Communication is universally recognized as the cornerstone of all relationships. As such, effective communication is deemed as a necessity for the success of all organization. For an organization that deals with the public, the probability of achieving effective communication, and therefore reaching organizational goals and objectives, is significantly increased by engaging in public relations.
Public relations is defined as the process of coming up with and managing a strategic communication relationship with a certain target audience. For public relations to be most effective, it is necessary to plan in advance. This plan, which showcases the strategies and tactics to be used to achieve set goals, is of great importance. This is because communication strategy, which is a combination of various communication tools, assists in reaching the intended targets.
Statement of the Problem
Regent’s College is a London Based institute offering a wide range of programs with an international focus. Although the college boasts of a strong history and has attractive features to offer, it still has low student enrolment rates. Presently, the school has approximately 4,000 students who are from over 130 countries.
The school is also perceived as a small private college by the general population. This perception of Regent’s College as nothing more than a small private college, has resulted in declining enrollment and a diminishing reputation for the institute.
Regent’s College is not viewed as one of the giant educational institutes in the country. Its popularity is no where near that of the major public universities such as Oxford or Cambridge. As such, there is the possible risk of the College being referenced as a “small private college” in the news clippings. Regent’s College aims to offset this image and present itself as one of London’s education powerhouses
Despite its low visibility, Regent’s College has a lot to offer, and if its public image is improved, the college can spring to new heights. The current strengths of the college at the present are as follows:
Regent’s College comprises of 7 specialist schools which comprise of: “European Business School London, Regent’s Business School London, Regent’s American College, Webster Graduate School London, London School of Film, Media & Performance, School of Psychotherapy & Counseling Psychology and Internexus English Language School”. The College offers both British and American degree programmes and has an active student exchange programmes.
Due to its positioning at the center of London’s Regent’s Park, the college is accessible from all parts of the capital therefore making it very convenient for students. The college also has scenic views and offers first class conference facilities. The attractive meeting rooms are complemented by the perfect environment with impressive gardens and extensive lawns.
Regent’s College prides itself in its diversity which is evident both from the number of specialist Schools that Regent’s College houses and the diverse citizenry of its student body. As a matter of fact, the institute was founded with the core purpose of providing a study abroad program.
The opportunity that has presented itself to Regent’s College is the imminent visit to the institute by the President of the United States, Barack Obama. The visit by the US president is monumental since it is his first state visit to Britain. President Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech at the College. This speech will attract thousands of people including over 400 members of the news media.
Planning and Programming
A strategy is the specific approach that shall be undertaken to fulfill the goals of the institute. The adoption of a communication strategy is of great importance for Regent’s College for a number of reasons. A strategic public relations program will enable the school to achieve its goals and objectives. By use of public relations strategies, Regent’s College will be able to emerge from obscurity to high visibility as well as increase its credibility.
An understanding of the major target audience for the Regent’s College is of great importance. This is because it will be necessary for the school to tailor communications to suit the specific needs of the specific audience. The audiences are going to be prioritized into 3 categories. The first category will consist of the primary audience who are the main priority for the program. The second category will consist of secondary audience who are deemed as important. The third category will consist of marginal audience who are seen to be of some value.
Potential students to the institute will be among the primary Audience. By reaching this group, the college will grow as a result of increased enrollment. This will result in higher revenue for the college therefore enabling it to improve its facilities even further and expand.
The other primary target audience for the program is current students of Regent’s college. The reason for targeting this group is to help increase retention rates as well as maintain a relationship that will extend even after the students have become alumni. The current students are an important facet to the institute since they are responsible for the growth and development of the institute.
Parents will be among the primary audience for the program. This is because parents are mostly the ones who finance the education of their children and as such, they have a huge say in the selection of the school for their children.
The education “industry” will also be included in the Secondary audience category. The members of the education industry consist of teachers to high schools as well as lecturers in institutes of higher learning. This audience is important since the college want to gain peer recognition.
Industry associations will be in the Marginal categories. These people are important since they can help in networking as well as providing opportunities for faculty members.
Obtaining of data regarding the views of the key target audience before the event will be necessary to assist quantify the success of the program later on.
It is important to define the communication objects for this will form the basis of the plan. In Regent’s College case, the primary objective is to increase the visibility of the school to the public, as well as raise the profile of the institute. This plan recognizes that the message aimed at the audience is the core product of the program. With this in mind, a lot of time and effort shall be invested in crafting a powerful message. Specifically, an audience-centric approach shall be adopted when coming up with the message.
It will be crucial to imbed relevant and consistent key messages in Regent’s College’s communications. In particular, the key things that the college wants the key target audience (potential students and media) to remember will have to be articulated.
Regent’s College is a First Class International college
Regent’s College is committed to enriching the lives of the students by offering them with quality education with specific emphasis on development of special skills
Regent’s College courses are structured with development of student’s skills and employability at the core.
Regent’s College has a strong research orientation and the college organizes conferences and seminar series which attract a number of scholars with common interest.
Regent’s College boasts of tranquil surroundings which are ideal for education
Regent’s College offers bursaries every year for deserving undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Regent has unique facilities including an intra network with new technology infrastructure.
Goal 1: Increase the visibility of Regent’s College through the use of the Mass Media
Strategy: Engage in an aggressive publicity campaign
Tactic: Develop a media contact list from the huge pull of media personalities who will be in attendance for the president’s speech.
Tactic: Create a number of written pieces that will be assembled into a press kit and issued out during Obama’s Visit. This press kit will include:
A brief but articulate background of Regent’s College
Biography of Regent’s Principal, Professor Aldwyn Cooper and other renowned members of staff.
Pitch letter emphasizing on Regent’s College International reach.
Distribute brochures containing images of the scenic views of the Regent’s Park to showcase the conducive learning environment present at the school
Tactic: Actively share information on the achievements of the school in the past 5 years.
Strategy: Update the media personalities on the College’s Current programs and future plans
Tactic: Hold an on-campus breakfast for the media personalities who will be covering the event with the school’s principal presiding over the event.
Tactic: Issue out press kit and establish a long term working relationship between the schools PR officers and members of the media.
Strategy: Pursue broader media exposure
Tactic: Issue brochure highlighting Regent’s College’s international studentship as well as the broad curriculum offered by the school
Goal 2: Brand recognition for Regent’s College as a provider of quality education.
Strategy: Capitalize on the past successes of the school by publicizing them.
Tactic: Obtain testimonials on the school’s website from leading personalities in finance, government, commerce and the arts who have studied at Regent’s College
Tactic: Make use of the star alumni that Regent’s College boasts of. In particular, get TV Chef Anjum Anand and European head of Marketing for Apple, Stephanie Vidal who are alumni of the school to give brief interviews stressing on the role that the school played in propelling their careers.
Strategy: Establish Regent’s College as home to credible tutors
Tactic: Establish the school’s Principal and chief executive, Professor Aldwyn Cooper as an expert in the industry.
Tactic: Highlight Professor Cooper’s Credentials including his Fellowship at Stanford and Berkeley to the media
Tactic: Submit regular opinion pieces by the principal to newspaper editorials and be highly responsive to higher education issues in the country pitching Professor Cooper as an expert.
Tactic: Make Regent’s College Principal and the heads of the respective schools visible at industry levels therefore propelling the schools status.
Tactic: On a continuous basis, host conferences and seminars and participate in discussions on current research themes. Also increase publications in relevant journals and publications.
Goal 3: Establish a link between Regent’s College and the public
Strategy: Establish that Regent’s College is in touch with the community and its concerns
Tactic: Demonstrate the school’s environmental consciousness by highlighting that the college was recipient to the Green 500 Award in 2010 for its commitment to a sustainable environment.
Tactic: Regent’s College is committed to ensuring deserving undergraduate and postgraduate students can progress with education despite financial hardships through its bursary programs.
Evaluating the Program
There have to be specific and measurable goals and objectives so as to underscore the effectiveness of the public relations plan. These measurable entities will help tell if the program achieved what it hoped to. Defining metrics both for tracking and evaluating outcome is important to enable one to access the measure of success achieved by the PR plan.
Communications outputs are the short-time or immediate results of the PR plan are the first measure that shall be used to gauge success. These outputs will represent results that are apparent to everyone and will include how well Reagent’s college presented itself to the public.
Since this is a media relations effort, the output will be measured in the number of stories concerning Reagent’s College that appear in the media. If there are a significant number of articles and stories in the media, the outputs measure will be favorable. This is because many stories imply that a higher number of people will have been exposed to the story. The institute will therefore have received a fair amount of exposure.
However, the total number of “impressions” will not be the only measure of output. Media content which is the overall content that appeared in the media will have to be analyzed. In this case, favorable content will include a positive and in-depth look at Regent’s college as an educational institute of choice.
An even more important measure of success will be the measure of communications outtakes and outcomes. Outcomes are the measure of whether the target audience which the PR plan aimed to reach actually received the message and understood it as intended.
Outcomes measure whether the communication efforts resulted in favorable response. In this case, a favorable response will include the change in opinion and attitude about Regent’s College. The current view of the college is as a ’small private college’. A successful program will overturn this opinion resulting in people thinking of the institute as a “One of the Leading Educational Institutes in London”.
A behavioral change on the targeted audience would include increased inquiries about the college’s programs as well as a higher enrollment level. Research techniques such as quantitative surveys will be used to measure communications outcomes. Surveys that will be used include face to face, via e-mail and in malls. These surveys will help measure changes in attitudes towards the school.
The final step shall be an elaborate report on the findings of the entire project. This is a vital step in communications planning since it will contribute to future improvements. In case mistakes are made, this report shall ensure that future projects do no suffer from the same. The Best Practices and lessons obtained from this plan shall be applied to future activities that may be undertaken by the PR department.