PR book On-line Readings in Public Relations by Michael Turney
Knowing your audience's KFD is your basis for a plan
© 2013 Michael Turney Table of contents Practicing Public Relations About the author

Unexpectedly encountering an acronym or mnemonic device for something you've been doing for years can hit you like cold water being poured over your head. It's terribly annoying if it's done by your mom or significant other to wake you up in the morning, but it can be exhilarating if it's done by your team to celebrate a victory.

My first reaction to such an acronym is usually positive. "Wow," I might say. "What a clever way to summarize and remember this process!" It's only later that I sometimes get annoyed with myself for not thinking of it first. -- That's how I fell about "What's the KFD?" a phrase originated by Chakisse Newton of Cardinal Consulting (Columbia, South Carolina). It was part of her presentation titled "Communicate to Motivate: How to Persuade Others to Act" at the 2013 IABC World Conference in New York City.

My earlier article about the need for planning explained that public relations planning at its most basic level is an outgrowth of four questions that Professor Harold Lasswell (Yale University) became famous for using to analyze mass communication:

As public relations began to emerge as an academic field in its own right, various authors and practitioners started to tweak these questions to make them more applicable to understanding what public relations was and how it operated. The first and most basic efforts transformed Lasswell's four questions into:

Answering these questions, they said, would create a basic public relations plan. And, in many ways it does.

However, most saavy public relations practitioners today re-order the questions to make it clear that the audience is their first priority. Understanding whom you want to address and affect is now almost universally accepted as the starting point of thoughtful public relations efforts. The purpose, goal, and/or reasons for communicating with this audience come next. Only then can practitioners effectively and rationally develop what is to be communicated and how it is to be delivered.

Any public relations practitioner who can't clearly and concisely answer these four questions, regardless of their order, about whatever public relations campaign, project, or production task they're undertaking, shouldn't have started working on it. They obviously have little, if any, idea of what they're trying to accomplish.

Those who can answer these questions have done at least rudimentary planning and are ready to move ahead.

What's the KFD?

As a planning mnemonic, "What's the KFD?" is even shorter and more compressed than Lasswell's four questions. It can be used as a focusing question to get started on developing a public relations plan, or it can be used to challenge the clarity and thoroughness of a proposed plan.

However, before a practitioner can even consider asking about KFD, a target audience must be identified. Once that's done, "What's the KFD?" is a shorthand way of asking: As a result of this communication/ public relations effort, ...

That's all there is to it. It's deceptively simple, but it can be invaluable. It can help you focus on what you want to accomplish and save you from rushing into things half-cocked or without a clear idea of where you're headed. Please consider making it a frequent part of your professional self-reflections.

Public relations is often a reactive process, especially in crises, and it sometimes needs to be instanteous. But, it must always be carefully aimed if it's to have the effect you want. As a practitioner, your most critical challenge is knowing exactly what effect you want to achieve.

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PR planning is essential
Quick and dirty planning Developing a PR plan Practicing Public Relations
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27 Oct 2013