Tuesday, July 23, 2013


By Rod C. Estrera

Issue No. 005 – 22 July 2013 

The Four Key Questions In Communication Planning (Part 4)


Welcome back again! This is now the fifth issue of my new Blog Series on Basic Public Relations and Corporate Communication lessons, tips and insights for Industry Professionals and interested Non-Practitioners. Feel free to visit and re-visit the first to fourth issues (01, 04, 09 and 15 July) here on my Blog Site. Many thanks to the readers who have sent feedback, either directly on this Blog or as comments on my social media posts providing links to my Blog. I will endeavor to integrate or adopt your various suggestions. 

As started in our Issue No. 2, and to conclude in this issue (Issue No. 5), we will discuss “The Four Key Questions” that need to be asked and addressed in the preparation of every Communication Plan, be it for PR, Advertising, Marketing, Corporate Communication, Special Events or even for Crisis Communication.  Again, these questions, which should serve as the cornerstones of our Communication Research efforts even before an actual Communication Plan is developed, are as follows:

1.  Who is my audience?

2.  What do I want my audience to do?

3.  What perceptions guide their actions?

4.  How can I change their actions?

For this issue, we will now briefly discuss the fourth and final question: “How can I change their actions?” In other words, “How can I change behavior?” This stage requires a certain degree of psychological analysis and reflection that entails:

·        Identifying interventions.

·        Identifying actions and decisions.

·        Canceling certain determinants.

How do we change determinants to achieve the goal of behavior change? These are the interventions that will be identified and used to affect or nullify certain determinants and reinforce the message/s we want to present to our audience. Thus, we finally come to the nitty-gritty of our campaign.  This is where we identify specific actions and decisions that will ultimately affect behavior. This is where we start developing our Communication Plan.

The Basic COMMUNICATION PLAN: The “R.A.C.E.” Formula –

Different books and different companies/organizers use varying formats in their Communication Plans (be these for PR, Marketing Communication, Corporate Communication, Advertising or other efforts). Some of these formats are more complicated or have much more steps than others. Regardless of these differences, there is a universal structure that is consistently present in almost all of the formats being used today. Originally introduced by John Marston in his book “The Nature Of Public Relations” – and echoed in “Public Relations: Strategies & Tactics” by Dennis Wilcox – is the easy-to-remember “R.A.C.E.” Acronym or Formula.

As emphasized in previous posts, Communication, including Public Relations, is a strategic process. As such, it is a series of deliberate actions, changes or functions that bring about a desired result. Essentially, “R.A.C.E.” means that a Communication activity consists of the following four key elements:

·        Research (or the Listening Stage) – What is the problem or situation?
·        Action (or Program Planning) – What is going to be done about it?
·        Communication (or Execution) – How will the audience/public be told?
·        Evaluation – Was the audience reached and what was/were the effect/s? 

While “R.A.C.E.” is a handy acronym that has proven to be an effective mnemonic device, spelling it out though makes for a rather weak battle cry for many PR/Communication Professionals. I recall that some organizations/institutions preferred to verbalize this as: “LISTEN, PLAN. COMMUNICATE and EVALUATE… because the Public must know!” (Can you imagine shouting “RESEARCH!” at a “rah-rah” or motivational gathering of communicators? Doesn’t sound quite right, does it?)
Do continue to stay tuned for my next issue in a few days’ time. We will delve a little more into the “R.A.C.E. Formula” and then take a look at what I call the “A.C.E. Principle” (or rather “A.A. – C.C. – E. Principle”) in Communication Planning. Again, I hope these easy-to-remember topics prove to be useful for both my fellow PR/Communication Professionals and our Clients/Bosses.

Some of our readers have requested for more details, particularly actual case studies from my personal experience. Moving forward, I will see what I can do vis-à-vis keeping these articles brief and concise, even if it means breaking down topics over several posts. Please bear in mind that an average of two of my weekly Blogs or posts represents items in the outline or overview of topics that I would normally discuss during a typical three-hour Saturday college class. In addition, I wish to be cautious with examples, specially those involving former employers or principals. With everyone’s indulgence, I will do what I can to weave my “safer” and more relevant personal experiences and involvement, as appropriate and as needed.

Thank you once more for your interest and patronage.  As always, may we all have a great and productive week ahead! 

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