Understanding of the ROPES Process
Welcome to Module four of PA685, Strategic Management of Public Communications. This week what we’re going to do is really shift our focus from understanding the premise of communication and public communication campaigns to really how we go about developing those campaigns.
Thinking back on the course content thus far, what we've done is looked at the communication framework and understanding how that process unfolds, especially focusing on the legal and the ethical dimensions of public communication campaigns. In the last module we looked at small group communication and how we can really strengthen relationships with our coworkers through active listening, body language, non-verbal communication cues, and also how those particular components of communication may come into play in our one-on-one interactions that we have with our external stakeholders.
In module four, we will shift our attention to how we go about developing large-scale public communication campaigns that are designed not to look at small groups or a very small segment of the population, but instead look at large groups of target audiences. As such we’re really looking at how we can use the ROPES process designed and outlined by Kathleen Kelly to understand how we can influence public opinion and how we can start to use persuasion and rhetoric to really help advance the mission or advance the issue that our organization or agency really is advocating for.
Thinking about the ROPES process, and it’s going to be outlined very specifically in the PowerPoint slides that you’re reviewing this week. I want you to understand how these five different stages work together to advance our understanding of public communication, and how we can use them all to develop a very solid communication campaign.
Looking at the ROPES process, the first element is R, the research component. What we're looking to do in terms of research for public communication campaigns is understanding what our strengths and weaknesses may be as an organization, what opportunities and threats are out there in terms of the issues that we’re thinking about. Basically doing a SWOT analysis on the organization, but also understanding what the particular issue is, or the situation is that we're facing. Understanding the intricacies of that particular issue so that we are best equipped to develop communication messages and talking points.
We also want to make sure that we understand all of the various stakeholder groups that are connected to this issue. It's not that we're going to try to reach every single one of them with one particular campaign. Generally when we’re trying to reach too many people with our messaging, we wind up developing messages and strategies that really are ineffective for large numbers of the audience.
Importance of Research and Objectives
What we're going to do is take a broad picture of the stakeholder groups that are affected and narrow it down to the two or three that are most impacted by that particular situation. Once we're doing that, what we're going to see is that we're then going to move into the objective or the planning phase of the campaign itself.
Within our campaign, once we've done the research on the organization, the situation, and the stakeholders, now we're going to develop an overall goal for the campaign. Underneath that we're going to look at several different objectives. Going back to one of the earlier modules we talked about the importance of building knowledge so that the knowledge can influence attitude to change, which ultimately will impact the behavioral change.
We're going to want to make sure we have different objectives for different stages of the campaign. We're going to want to impact knowledge, we're going to want to change attitude, we're going to want to change behavior. We can't jump to any single one of those without going through that process. If we try to make a campaign design specifically to change behavior without going through the knowledge and the attitude change portion, we're going to create a campaign that is doomed to fail. We want to make sure that when we're thinking about the strategy, when we’re thinking about the messages, we're putting those objectives into place that will help keep us focused on that communication campaign.
That's the R, the O, the research, the objectives. We get P and that becomes the programming phase. Here is where we're going to start talking about the specific messages that we’re going to use, what taglines, what phrases, what talking points do we want to make sure we get conveyed to the media, so that hopefully our voice in its purest sense will come across through the different channels that we’re using, to our audience, so that they really have an opportunity to hear directly from us.
We’re also going to think about the tactics that we're going to use to carry out our particular campaign. Again, as you'll see in the textbook as well as the slides, the tactics that we have are numerous and far-reaching, so it really is going to depend a lot on the research that we've done to help guide us in these choices. What messages are we going to use? That's going to depend on the stakeholders that we're focusing on.
Programming and Tactics of the Campaign
The different media channels, the different forms of communication those stakeholders use will help guide our decisions as to what tactics we make. We see this entire process really coming together to form a nicely shaped, nicely designed communication campaign.
From the R O P we move into the E for evaluation. Certainly we want to make sure that we're creating measures that go back to those various objectives that we've created. If we’re saying we want to create a campaign whose objective is to increase knowledge about a particular issue by 50% we need to have something in place so that we know we're going to evaluate that solidly that we can say, yes or no, we did increase knowledge by 50%. Likewise, with attitude change and behavior, we want to have solid measures in place so that we can say whether or not our campaigns were successful.
Generally speaking, one of the things you see in terms of these measures of success for communication campaigns is that it's relatively easy to increase knowledge. For any new situation, new issue, it's pretty easy to increase knowledge by 50 to 65, maybe 75%. It becomes more difficult to create attitude change because we have those preconceived notions in our mind, and it's difficult to make us think of something in a different way.
We see is measures of 25 to 33, to 40 % of success in terms of increasing or changing attitudes. Behavior change is very difficult to accomplish. So whether it's getting someone to stop smoking or whether it’s getting someone to adopt a new form of technology, it becomes much more difficult. Even though those number seem very low, some of the success measures for behavioral change are down as low as a 10% or 15% change in that behavior that we’re searching for. We have these various levels of measures to help get at whether or not our communication campaigns were successful.
Ultimately one of the things that we have to think about in this public communication environment is that we're not looking for just a one-time quick interaction with our stakeholders. We really do have long-term beneficial relationships we’re looking for.
The final component of the ROPES process, the stewardship is absolutely critical for helping to ensure that the interactions with our stakeholders continue over the long term. Kelly defines stewardship with four specific strategies. The first is reciprocity which is basically saying thank you and demonstrating gratitude for their involvement with our efforts. The second is acting responsibly. Basically keeping the promises that we say we're going to make for our stakeholders. The third is reporting. It's not enough to just keep our promises and act responsibly. We need to make sure we're telling them what we did as progress throughout the campaign. Then finally is relationship nurturing, sort of a catch-all category but really shows the internal conscience of the organization, that we're making decisions thinking not only of ourselves but also about our external audience. That really is the key of the ROPES process and what we’re going to be using for our final project here in this course.