PR planning basics: 3 key questions

You’ve been sold on the idea that you need a PR plan – for example, by this post. Now what?

Before you put fingers to keyboard to create the plan itself, you’ll want to answer a few questions. And because my husband is threatening to build a house as I write this, construction analogies come to mind.

1. New home construction, addition or all-out reno? Is this your first-ever plan (new construction)? Are you building on current activities and existing capabilities (addition)? Or have you been at this a while, but want to redirect your activities (renovation)? Ultimately, your plan will need to capture and reflect this.

If you’re planning for the first time, then you’ll want to devote the extra time and attention needed to get off to the right start, and to ensure your team is with you. Once PR has become second nature, then you can move faster and more nimbly.

2. What’s your construction budget and build-out time frame? I’ve yet to meet a client who had unlimited funds to devote to PR. If you don’t either, then take a longer-term view and plan to spread your activities out over a few years. Prioritize your structural must-haves first (think: foundation, walls, roof), and then in subsequent years add on to that structure (think: fit, finishing and decoration). Bonus, you will find that taking a long-term view provides tremendous peace of mind (as does the mere act of planning).

Some of the PR plan components I consider must-haves: customer and consumer relations sub-plans (as your most important target audiences); a message platform; and an engaging, easy-to-navigate website. Then you can add on social media, media relations and issue/crisis communications and other sub-plans that support and enhance those must-haves.

By the way, there’s no formulaic “right” amount of money to spend on PR, each case is different. Be realistic; do not try to build your foundation on the cheap. For example, investing in responsive web design, with an easy-to-use content management system, may cost more up front but it will save and make you more money in the long run.

3. What should your plan look like? No homebuilder can work off a sketch on a cocktail napkin – professionally-designed house plans include plans for the structural foundation, exterior elevations, interior floor layouts, electrical and plumbing components, plus materials lists and timetables. Similarly, a basic PR plan should convey relevant background, document situation analysis such as SWOT or SCOPE, identify your target audiences, goals, objectives and strategies, and activity plans, timetables and budget to bring them to fruition.

A good PR plan will give you the peace of mind that comes with having clear direction and a path forward. It will help you focus, prioritize, evaluate your results and even say no to those opportunities that just don’t fit your vision. A good PR plan can’t quite compete with a good house plan’s ability to ensure continued marital bliss, but both plans sure are great fun to create.

The last word: Don’t leave this post thinking that your PR activities must be poured in concrete or set in stone. Foundations can be added on to, walls can be moved, and kitchens can be remodeled. To commandeer a line from Pirates of the Caribbean, PR plans are more like what you’d call guidelines than actual rules. You should build some degree of flexibility in your plans, to (1) take advantage of unexpected opportunities, and (2) to respond to lessons you learn along the way.

Your turn: What do you want to build today?



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