Travel has always played an important role in my life. I’ve been on numerous road trips, airplanes and trains that have taken me everywhere from the dry deserts of Arizona to the grassy hills of the English countryside.
Throughout my travel experiences, I have found myself unknowingly using my knowledge as a public relations professional to strategically plan my trips and organize my personal life according to the rules of R.P.I.E. The communication planning process known as R.P.I.E. stands for Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation. This four-step technical process is often used in strategic planning for public relations campaigns and can also be applied to planning your next vacation!
When planning a trip or embarking on a PR campaign, the first step is research. Start with a situation analysis and then deep dive into the organization or place you wish to travel. This will help you create an opportunity or problem statement to establish your goal for the campaign or trip. Next, conduct independent qualitative and quantitative research into the location. What is the town or city known for? Where should you stay? What should you do? How much will it cost? Finally, decide on your target audience. Maybe you are going on a girls’ trip with friends in their 20s, or maybe you are going on vacation with your grandparents. Either way, your specific audience will influence the activities you plan for your trip.
*Pro tip: Download Yelp and read reviews from fellow tourists to see what others may recommend for your vacation.*
The next step in the R.P.I.E. planning process is the main element: planning. The first step in planning your campaign or trip is creating SMART objectives. Objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely will identify what actions and behaviors you want the audience to demonstrate during the campaign or vacation. For example, on a girls’ trip to Italy, an objective could be for everyone to happily engage in wine tastings. If eight out of ten of your friends did not enjoy the winery or the trip overall, then you may consider the vacation unsuccessful. Next, outline your strategies to plan how you will reach your objectives. To ensure that everyone engages in the wine tastings, you can call the winery you are visiting to ensure they provide a variety of wines that everyone will enjoy. Create an itinerary that includes places to go and activities to do that appeal to your target audience and encourages them to participate.
Now, implement your plan (aka take your trip!). Check that your key messages and campaign theme concur with your campaign’s goals and objectives. Engage in specific activities or tactics that carry out your strategies for the campaign. For example:
– Attend a wine tasting
– Swim in the Mediterranean Sea
– Eat loads of pasta
– Participate in other activities that truly make your vacation memorable
Finally, take time to reflect on and evaluate your experience by yourself or with your co-travelers. Discover what changes occurred over the course of the campaign or vacation and determine if you met your objectives. Throughout the implementation phase, ongoing monitoring and consistent evaluation are essential to evaluating the success of your trip. Did everyone enjoy themselves? What would you do differently next time? Did everyone learn something from this experience? Evaluation is important in determining if your travel plans did (or did not) go as planned.
The R.P.I.E. process isn’t just for strategic communication planning. It also provides effective utilization to plan and prepare us for life events, like traveling. Are you planning to travel again soon? Remember the lessons you have learned on previous trips to better prepare yourself for your travels in the future. After all, practice makes perfect!