But it is Critical to Success
When people come to me looking for public relations assistance I first like to understand what they’re trying to do, to whom and why. What is their plan? Why are they doing it? What are they trying to fix? It’s where I begin to understand how I can help. But I’m always surprised how many professionals don’t start here.
Planning doesn’t have to be as hard as people think. In fact, NOT planning makes your job really challenging. Because, without a plan you don’t know where you’re going or why. You may not even know when you get there.
Your plan doesn’t have to be complicated and, for smaller projects, might even fit on one page. It’s a great guidebook to complete your work. Even more importantly, it’s a great way to address those “good ideas” that come from your boss or client and might not help the overall program. With a plan, you can point out how these great ideas might be best put aside for the future.
So, what’s in a plan?
Research, Analysis/ Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation
Of course it’s not quite that simple.
What are the facts that you know about the problem you’re trying to solve. To get to the answers for the research section, I begin by asking the executive level person in charge of the project a series of questions that will help everyone better understand where we’re trying to go. Questions like:
What are you trying to do?
What seems to be the issue?
What is the most important thing you want to convey?
If you could only talk with one group of people about this, who would that be?
What do you want them to do/say?
How will you know you’ve succeeded?
Who or what might get in your way?
Depending on the scope of the project, I review other research, talk with additional people (internal and external), conduct research, etc.
Based on the research, what do you see as the problem? What are your measurable objectives to help solve that problem? To whom will you be talking? Remember that the media is not a target audience but instead a vehicle to get your message to the final target. The more definitive your target audience, the easier it is to plan strategically. Finally, choosing a single target doesn’t mean your message doesn’t reach a broader audience but instead that you’ll focus most energy in one area.
This is where you list your strategy and then the tactics, timeline and budget. It’s the guts of the program and the roadmap to success. This is the part of the plan you might adjust as you progress depending on things you learn as you move along. You see, the listening part of the research never ends, and it does have an impact on what you do.
This is where you measure your success. Remember the objectives that were part of the analysis section? They reappear here as the program’s evaluation. They also tie back to what the ultimate decision maker said was his/her measure of success.
I often have one plan that’s approved by the high level/C-suite clients with whom I work and another that’s used for day-to-day program management. They have the same information but the version they have contains the information needed to approve the program and the other has the more granular detail. Both are important but try not to bury executives in the detail.
What are the key elements in your planning process? Do you always plan? Why not?
Please contact me if I can help you with the planning process.