there?

The key to a successful public relations plan is to systematically determine your agency or organization's desired objective or end results, select the target audience, determine what information or message needs to be dispensed, and how the information or message will be dispensed. Following is a general guideline for developing effective public relations plans:
Step 1: Identify and prioritize resource or outdoor recreation issues concerning the agency/organization.
Step 2: Identify and prioritize public relations issues that address these prioritized issues in Step 1.
Step 3: Define goals and set measurable objectives.
Step 4: Identify, define, and target specific groups within the general population.
Step 5: Understand the audience.
Step 6: Identify, define, and test the message.
Step 7: Consider demographic, social, economic, and political trends.
Step 8: Get the message across.
Step 9: Address internal considerations.
Step 10: Evaluate the efforts quantitatively.
Responsive Management Methodology
The general strategy employed by Responsive Management to develop effective public relations plans is to couple both internal assessments, an "inside-out" approach, with external assessments, an "outside-in" approach. Assessment from the "inside-out" means an organization takes a detailed look at where it wants to go as an organization, sets realistic goals and measurable objectives, defines its target audiences, and undertakes the job of better understanding the organization's messages to be conveyed as well as how those messages will be conveyed. Assessment from the "outside-in" means an organization gains a better understanding of and working relationship with its various constituents and the public by learning the opinions, attitudes, and priorities of those external constituents toward natural resources and outdoor recreation. A thorough understanding of an organization's internal workings placed within the proper context of its external environment makes for the most informed approach to creating outreach and education efforts for the future.
There are various methodologies used to conduct public relations plans that target both "inside-out" assessments and "outside-in" assessments. An "inside-out" assessment may include employee focus groups and/or quantitative mail or telephone surveys of employees. Employee focus groups and quantitative surveys garner feedback from the "inside-out" about employees' attitudes toward agency and organization strengths and weaknesses and needed future directions. By learning the perceptions and attitudes of employees, natural resource and outdoor recreation organizations identify areas of high effectiveness and gain insight into those program areas that should be improved. Through an "inside-out" assessment, employees are given valuable input into their own task evaluations and are allowed to become active participants in the direction of the organization.
An "outside-in" assessment can include focus groups with stakeholders and/or the general population and/or quantitative mail or telephone surveys of stakeholders and/or the general population. For the general population survey, telephones are the preferred sampling medium because nearly all persons have access to a telephone, and telephone surveys elicit higher response rates and produce a more representative sample than do general population mail surveys. The goal of the "outside-in" assessment is to gain an understanding of the attitudes of external constituents toward the natural resource or outdoor recreation organization and the values they place on natural resources and outdoor recreation. By learning the attitudes and values that external constituents hold toward natural resources and outdoor recreation, natural resource and outdoor recreation organizations can successfully design and implement programs, resource management plans, and conservation efforts that will enjoy broad public support. This type of evaluation is also very useful in determining the types of messages that will and will not resonate with the public or other constituents. In today's tight budget constraints the need for broad public support for natural resource and outdoor recreation efforts is critical. Guided by the knowledge of the program priorities that the public values along with the knowledge of the type of messages that resonate with the public, natural resource and outdoor recreation organizations can build more effective public relations programs.
The knowledge gained from a thorough assessment of both internal and external constituents provides natural resource and outdoor recreation organizations with valuable knowledge to improve public relations and to build strong partnerships. Awareness of the program priorities of employees and target audiences produces long-term benefits to natural resource and outdoor recreation organizations and facilitates the development of public relations plans that address important program priorities.
Responsive Management Experience
Responsive Management has extensive experience in the use of quantitative and qualitative research to develop public relations plans for natural resource and outdoor recreation organizations and has been conducting public relations workshops for natural resource and outdoor recreation organizations for 18 years. Responsive Management has conducted almost 1,000 quantitative and qualitative projects over the past 18 years on natural resource and outdoor recreation issues. Clients include the federal natural resource and land management agencies, most state fish and wildlife agencies, state departments of natural resources, environmental protection agencies, state park agencies, tourism boards, as well as most of the major conservation and sportsmen's organizations. Many of the nation's top universities use Responsive Management for data collection because they recognize the quality of Responsive Management's data services. Because Responsive Management specializes in researching only natural resource and outdoor recreation issues, our senior research staff and research associates conduct research only on these topics and understand the nuances involved in conducting such research.
RM Conducts:
Telephone Surveys
Mail Surveys
Focus Groups
Personal Interviews
Park/Outdoor Recreation Intercepts
Web-Based Surveys
Needs Assessments
Programmatic Evaluations
Literature Reviews
Data Collection for Universities and Researchers
RM Develops:
Marketing Plans
Communications Plans
Business Plans
Policy Analysis
Public Relations Plans

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