Chapter 4

Planning: Audiences, Media and Networks

Ged Carroll

Digital has been painted both as the future and as a threat to the role of the public relations practitioner. However, digital tools provide techniques to enhance campaign planning and messaging for both on- and offline PR. This chapter provides new ways for the PR practitioner to plan and introduces some of the online tools available to facilitate this process.

Where we've come from

Public relations as a profession arose with the industrial age and mass media. A founding father of the industry, Edward Bernays, is known as the pioneer of publicity; he used principles of the emerging discipline of psychology to help mould audience attitudes. Publicity is a one-way message process that mirrored the command-and-control structures that appeared in early mass production.

Many of Bernays' techniques would be familiar to the PR practitioner:

  • Stunts
  • Third-party advocacy or endorsement
  • Surveys
  • Press releases.

Bernays himself described his work:

This is an age of mass production. In the mass production of materials a broad technique has been developed and applied to their distribution. In this age, too, there must be a technique for the mass distribution of ideas. (Heath 2004 p. 78)11

Bernays' planning, whilst taking into account psychological effects, had a limited insight into the consumer audience he was trying to reach because marketing research as we know it was in its infancy.

Public relations up until recently hadn't ...

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