No news is not good news

I find it hard to believe that the ‘no news is good news’ method of managing public relations – particularly when

The head in sand approach to pr only leaves a void for others to fill

pertaining to issue or crisis management – is still being employed these days.
This practice seems more than somewhat outdated in today’s fast moving communications sphere. We live in a world where an earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan leads every international news bulletins only minutes after it happens, or when bad-boy actor Charlie Sheen’s latest narcissistic rant can be instantly picked up by a couple of million followers on Twitter, and the removal of a North African dictator from his four decade reign is played out in the living rooms of viewers in Paris, London, Wellington and New York.
Therefore the old ‘little comment as possible’ technique seems highly passé and totally ineffective in the world we now live in. However, it seems some organisations still subscribe to the ‘less is more’ pr ethos.
Fonterra springs to mind as a major user of this mode of public communication. Despite been a highly successful farmer co-operative and international food company the diary giant seems to prefer to take a far more passive stance than front-footing potential controversial issues.
One only has to look at the current debate over milk prices ; controversy over the imports of palm kernel stock feed or even the long-running dirty dairying claims to see Fonterra has taken a ‘quietly-quietly’ approach to these issues or anything that may cause it a bit of hullabaloo.
I think Fonterra is a great New Zealand company and it has a wonderful story to tell. However, you get the feeling by the way it keeps its head buried in the sand that Fonterra is either embarrassed by its success, afraid to confront issues head on or is hiding something.
Fonterra needs to lose its fear of engaging in controversy and to fill the vacuum this creates for its opponents and critics. I am confident it has well-reasoned arguments and points to make about milk prices, imports of palm kernel extract and so-called dirty dairying. It would be good to hear them.

Communications planning

You need a communications plan whenever you communicating with the public. It’s a good idea to have an overarching strategy for all communications, as well as “mini” communications plans for projects such as a newsletter, or a major event, such as a conference.

Background: Where are you now?
Start by thinking about how you are communicating now. Are you saying what you want to say, to the people you want to say it to? By taking some time to think about the current situation, you’ll be ready for the next step—setting some objectives.

Objectives: What do you want to accomplish?
Why do you want to communicate with people? Is it to raise the profile of your organisation among decision-makers? To get people interested in supporting your organisation? Or to encourage people to support a cause you are promoting?
Of course you can’t do everything, so try to keep your objectives realistic. The old KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle is a good adage –with the best communications plans having no more than four to six objectives.

Messages: What do you want to say?
The best messages are short and simple – remember KISS!

Target audiences: Who do you want to say it to?
Most organisations want to communicate with many different audiences, including; for example:
• policy-makers (local and national)
• like-minded organisations
• the media
• academics, researchers and educational institutions
• industry or sector groups
• Iwi
• community groups
• general public
In a bulleted list, such as the one above, list all of the audiences—local, national and international—you want to reach.

Strategic considerations: What else should you consider when communicating?
Make a list of the most important influences—local, national and international—on what you are trying to communicate. You may want to consider local, national forest initiatives, and international views to what you are trying to communicate.

Approach and activities: How to get your message out?
Don’t forget to keep your messages, audiences and strategic considerations in mind. Start by deciding on your approach, then make a list of activities that support it.
For example, if your objective is to raise profile among decision-makers, your approach could be to share the results of appropriate research with local, national and international decision-makers.
Activities that support this approach could include organising workshops to demonstrate this research to decision-makers, or putting together a newsletter about the research and distributing it to key decision-makers.

Putting the plan into action
Your communications plan should include an action plan that explains:
• what you’re going to do
• when you’re going to do it
• who is going to do it
• how much it will cost