The new year is right around the corner, and, of course, you know what that means.
It’s time to start thinking, if you haven’t already, about what’s in store for 2023.
When it comes to planning for a new calendar year with your clients, every solo PR pro seems to tackle the process slightly differently.
We caught up with Kathy Casciani, principal of Azul Communications, and Susan Stoga, cofounder of Carson Stoga Communications, to learn more about how they’re readying themselves and their clients for the year ahead.
When — and how — to start client planning for a new year
When’s the right time to start planning for a new year?
Kathy starts her client planning process about two months before the end of the year. The process starts with asking her clients a list of important questions about their business and PR-specific goals. This includes learning about major expansion plans, what they expect in terms of business milestones, or if they have any big product or service launches they’re anticipating.
After taking these items into consideration, Kathy drafts a written plan.
“I also look at the external landscape to see if there are any sort of macro themes, trends or events that will impact storylines or pitch angles for a particular client,” she says. “Finally, I try to get a sense of how they are feeling about PR and the work we’ve done up until that point so that I can course correct where necessary. My aim is to get us both on the same page about what’s realistic for us to accomplish in the coming year.”
In the same vein, Susan’s first step in her approach to client planning is setting up a meeting to get on the same page with her clients. She reaches out in August, and the meeting focuses solely on planning for the new year.
“Ideally, they have their revenue goals, product and other goals ready so we can brainstorm around those, but if not, we start working with what we know,” Susan explains. “I plan by quarter, and at the end of each quarter, I’ll generally make notes with our team so that I can look back for planning the next year. Not all activities or needs are the same, but some certainly are.”
One important note? Susan says that strategy comes first; not tactics. “If we don’t agree on strategy, it makes no sense to move forward on planning,” she explains.
Advice for fellow solo PR pros when it comes to planning
Kathy and Susan both have some words of wisdom for fellow solo PR pros about client planning.
Kathy says it’s important to have an honest conversation with clients about what’s worked in the past, where there’s room for improvement and where new opportunities lie.
“My end goal is to gain alignment on the priorities and approach for the year ahead,” she says.
She also aims to have discussions with clients about anything that needs to change in terms of budget or scope before the end of the year, so that she knows what to expect and can adjust accordingly.
“With talk of a recession, it is better to initiate those upfront conversations rather than being surprised at the last minute,” she says. “And if the clients are planning for any big launches or milestones, or if you need to raise your fees, it’s time to have those conversations so they can allot additional funding.”
Susan advises PR pros to think macro, not micro.
“Don’t ask about trade shows they plan to attend — that comes later,” she advises. “Ask about their planned product launches, new service offerings, expansion plans or revenue goals.”
Consider your own business goals
The end of the year is a great time to look inward. As things tend to slow down toward the end of the year, it’s a strategic time to look at your existing client base and determine how you want your business to expand and grow in the new year.
“Maybe there’s a company, brand or industry that you aren’t yet working with, but you’d like to,” Kathy says. “Carve out some time at the end of the year to assess your own client roster and be proactive about setting some new targets. Don’t just plan for your clients, plan for you!”
The end of the calendar year is also the time to flex your confidence in your abilities to help your clients navigate all things PR.
“Don’t be intimidated by creating a strategy and plan, as it helps guide your activities for the year,” Susan adds.