Strategic planning forms the cornerstone of what we do as communications consultants and provides the foundation from which all other communications activities are formulated and put into action. What differentiates top consultants from others – including many PR agencies – is an ability to look beyond the public relations (or other communications discipline) hat we wear and focus on our clients’ business goals.
Here at Solo PR Pro, we’re firm believers that there is no one-size-fits-all approach – to anything. Although PR plans typically are built on the same basic format of interrelated components – including communications goals, objectives, strategies, tactics and measurement – they can take many forms, serve markedly different organizational needs and may have varied purposes overall. PR plans can also have varying breadth and scope, whether for a single project and audience or a long-term, multi-faceted campaign targeting numerous publics. They can be short, succinct frameworks that provide a strategic guide while others can be lengthy documents outlining the step-by-step details for a large-scale, multi-year campaign.
Below are our top 10 tips and things to keep in mind throughout your PR planning process.
Top Planning Tips
- Even short PR planning documents are time-consuming and should not be done without a contract or agreement – and hopefully an up-front payment – in place before you begin.
- Prepare to get the client’s OK on your plan – in writing whenever possible. An email response that says “yes, please proceed” is good enough, and will help provide a paper trail later if asked why you are – or are not – doing something.
- Pay attention to the agreed-upon scope of work outlined in your contractual agreement. Don’t include elements in your plan that can’t be covered by your existing budget (if appropriate, you can consider including a section on optional additional programs, or provide a separate memo detailing your recommendations).
- The term PR Plan often conjures up thoughts of a huge document with a lengthy table of contents and appendices. However, for a limited project, a plan can be an email, memo or a short document. Overkill typically will be viewed negatively, so it’s important to judge the situation appropriately. Some clients with limited budgets will actually view a lengthy and highly polished plan as a negative – they worry it’s a red flag that you expend too much effort on tasks and will overcharge them.
- Your client may not care about a plan – they want you to get going on the tactics they’ve identified right now. Act quickly but resist the temptation to move forward without agreement on a basic planning document. Even a short-term project benefits from planning that goes beyond the tactical.
- Be thorough in your planning documentation (it’s the mark of a true professional!), but don’t get too bogged down trying to make it perfect. Some PR pros become paralyzed by perfectionism in the planning stage – don’t let this happen to you.
- If appropriate, share your plan with multiple stakeholders in your client’s organization. It’s always wise to have more than one person aware of your activities and value, when possible.
- Anticipate the future environment for your client – look beyond the present.
- While implementing your plan, don’t be afraid to move beyond it. Keep senior management informed of what is working and what isn’t, and recommend adjustments and changes if needed. And if a new opportunity materializes that fits the strategy, and is within budget, do it!
- Perhaps most importantly: Begin with the end in mind – what does success look like? Know the desired outcome before you start!
This post is an excerpt from our Solo PR Pro Premium members-only ebook, Charting the Course: A Guide to PR Planning. The resource includes customizable plan templates and a Budgeting Worksheet. Join now to take advantage of this and other resources designed specifically for Solo PR Pros.