Second in a series discussing basic public relations plan components and media relations.

Public relations is the part of a communications plan that keeps a business' target audiences aware of important activities of the business.

Carol Knox, executive vice president and shareholder of Morgan and Myers, a PR firm in Jefferson, WI, says PR is one tool to get your message to your public.

"Your message is not on top of your audience's mind," she says. "You have to compete for the share of mind needed to get it across. Frankly, you'll get bored with your message before your audience understands it."

Mary Coyne, public relations director at McCormick Advertising, Amarillo, TX, advises feedyard clients how to build PR plans that keep customers informed, generate new business and maintain a community presence.

What's Involved "A PR program has four basic components," Coyne says.

Objectives: What you want to happen as a result of your efforts or behavior changes in your target audiences you want to achieve. For example, you may want state and local officials to know about an environmental improvement project you've done so they will be supportive of your operation.

Strategies: Your plan of action and approach to achieving your goal. A strategy might be to involve top managers and owners in face-to-face educational sessions with targeted officials.

Tactics: The actual method or tools used to implement strategies. Tactics might include developing a list of officials with addresses and phone numbers; scheduling a tour of your operation and developing a printed piece that describes your environmental improvement to give officials.

Audiences: The group(s) within which you wish to create behavior change. Examples include customers, vendors, investors, prospects and media.

"Once audiences are identified, prioritize them," Knox says. "Decide what you want them to know, think or do as a result of your communications. Design a program to create these behavioral and attitudinal changes. On average, it takes seven repetitions of information for audiences to understand it."

Media - A Prime Audience In the April BEEF Feeder, Coyne and Knox discussed the value of building relationships. Apply those recommendations to media, too.

Knox says as the beef industry becomes more consumer-oriented it will attract more media scrutiny. She adds media can affect a business positively or negatively - one reason why area media should be on your list of audiences.

"Build relationships with media personnel as you would any other group," Knox says.

Coyne says, "If local media know you, you'll have the best chance of getting your story told right."

Understanding Media "If you've worked at building a relationship with media, your comfort level is already increased," Coyne says. "However, it's not possible to know all reporters and editors. In this case, prepare before an interview to ensure your points are made. Learn something about the reporter and his audience. Local newspapers have different audiences than farm broadcasters. Once you know the final audience, you can formulate your answers."

Not All Media Are The Same Knox stresses media personnel are people doing a job, skilled generalists, information gatherers and storytellers.

"Trade publication reporters will likely understand your business," Knox says. "Newspaper, radio and television reporters may need help understanding the industry overall and where your business fits within it."

Prepare For Contact When you agree to an interview with a reporter, prepare.

"Start with the intended audience first and understand it," Knox says. "Then, step back and say, 'what do I want them to know?' It may be related to management practices, product quality or things you're doing in the community.

"Also, consider the audience's point of view," she adds. "Will it have a 'so what' attitude, a 'who cares' attitude or a 'what's in it for me?' attitude?

"Next, identify desired outcomes," Knox says. "Determine what you want the audience to know, think and do as a result of the information you present."

Knox also says to make a prioritized list of key messages and support them with facts, statistics, third-party experts, analogies and personal experience.

"When delivering your message in any situation, be yourself, tell the truth, listen, pause and show appropriate emotion," Knox says. "Repeat and simplify important information often.

"Take each question asked and create an opportunity to talk about what you do. Reinforce the key points you want to make," Knox says.

* Determine the media and its audiences

* Know the audience

* Identify your desired outcome * Develop your messages

* Practice, if possible

* Repeat important information

* Simplify as much as possible

* Be yourself

* Tell the truth