Public relations is a very useful tool for an organization making its case in the public forum, especially when confronting another organization with conflicting values. In this case, I will explore the opportunity for using public relations concepts in defending a historical society against the desire of a group of property developers who wish to build on an historic site. Hendrix and Hayes (2010) demonstrates leveraging reputation and crafted messaging to inform the public of the controversy in a manner that helps to garner public support for the organization’s position using the R.O.P.E. (research, objectives, programming, and evaluation) process.
The first step in using public relations, according to Hendrix and Hayes (2010) is researching the problem and the audience. The results will allow tailoring the later message to effectively impact the audience in the desired manner. Tailoring the message specifically to the audience is very effective in communications. Research is especially important in separating those who are active in community politics from those who prefer a more laissez-faire approach to politics.
In this particular case, it is important to understand the import that the members of the community put on history, their political ideologies, and the economic impact of the developers’ proposed plan. Depending on how each of these relate to the current state of the community, a message could be crafted to emphasize the points most important to the community as well as educate the public to the importance of the issue.
Hendrix and Hayes (2010) state that both impact and output objectives are important when communicating with consumers. Impact objectives refer to the attitudes and behaviors that need to be influenced while output objectives refer to the overall measurable goals of the public relations effort. While the latter can be simply stated as to garner support to preserve the historic nature of the site, the former requires more precision.
Using the broad output objective statement above, further output objectives can be developed to meet the overarching goal. For example, a more specific output objective could be to mail informational flyers to each household within five miles of the historically significant site. Another example would be to meet with three previously identified community leaders each day to emphasize the importance of preserving the site versus developing it.
In this particular case, the impact objectives will rely heavily on the research performed to increase the community’s knowledge about the importance of historical preservation and to influence their perceptions of the usefulness of historical preservation contrasted with the negative impact of the development of the site. Further, the community needs to be educated about how the historical preservation society has performed in past years with a focus on those efforts that typical have the support of the public already.
As stated above, the programming of the message is very important and should be steered by the research. In the case of an historical preservation society attempting to protect an historic site from development, there will be media coverage. It is important to control the media as much as possible, and this can be accomplished by issuing press releases (see Appendix), holding public events covered by the media designed to educate the public about the controversy, and holding press conferences and interviews to give the media more access to the desired message over the competing message of the developers. The programming also needs to enhance and leverage the credibility of the historical society for the best results (Hendrix & Hayes, 2010).
Message programming can also be used in monitoring media coverage and augmenting the approach based on the amount and content of coverage. If one aspect of the message is clearly represented but another aspect is failing to connect with the public, emphasis can be placed on the lacking aspect of the message in future communications.
The reputation and credibility of the historical preservation society is very important in the continued efforts to garner support for preserving the site from the proposed development; therefore, constant evaluation of the society’s reputation within the community is paramount. Beyond the reputation, the effectiveness of each message component should be evaluated to ensure consistency with the objectives. This could be accomplished by using further research and analyzing the amount of favorable attention the society is getting in regards to this particular controversy and in general.
Understanding the effectiveness of the communication effort allows a decision to made to either stay on course or alter the messaging to use more effective measures and tactics.
Though this controversy is hypothetical, political discussions and debates frequently call into the question to utility and desire of maintaining historical sites versus the opportunity to develop these sites to improve economic output or improve overall living conditions within the community. For those that feel an importance in preserving history when confronted with political controversy, the communication efforts described here can be used to effectively plead the case in the public forum, arguably the most important forum in controversies such as these.
Hendrix, J. A. & Hayes, D. C. (2010). Public relations cases (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Example press release.
Contact: Michael Schadone FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Telephone: (555) 555-5555
Cell: (555) 555-5556
SAVE OUR SITE
Please Help Preserve the Johnson Mills
The Society of Historical Preservation has recently learned that the Johnson Mills site, located at 55 Johnson Rd. in Township, Connecticut, is in danger of being destroyed. This site, an historically significant building where our first governor, John Johnson, founded the lumber mill that propelled our state into prosperity for over 300 years, is important to the economic and political history of the state as well as the nation.
On May 5, 2012, Property Developers, Inc., submitted a proposal to the Township zoning board to develop the Johnson Mills historical site as condominiums and a strip mall. We believe that, although the community of Township is very supportive of preserving the history of the region, this proposal will be approved unless the members of the community attend the next zoning board hearing on July 25, 2012, at 123 Government Ln., to express their concern over the needless destruction of this important site.
Further, Township is experiencing the same economic conditions as the rest of the country and home ownership is at an all-time low for the region. In addition to the historic importance of Johnson Mills, it seems that the creation of a condominium complex is contrary to the needs of the community.
We at the Society of Historical Preservation anticipate that the people of Township and others within the state would be dismayed to hear of the plans of Property Developers, Inc., to develop the Johnson Mills site. It is important for us to give the community the opportunity to oppose this proposal by calling the Township town hall at (555) 555-0001 and attend the upcoming hearings to voice their concerns.
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If you would like more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview with Michael Schadone, please call Steve Smith at (555) 555-5557 or email Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org