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Your Public Relations Plan:


More fully understanding the Strategic
Triangle introduced in the Introduction will help you better see the direct
relationship between effective public relations and successful work with the
media, on the one hand, and the excellence outcomes you want and must get for
abused and neglected children. The first leg of the strategic triangle is
public value. This is what the public wants and values.


In child protection, the highest public value
is child safety. Children must be kept safe. With effort on your part, your
public, your community, can also be helped to value child permanence, child
well-being, responsive services, highly qualified staff, adequate facilities,
collaboration with other agencies, and other things you think are important.
Even so, never lose the perspective that child safety is the public’s bottom
line, the primary public value.


The second leg of the strategic triangle is
authorization. For example, LCCS has to receive and keep authorization from The
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Lorain County Board of
Commissioners. Then, it has to receive and keep authorization from the voting
public in order to maintain its revenue base. Additionally, it has to receive
and keep authorization from the court in order to get the authority it needs to
intervene into the lives of children and families.


Further, it has to receive and keep
authorization from the police and other community agencies and professionals
with whom it needs to work to effectively carry out its mission. Beyond that,
authorization must come from the schools, community groups, area businesses,
and a myriad of other local, regional, state, and national sources to assure
the agency’s success. Note that the media is also a key participant in the
agency’s authorizing environment, especially given its power to shape and
influence the attitudes and opinions of most everyone in the authorizing
environment.


The third leg of the strategic triangle is
operating capacity. This includes financial resources, qualified staff, quality
foster families, adequate facilities, support from community groups and
organizations, and all that combines to give the agency the capacity to do its
work.


Public relations, then, are those external
activities focused on knowing what the public values and assuring that the
public continuously knows that the agency is providing what the public values.
Further, public relations are those external activities directed to monitoring
and enhancing authorization at all levels in the community and beyond. Finally,
public relations are those external activities that help the public and the
authorizing environment understand and support the operating capacity
requirements and resource development of the agency. Effective work with the
media is, of course, an integral and absolutely necessary component of the
agency’s ongoing public relations initiatives.


Think about your agency in relation to the
strategic triangle as you develop the three below.


·      
What do
you want your public, your community, to value? Child safety is understandably
the primary public value related to child protection. In order of importance to
you, what are the most significant public values associated with your agency
beyond child safety? These will be the public value focus for your public
relations activities.


·      
Who
authorizes your agency? In order of importance, identify the individuals,
groups, or organizations whose authorization you must receive and keep in order
to successfully operate. These will be the authorization focus for your public
relations activities.


·      
What are
the key elements in your agency’s operating capacity? Of course, financial
resources (money) are critical to your agency’s operating capacity. Money is,
though, only a means to building operating capacity. You will not get more
money because you need more money. Rather, you will get more money because you
need to add to or enhance your operating capacity. In order of importance, what
are the most important elements in your agency’s operating capacity? For
example, an adequate number of foster homes or a computer for each social
worker might go on your list. Be sure to start with those capacity elements
that you currently have that you cannot operate without. These elements will be
the capacity focus for your public relations activities.


Now, using the first list you developed above
and focusing on those desired public values, consider these questions:


·      
How does
your agency assure that it knows what your public, your community, values?


·      
How does
your agency assure that your public continuously knows that the agency is
providing what it values?


Using the second list you developed above and
focusing specifically on those authorizers, carefully consider these questions:


·      
How does
your agency monitor its ongoing authorization at all levels in the community
and beyond?


·      
What
does your agency do to enhance authorization at all levels in the community and
beyond?


Next, using the third list you developed
above, now consider these questions specifically in terms of the operating
capacity elements on your list:


·      
How does
your agency help the public and members of the authorizing environment better
understand the operating capacity requirements and resource development of the
agency?


·      
What
does your agency do to increase the support of your public and members of the
authorizing environment for the operating capacity requirements and resource
development of the agency?


Now that you have developed the value,
authorization, and capacity focuses for your public relations activities, it is
time to develop your public relations plan. You do this by following these
steps:


·      
Start
with your value focus list. For each of the values on the list, develop one
strategy to let the public know that this “should” be an important
priority for them.


For example, LCCS believes that all
school-age children served by the agency should be in our community, in school,
and out of trouble. The message is, “Keep our kids at home.” Part of
the value strategy is to repeat this message verbally and in writing at every
opportunity.


For
instance, at any meeting dealing with children, we find an opportunity to say,
“Remember, we have to keep our kids at home.” We know we are succeeding
when we say, “Remember that…” and someone else finishes the sentence
for us. (Note that public relations strategies are not necessarily expensive.)


·      
Next,
shift to your authorization list. For the individuals, groups, or organizations
on your list, develop a strategy to maintain and enhance the level of
authorization from each.


For
example, LCCS must have ongoing authorization from the Lorain County Mental
Health Board (MHB) to successfully operate. In support of this ongoing
authorization, LCCS supports activities and initiatives of the MHB, whether
they are related directly to LCCS activities or not. The MHB is a valued
partner and LCCS is committed to doing whatever it takes to help the MHB
succeed. Of course, any disagreements are kept private and never discussed
publicly. Disagreements, and there occasionally are some, are exclusively a
behind-closed-doors activity.


·      
Now
shift to your operating capacity list. Strategies here are a little more
complex. The first step is to determine exactly how the specific capacity
element potentially increases child safety. Remember that child safety is the
primary public value. In turn, the authorizing environment is most likely to
support things that increase child safety. If an operating element is necessary
to assure child safety, you are in a strong position to get the needed
capacity.


For example, a significant portion of
families LCCS serves either speak English as a second language or are not
conversant in English. Although translation services are available, LCCS
believes that clients should receive services in Spanish, when that is the
client’s preferred language. Importantly, services will be more effective and
children will be safer if the social worker and the client converse directly
with each other, without a translator. Having bi-lingual social workers is
necessary to best assure child safety.


Since simply advertising for bi-lingual
social workers is not effective in northern Ohio,
LCCS needs the capacity to recruit on-site and face-to-face at universities in Florida, New York, and New Mexico, as examples.
Given a demonstrated connection between face-to-face recruitment and child
safety, the capacity to recruit on-site out of state was forthcoming. An
important and related public relations activity is continuously repeating the
message, “Our children and their families need and deserve social workers
and other staff who can talk with them one-on-one.”


·      
Once you
have developed a strategy for each item on your public value, authorization,
and operating capacity lists, prioritize the strategies. Which ones are
absolutely necessary and which ones can have a lower priority? Once you know
what you will commit to doing, it is time to work your public relations plan.





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