While I can explain the ROPE process in my sleep due to years of undergrad reinforcement, until recently, I failed to acknowledge the shortcomings of stopping at "E." In case you aren't familiar with this acronym, ROPE stands for: Research. Objectives. Programming. Evaluation. No matter the acronym taught, from ROPE, RACE or PACE, to ACE or even GRACE, (Yes, those are all legitimate PR process acronyms, I promise. See here.) they all lack a vital step. Stewardship.
Webster defines Stewardship as, "the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something." In a strategic communication course I'm currently taking, I was challenged to consider the addition of a 5th step to the ROPE process, that step being stewardship.
Kelly 2001 explains the importance of stewardship to PR simply: "It's easier to keep a friend, than make a new friend." Maintaining relationships built from one campaign to another is critical in developing a lasting support base with key publics, making the addition of stewardship to the PR process vital. According to Kelly, the ROPE process limits strategic communication campaigns by ignoring the continuation of existing relationships built. After researching your organization, creating objectives, programming to meet those objectives and finally evaluating that process, stewardship should be the next step as a continuation of the PR process. Because changing behavior is more difficult than reinforcing behavior, public relations practitioners should build on existing relationships with key publics instead of starting over with every new program or campaign.
Kelly 2001 outlines four elements of stewardship for maintaining relationships:
- Reciprocity- recognizing stakeholders by showing gratitude
- Responsibility- acting in a socially responsible manner to those who’ve supported them by fulfilling promises and meeting key publics' expectations
- Reporting- communicating ongoing changes and developments to key publics to create accountability between the organization and public
- Relationship Nurturing- taking care of existing stakeholders by treating them well
Lastly, Kelly 2001 says, “Stewardship ensures continuity in the PR process and promotes ethical behavior by practitioners and their organizations." Without stewardship, the practice of public relations is incomplete. By holding the mentality of a relationship steward as public relations practitioners, we can better serve our organizations and stakeholders.