Home / Columnists/ Managing the message

Managing the message

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 7 September 2011 01:37

How does one manage the media - i.e. from a PR sense?  If you speak about this subject to any mainstream media journalist, he is probably not going to like the word ‘manage’, as managing might also connote control.

But from a PR point of view, managing the message in the media is the most important part of any self respecting public relations person. Last week this column spoke about yellow journalism and corruption. One of the main accused in this, is allegedly PR people.

There may be some PR people who try to position themselves as people who could plant untruthful stories in the media in order to get unfair advantage for their clients. I am not saying there are no bad eggs in this trade, but then, that is true for any industry.

Today’s column however, is not about operating in the twilight zone; but actually looking at managing the message in the media. Especially, when the message requires a certain structured approach in the dissemination of information to the general public through this giant multi celled organism, which we call the media.  Considering the fact that the media itself is divided into several mediums such as radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, social media and the like, message management in each one will have its own special nuances. This being the case, sometimes even with careful planning, our PR gets diluted and that is probably because our overall plan is flawed.

Most often PR companies get drawn into this trap where they equate the PR success of a project as to the number of times a story gets published in the newspapers/magazines or carried on different electronic media channels.   Though this method itself can be a way in which to get a message across, measuring the success in terms of penetration amongst the targeted audience is near impossible.  

In more sophisticated markets, various complex measurement tools are used, such as surveys to gauge the success of publicity in a public relations campaigns.  However, here in Sri Lanka efficacy levels cannot be measured in the same way, and we have to depend more on qualitative perception reports.

Therefore while nothing much can be done at one end i.e. output, there is certainly a lot than can be done on the other; and that is from the planning aspect of a PR campaign. This requires some thought on how the message would be managed, therefore what strategies, tactics are employed and what are the aims, goals and objectives of the overall PR plan.  In fact a PR plan that contains all this, is something clients need to request from their PR agent.  

While aims, goals and objectives tend to be thrown around as if they are interchangeable, there are subtle differences in all of these, which are vital to the efficacy of the PR campaign.

I was recently reading a book titled ‘Evaluating public relations’ written by Tom Watson and Paul Noble, which says that ‘goals are generalised ends – ends that provide a framework for decision making and behaviour but that are too broad to help much in making day to day decisions.  Whereas objectives on the other hand are ends in view – expected solutions to day-to-day problems that we can use to deal with that problem and to evaluate whether we have sorted it.’

“An example given to illustrate the difference is that the goal of a PR department might be to ensure public acceptance of an organisation but the practitioners working in the department will need more specific objectives in order to enable them to plan and evaluate everyday activities.  These might be along the lines of getting a certain percentage of an important public to understand the organisation’s stance on a given issue.”

Therefore, in a PR plan there would be goals, objectives, strategy and tactics.  Goals would mean the direction in which the PR campaign would need to move, objectives are for how we will know we have arrived, strategy is the overall approach and tactics is the action to be taken.

Therefore, if the end measurement of a successful PR campaign is the number of articles published in the newspapers or the number of news clips aired on electronic media that has to be spelt out in the goals; which means - that would be what the client expects of the PR plan.

However, if that is not the goal, then the measurement of an effective PR plan holds much more than getting a stipulated number of hits across the media.  Indeed, food for thought.

(The writer, a PR consultant and head of Media360, was previously a mainstream journalist in print and electronic media. He also edits a new media website.)

Share This Article


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.


Today's Columnists

Singapore miracle – How SL could benefit from trade with Singapore

Monday, 20 August 2018

According to a media report released by President’s Media Division, a committee of experts has been appointed by the President to examine and report on ‘the practical impact and use of the proposed officer policy guidelines and recommendations on

High NPAs in SME sector: Who is responsible?

Monday, 20 August 2018

Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) of the banking sector have been increasing in the recent past. Gross NPA ratio reached about 3.3% as at end of May2018 recording an increase of about 0.8% over the past five months.

DMK Chief “Kalaignar” Karunanidhi excelled as a Tamil film script writer

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Muttuvel Karunanidhi, known to the Tamil-speaking world as “Kalaignar” (artiste), passed away at the age of 94 in Chennai on 7 August. Karunanidhi had been Chief Minister of India’s Tamil Nadu state for a total of 19 years. He was Chief Ministe

Bangladesh could be a happy hunting ground for Lankan entrepreneurs

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Bangladesh has traditionally been hospitable to Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and fortunately, the traditional friendliness has not given way to arrogance with the country’s growing prosperity. This was acknowledged at a meeting of Sri Lankan entreprene

Columnists More