Undergraduate project: PR Strategy

Update May 30th: Overall project mark 72%. 

Here’s an extract of the PR Strategy I put together as part of assignment 1 for the Undergraduate Communication and Public Relations Project (equivalent to a dissertation). I’ve included the main part of the strategy leaving out appendices and reference list.

This PR Strategy received 75% mark. Full project portfolio is available upon request.

 

Executive summary

This report offers a detailed PR campaign strategy for Northumberland Wild Trust (NWT). It analyzes internal and external environments of the organisation and considers its stakeholders.

The report then follows to highlights primary and secondary research carried out with the campaign’s target audience – students. It notes key findings and observations and from that aims and objectives are set.

Some of the key market research findings include:

  • poor brand recognition;
  • volunteering trends amongst students;
  • student attitudes and involvements with societies at universities;
  • general views towards charities and their visibility within students.

From there the ‘Help A Badger Out’ campaign is introduced and the report goes into fine detail noting strategies and tactics put in place to achieve the set objectives and ensure efficiency.

Some of the key tactics include:

  • student fair attendance;
  • social media activity and creating engagement;
  • student oriented sports event.

The report also looks at necessary resources and timescales for the set PR campaign and reflects at evaluation tactics for further PR activity and if the campaign were to be extended or further developed into a larger scale.

1.   Situation analysis

1.1          Environment

For analyzing external environment of the organization a PEST analysis was carried out. (See Appendix A)

1.2          Organisation

For analysing internal environment of the organisation a SWOT analysis was carried out. (See Appendix B)

Threat Opportunity
Target demographic (aged 40-60) is at higher risk of health complications

 

·        Raise awareness with new audiences

·       Raise funds and volunteer power

·       Engage with new people and different core motivations

1.3          Stakeholders

According to Honey (2009, p. 32-33), the most efficient way of establishing stakeholder is to look at a “matrix of stakeholders reflecting different degrees of influence over an interest in the organisation” as there is no straightforward, simple or single hierarchy of stakeholders for an organisation.

High power to influence Educate, keep informed:

·       National trade media

·       Residents and neighbourhood organisations

·       Regulators

·       Corporate partners

·       Press offices at local organisations

Manage closely:

·       Local media

·       Internal stakeholders (colleagues, existing volunteers, board of directors etc.)

·        Fundraisers, donors

Low power to influence Monitor, watching brief:

·       General public

·       Mainstream media

 

Convince, keep satisfied:

·       NGOs

·       Suppliers

·       Environmental groups

Low level of interest High level of interest

1.4          Identifying the specific issues

Information was gathered via primary and secondary research. For primary research, a mixed methods market research (a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods) was carried out to gain an understanding of the target audience’s behaviours, attitudes and reasoning behind these.

1.4.1      Secondary research key findings

GOV.UK (2013) released data on the resurgence in volunteering trends noting 9 percentage-point rise in regular volunteering. Furthermore, volunteering trends in North East increased from 29% to 42%.

Newcastle Council For Volunteering Service (2016) conducted that 23% of local residents have done some form of formal volunteering at least once a month.

National Union of Students (2015) in a nationwide research (5% participants from North east) noted that 57% of students indicated volunteering to some extent. The report highlighted that amongst 1223 students surveyed 48% took part in volunteering, 30% in fundraising, 21% in fun/special interest clubs and 16% course related/academic clubs as extra-curriculum activities. 59% of non-volunteers said to be considering volunteering in the future and 77% of volunteers said to be interested in volunteering more in the future.  For 31% amongst this cohort, volunteering has taken place in the past with a club or a group. 49% of volunteers have found out about volunteering opportunities via their place of study. 51% pointed out volunteering related to their interest as an encouragement, moreover, 36% noted being able to volunteer with friends and family as a great encouragement for becoming a volunteer.

“Highlighting volunteering opportunities is an ideal way for this group to be targeted as for many charities giving time is just as important as giving money.” (Mintel Academic, 2010)

1.4.2      Primary research key findings: self-completion questionnaire

An online questionnaire was carried out with 51 responses (80 sent out)

from local students (76%) and recent graduates (24%) with 78% aged between 19 and 24. (See Appendix C) The purpose for this questionnaire was to collect a mass of quantitative data and gain brief understanding of the target audience’s views and behaviours towards volunteering and charity donation as well as establish levels of brand recognition.

51% of the respondents had before seen the NWT logo, however, only 24% of the respondents were familiar with NWT work. 49% of the responded did not recognise the logo.

84% of respondents had been a volunteer before with 21% helping animals and 37% helping environment. 33% of participants’ volunteer at least once a year and 26% volunteer at least once a week. 99% of the participants said to have donated money (43 respondents) or items (33 respondents) to charity.

1.4.3      Primary research key findings: one-to-one interview

An interview with Vice President of Activities at Northumbria Students’ Union was conducted to gain greater understanding behind SU volunteering process and fundraising activities for charities. (See Appendix D)

The interview highlighted that for a charity to become a volunteering or fundraising cause of SU, charity is required to approach SU with a pitch. Later decision is made by committee voting.

1.4.4      Primary research key findings: street questionnaire

A street questionnaire was carried out with 100 students (50 from Northumbria University and 50 from Newcastle University). For this questionnaire probability sampling approach was used in selecting questionnaire participants – “samples are chosen on the basis that they are representatives of the population as a whole”. (Gray, 2004 p. 209) (See Appendix E)

84% of the participants had done volunteering before and 96% of the participants had donated (money or items) to charity before.

90% of the participants noted to enjoy participating in sports games and sports-related fundraising activities with 7.24 (out of 10) being the average competitiveness level.

56% of the participants were part of at least one society at the university and 87% of them said to be an active member of the society and participate in the events and activities organised by the society.

1.4.5      Primary research key findings: interviews via email

Interviews were conducted with Northumbria University, Newcastle University and Durham University society committee members. The societies were selected based on their interest fields, specifically those involved in sciences (e.g. geography, biology, agriculture, wilderness medicine), animal rights activism, environmental activism and outdoors activities (e.g. hill walking). (See Appendix F) As suggested by Sheehan and Xavier (2009) conducting in-depth interviews with experts and opinions leaders is for the benefit of forming an understanding of an issue and their ability to represent other people’s views on a subject efficiently and dependably.

3867 students were part of societies during the academic year of 2015/16 at Northumbria University. (quoted by Kristy Weegram, SU Activities Vice President) 8500 students are involved in the Durham SU societies this year. (quoted by Georgina Lambert, SU Marketing Manager) 7850 students are members of societies this year at Newcastle University. (quoted by Rebecca Walker, SU Activities Officer)

The interviews highlighted great involvement from students in the social aspects of societies as well as clarified potentially great interest into organised volunteering, fundraising activities and competitions. It was also noted that societies could potentially contribute a small donation towards organising such activities or contribute towards the cause.

1.4.6      Primary research key findings: focus group

A focus group was carried out with 8 (4 males, 4 females) Northumbria University students. The focus group was organised for the benefit of the “robust versatility for shedding light on almost any topic or issue”. (Gray, 2004 p. 469) This focus group was carried out at the exploratory stage of market research. (See Appendix G)

6 out of 8 participants noted being part of societies and main reasons for that being the social aspects it brings e.g. meeting new people, socialising with friends and people alike.

6 out of 8 students noted to be competitive, highlighting that this very much depends on the environment they are in and social circumstances e.g. being with friends, doing something enjoyable etc.

8 out of 8 participants had volunteered before. Participants said that they are most likely to volunteer for a charity that is visible and familiar to them e.g. has approached them in the past, produced a useful learning material on an issue close to them or is working with the university or student groups they are part of.

Participants of the focus group could not name at least one local charity due to local charities not reaching out to students or being visible to them, therefore, participants noted that they were more likely to volunteer for a national charity simply for the lack of knowledge. It is important to note that the participants felt like charities should be approaching them and taking the first step as students are busy and prefer for things to be easy, doing extra research when selecting an organisation to volunteer for is not in their interests.

Stress coping mechanisms (‘positive escape’) were most favourable among the group for spending free time e.g. playing sports, socialising, spending time outdoors etc.

It was highlighted throughout the focus group that students gain a lot of information on events taking place via social media (Facebook being favourable for 7 participants out of 8) and through word-of-mouth from their friends and social groups, they are involved with.

2.   Strategy

2.1          Aims and objectives

Aims Objectives
Generate awareness of NWT with the student demographic in North East. 1.     To create an interactive communications campaign to highlight the value of nature with students in North East.

2.     To develop effective communication with students across numerous social media channels and increase the following across all the channels by 15% within six months.

3.     Grow newsletter subscriber database by 30% by the end of the year.

4.     Increase traffic to the NWT website by 5% within the first 4 months of the campaign.

5.     To have an effect on the company awareness of students in North East; specifically, increase the recognition from 23% to 33% with the target audience.

Engage with relevant student groups to rise volunteer and fundraising levels. 6.     To establish strong relationships with student groups by introducing student volunteering ambassadors/reps.

7.     To create awareness of NWT volunteering activities among university students by engaging students in an outdoors societies competition event with the minimum of 40 students attending.

2.2          Publics

Publics affected by the PR campaign:

Latent publics: local North East residents, people outside the target audience of the campaign such as permanent residents, people commuting into the area for work or short stay.

Aware publics: professionals involved into academic field such as lecturers, student coordinators, researchers, department heads, student’s union staff etc.

Active publics: the target audience of the campaigns, students, and already existing audiences and supporters of the NWT.

  • All-issue publics: student volunteers (pre-existing and new ones), student society committees and society members.
  • Single-issue publics: students only interested in certain aspects of the PR campaign e.g. individuals more interested in the fundraising sports event rather than volunteering opportunities.
  • Hot-issue publics: pre-existing NWT supporters, donors, volunteers.

Apathetic publics: Nationwide supporters of WT, very unlikely to get involved in a local campaign, however, if involved would bring like-minded publics and positive attention to the campaign.

2.3          Key messages

Key messages for the PR campaign’s target audience:

  • Nature lovers are not just ‘tree huggers’, nature lovers can be young, energetic and active!
  • Volunteering and fundraising can be a fun and enjoyable activity to do with friends!
  • NWT does remarkable work and is a valuable addition to local community, therefore, it is important to help the charity and the cause.

Market research has shown that the target audience (refer to 1.4 Identifying specific issues), students are interested in activities that their friends are part of as this makes it more enjoyable and relieves stress, therefore highlighting this as a key message for the campaign is important as key messages are “essential part of the attitude-forming process”. (Gregory, 2000 p. 112)

3.   Implementation

3.1          Strategy and Tactics

Strategy Tactics Objective
Raise brand awareness with the campaign’s target audience. Attend local universities fresher’s fairs (campus activity):

·       Interactive game to attract attention.

·       Introduce charity, create conversation (two-way communication) with those attending.

·       Encourage students to sign up to the newsletter.

·       Use this opportunity as a further market research for long term PR activity.

·       Attend one fair in the first year of campaign if campaign successful

Release ‘Help A Badger Out Wildlife Video’ on social media:

·       Encourage shares and views due to the humorous content.

·       Encourage student participation across all social media via #HelpABadgedOut e.g. adding their own comments or creating their own clips.

·       Social media sponsored content for reaching greater numbers of people.

The tactics reflect objectives 1-5.
Approach relevant influencers and student groups for volunteering and fundraising activities. Release ‘Help A Badger Out And Caption This Photo’ on social media:

·       Daily or a weekly activity.

·       Photos of badgers simply encouraging participants to caption the photo, therefore, rising social media engagement.

·       Highlight weekly favourites across social media, tagging the creator of the tagline.

·       Encourage funniest and wittiest photos to be shared across social media via #HelpABadgerOut.

 

Contact University SUs and pitch NWT as a worthy cause for SU volunteering and fundraising events.

 

Contact university societies and pitch NWT as a worthy cause for upcoming fundraising or volunteering events:

·       Discuss specific events organised by the charity that require additional volunteer help and discuss societies interest in the event.

‘Help A Badger Out Achiever Awards’ on NWT website:

·       #HelpABadgerOut find achievers social media, urging student nominations via #HelpABadgerOut and submissions page on the NWT website.

·       Highlight ‘greatest achievers’ on NTW website under the ‘Help A Badger Out Achiever Awards’. Encourage social media shares.

·       Approach ‘greatest achievers’ with a potential rep or spokesperson roles.

·       By adding content to the website growing NWT SEO value and Google ranking, therefore, increasing traffic in the long term.

·       Press release to the relevant and local press. (See Appendix H)

The tactics reflect objectives No. 2, 4, 5 and 6.
Further, connect with student groups, therefore, rising volunteering and fundraising levels. ‘Help A Badger Out Games’:

·       Approach 7 – 10 local societies for participation, encouraging at least 5 people attendance per society.

·       Persuade donation of £2 per person attending (donated towards cause).

·       Encourage social media broadcasting trough out the event via #HelpABadgerOut.

The tactics reflect objectives No. 1, 2, 5 and 7.

3.1.1      ‘Help A Badger Out’ game for fairs

Design an interactive and fairly inexpensive game for those attending fresher fairs to grab attention, challenge student competitive spirits and make NWT memorable therefore rising brand recognition. The concept of the game is to complete a simple challenge and set a time record.

Badger cubs are very playful. Once they venture above ground, when they’re around 2 months old, they enjoy playing games.” (Peta, 2012)

Items required: plastic cups, a balloon and a timer.

Game: blow off 10 plastic cups off the edge of a table using air from an inflated balloon. This is done by continuously blowing up the balloon and squeezing the air out. The time is stopped once all 10 cups have flown off the table.

3.1.2      ‘Help A Badger Out’ video

“By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic.” (Cisco, updated 2016, quoted in Trimble 2015).

A short, low cost and low production entertaining video to be released to gain social media shares and audience engagement. According to Ellering (2016) the ideal video length would be around 1.5 minutes.

“(..) 100 million hours of video gets watched per day on Facebook. (..) There’s also the issue of declining organic reach on the platform. The News Feed algorithm now makes it harder to earn high organic reach. If video content is particularly popular, however, then there may be opportunity for content creators to capitalise.” (Sailer, 2016)

Concept: clips of badgers into the wild with entreating voice narration over or a catchy song commenting on the clips. Play on the words of the campaign tagline and cultural reference to the Beatles ‘With A Little Help Of My Friends’ song. The video will also reflect on ‘fun facts of badgers’ in a humorous manner complimenting the visual content. Viral videos and TV shows of similar concept (e.g. BBC’s show ‘Walk On The Wild Side’) have reached large audiences in the past and have proven to be extremely popular and effective amongst the target audience.

3.1.3      ‘Help A Badger Out Achiever Awards’ on NWT website

Seek out student achievers and local influencers to gain website traffic and raise brand recognition. Encourage social media submission as well as research individuals for the following categories:

  • Volunteer: consider a student who has done tremendous amount of volunteering, has been involved in the local community or has made a change for the better.
  • Blogger: local outdoors enthusiast or a nature lover with a blog (preferably with some sort of established following), who by blogging about their lifestyle encourages others to spend time outside.
  • Academic: a student who has shown extremely accomplished academic results in science (e.g. biology) or a degree related to nature or environment.
  • Activist: seek out a person that is very active around current issues surrounding environment, nature or animals; this should be an individual that is outspoken and passionate (potentially known to participate in campaigns, protests etc.).
  • Green thumbs: someone with a passion for gardening or known to be participating in tree planting events etc. Potentially also someone known to be growing own spices or vegetable while living in an urban environment.

Feature a flattering short blurb and an interview on the NWT website about the winner, his/her achievements with complimenting photos.

A potential for a bigger scale project by seeking out corporate sponsors for each category and organising an awards event.

3.1.4      ‘Help A Badger Out Games’

“Badgers are social animals, living in distinct social groups or clans.” (Scotland’s Natural Heritage, 2015)

An interactive and quirky low budget competition held at one of the nature reserves to engage with students and creates a joyful atmosphere with some healthy competition for local university societies’ members. Activities for the students:

  • ‘Help A Badger Out’ he is lost: a scavenger hunt.
  • ‘Help A Badger Out’ of his sett: an exercise solving a maze by unpicking clues reference to the fact that badgers underground tunnels (known as setts) are known to be like mazes.
  • ‘Help A Badger Out’ blind race: an obstacle race while wearing goggles to disturb participant’s visual perception in reference to badgers’ poor eyesight.

The aim of this event is to create an environment where the participants are enjoying themselves and also sharing their experience on social media networks. Throughout the event, volunteering opportunities should be highlighted. Captured photos and videos later can be published on social media alongside a recap of the event.

If technically possible snippets of the live event can also be broadcasted live via social media as this is an increasingly growing social media marketing strategy. (Social Media Examiner, 2016)

For risk assessment of the event see Appendix I, as a contingency measure, an insurance against bad weather is budgeted for the event.

3.2          Timescale

A Gantt chart (see Appendix J) has been designed to evaluate the campaign’s program and ensure feasibility and flexible approach if any circumstances were to arise and affect the planned course of the campaign. A serious reflection has been undertaken when compiling this to guarantee that activities are scheduled in order for the tasks to be completed for the fixed deadlines.

3.3          Resources

Human resources, operation and equipment costs have been considered when designing the final budget of the campaign. (See Appendix K) Budget has been taken into account when designing this campaign and the campaign has been planned and designed to be as low cost as possible while still reaching the target audience, engaging and meeting the set targets.

4.   Evaluation

Quinn-Allan (2009) argues that every public relations campaign should be evaluated by Jim Macnamara’s pyramid model of public relations research for presenting clear and simple levels of evaluation. The pyramid evaluation module looks at three evaluation levels – input, output and outcome.

4.1          Inputs

Measurement mythologies
Background information and research

 

 

Appropriateness of the medium selected

 

Appropriateness of message content

 

Quality of message presentation

 

academic papers, interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, secondary data

 

case studies, interviews, feedback

 

feedback, audience surveys

 

expert analysis, peer review, feedback, expert recognition

4.2          Outputs

Measurement mythologies
Number of messages sent

 

Number of messages placed in the media

 

Number and type of messages reaching target audience

 

Number who receive message

 

 

Number who consider messages

 

Number who learn message content

Distribution statistics, web pages posted

 

Media monitoring

 

Analysis of media coverage, communication audits

 

Circulation, event attendance, social media engagement

 

Response rates, feedback

 

Audience analysis, volunteer incline, social media following incline

4.3          Outcomes

Measurement mythologies
Number who changed attitudes

 

 

Number who changed behaviours

 

Qualitative research: focus groups, interviews, reputation studies

 

Quantitative research: surveys, questionnaires, volunteer increase numbers

Objectives Method
To create an interactive communications campaign to highlight the value of nature with students in North East. Feedback
To develop effective communication with students across numerous social media channels and increase the following across all the channels by 15% within six months. Web visits, number of new social media followers
Grow newsletter subscriber database by 30% by the end of the year.

 

Web visits, newsletter report analysis (opened emails, effective articles etc.)
Increase traffic to the NWT website by 5% within the first 4 months of the campaign.

 

Web visits, page views, SEO ranking
To have an effect on the company awareness of students in North East; specifically increase the recognition from 23% to 33% with the target audience. Quantitate surveys
To establish strong relationships with student groups by introducing student volunteering ambassadors/reps.

 

Event attendance, social media activity, volunteering trends
To create awareness of NWT volunteering activities among university students by engaging students in an outdoors societies competition event with the minimum of 40 students attending. Event attendance, feedback, volunteer and fundraising trends, interviews, social media engagement

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