How the RPIE Model Came to Be and Why You Should Use it in Your Public Relations Program

Public Relations

Written by Michael Monahan, President & CEO at Moxē Integrated Marketing

Webster’s Dictionary defines public relations as the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution. While there is definitely some truth to its description, in order to achieve success in implementing PR strategies, it is wise for brands to use RPIE. A four-step public relations process, RPIE is an acronym standing for Research, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation. It is a surefire system that informs a public relations strategy with both quantitative and qualitative data and elevates the PR function from one that is merely tactical to one that is deliberate and premeditated.

But how did this model come to be? Well, before there was RPIE, there was RACE – Research, Action, Communication, and Evaluation. Some scholars believe that the acronym was first used in the 1960s when Scott Cutlip and Alan Center penned the very first edition of Effective Public Relations. The model was soon adopted by the Public Relations Society of America, the nation’s leading professional organization serving the communications community. As the decades progressed and the role of PR in business continued to evolve, other models emerged and eventually RPIE rose in prominence.

Implementing a successful PR campaign can be intimidating for some businesspersons. However, to alleviate any anxieties, RPIE should definitely be utilized. Some brands choose to jump straight into PR without outlining any objectives, conducting any research, or identifying key publics. This is a major no-no. How can one ensure success without first doing research? Brands that clearly know their target audience increase their chances of succeeding. Doing research on knowing what your audience wants and how they think can go a long way. Additionally, research on a target market including relevant news stations and reporters in the area can help brands garner positive publicity. All of this is the R in RPIE.

In order to maximize impact, planning can be very instrumental. This is the P in RPIE. Putting together a quarterly communication plan that specifically outlines goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics can ensure that you are always actively doing something to cultivate an audience and remain top of mind. Research informs the plan. A plan can include strategies regarding press release distribution, topics to focus on when pitching, and so forth. Having measurable objectives and evaluating how well these tactics performed at the end of every quarter can help brands determine which strategies they can use in the subsequent quarter. While implementing the plan – by either contacting reporters with story ideas or updating social media outlets with company announcements – evaluating how well the strategies and tactics perform can let brands know what to tweak as they move forward. This, of course, is the I and E and RPIE.

The RPIE formula has become ubiquitous due to its usefulness. The strategy is one that is taught in schools and utilized by many PR practitioners. For businesses both small and large, RPIE should be applied for securing interviews, promoting relevant initiatives, and ensuring achievement. It can be the difference between public relations triumph and failure.

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