Client Planning Should Resemble Meticulous Preparations for the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Client Planning Should Resemble Meticulous Preparations for the Lewis and Clark Expedition

In Stephen Ambrose’s book “Undaunted Courage,” readers learn about the courageous Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the advanced planning and preparation that went into such a grand, historic adventure.  It got me thinking just how important a fraction of such planning is for a client’s public relations program.

Depending on the nature of the agency/client relationship, PR plans can go many different ways.

But there are some key objectives necessary for every plan.  They include:

  • Setting the parameters of a PR program and the appropriate expectations of results with clients
  • Providing guidance on program priorities
  • Establishing a roadmap for tactical execution

Usually, the account executive spearheads the development of a plan in conjunction with other members of an account team, and certainly with the insights of the client’s PR and marketing leads.

From my perspective, each PR plan should be original to a client, given its circumstances, yet still draw upon the best practices of the agency.

Furthermore, the account executive should confirm the form-factor of such a plan.  Is a narrative proposal in Word, a PowerPoint presentation, or an Excel spreadsheet with tabs the best way to communicate the agency’s thought process?  Ask your client before embarking on one vs. another.

It should go without saying, but any plan should be built on sound research, outlining key issues and trends related to a client’s business and market space, and include target audiences, competitors, and influencers.  Brainstorming among client team members is one effective way to generate fresh ideas, and to develop strong communication goals, strategies and tactics in support of the client’s overall business objectives.

A detailed PR plan should consider the following program elements:

  • Situational analysis
  • Share of voice and social amplification
  • Influencing the influencers
  • Target verticals
  • Target audiences
  • Business goals
  • Communication goals
  • PR strategies and recommendations
  • PR tactics (may include such things as editorial calendars, and speaker, award and event research based on the program’s direction)
  • Target influencers (media and others)
  • Budget
  • Calendar of activities
  • PR metrics
  • Any optional program elements for client consideration, such as analyst relations

At its heart, a PR plan establishes the communication objectives, strategies and tactics toward reaching a client’s business goals.  Such materials are crucial to ensuring that all key constituencies – from executives to line-of-business and marketing leaders – are aligned with the direction of the program.  Such a plan serves as a beacon, and ensures that everyone agrees with the program’s elements, metrics, budget and results.

And much like Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery, achievements will be celebrated.

The 4 Essential Components of a Strong Case Study

The 4 Essential Components of a Strong Case Study

While every tool in the PR arsenal from press releases to bylines offer value in generating attention, a strong case study has the potential to stand above the rest as a real-world example of how a vendors’ product helped a customer solve a vexing business problem.

A strong case study can help a company begin to move beyond talk to illustrate action – specifically the positive outcomes, enhanced revenue or cost savings a prospect can achieve by taking the action of implementing your product. Customers want to know you have experience solving problems just like the ones their company is currently experiencing, and a case study provides the perfect opportunity to demonstrate exactly what your company and product accomplished to deliver value to a similar organization.

A well-executed case study must tell a story. In this story, the hero is the customer that boldly and courageously implemented your product to better serve her own patients or customers. The vendor plays the role of the humble servant, providing support and guidance to help the hero accomplish her goals and save the day.

In its most basic form, a case study’s story consists of “Problem -> Solution -> Results” but a strong case study requires more. Think of it as a job interview in which your primary challenge is to convince a prospect why your product is the one she should hire for the position.

When developing your next cast study, be sure to include these four essential elements:

  • Customer quotes: Don’t just tell us how the customer feels about your product, show us by using the customer’s own words. A customer’s own words always carry more weight and create a greater impact than what a vendor says about its own solution. The best way to obtain valuable quotes is to interview end-users of the product.
  • Quantified results: Nothing is more demoralizing for a case study consumer than to feel interest and curiosity while reading through the introduction, problem and solution sections, only to come to a disappointing results section that contains vague language of improvement and no key metrics. It’s a sure way to turn off a prospect who was beginning to consider your solution. After implementation, did your solution help the customer make money, save money, see more patients, or improve operations in some other quantifiable way? Let us know about it in as much detail as possible. While some customers are understandably reluctant to share specific dollar amounts, they’re more likely to approve of using percentages, such as “grew revenues 50 percent one year after adopting the solution.”
  • What’s next: It isn’t lost on most people that a case study must include detailed information on how a customer has already used a vendor’s solution, but it’s easy to forget to include details about future plans. Does the customer plan to expand use of the solution with a new patient population, offer it at a new location or purchase a complementary product? Including this information will help prospects conceive of a long-term strategy for their adoption of your product.
  • Call to action: Another easy-to-forget aspect of a case study is the call-to-action (CTA), which provides the vendor with an opportunity near the end of the piece to request a specific action from the reader. Whether you’re offering the reader more content to consume or a free giveaway, or asking them to fill out a form, be sure to make the experience as easy as possible for the user to complete.

Wherever your latest prospect is in the customer journey, a solid case study holds the possibility of providing that nudge to take the next step. When you sit down to plan out your next customer case study, don’t forget these four essential elements.

Keeping Up with Changes to the AP Stylebook

The writing “Bible” for public relations is the AP stylebook. Anytime a PR professional (or anyone writing for media publication for that matter) is unsure of what to do, such as whether to capitalize an executive’s title in a press release, a quick glance at the print or online version will provide the correct answer. (For the record, the answer is “no” as this blog post points out.)

This reliance on the AP stylebook can lead one to think that its rules are all set in stone. But one would be wrong, as the post, “10 Recent AP Stylebook Changes and Reminders You Should Know About,” from Cision points out.

Whether you are debating whether the correct spelling for a particular type of wine is syrah or shiraz, wondering whether someone who uses the emergency department a lot should be labeled a frequent flyer or frequent flier (the former is correct), or how to use a number in a headline (use numerals for all, even though in the body you write out one through nine and then go to numerals from 10 on), the AP stylebook has the answers. And it’s continually being adjusted, so don’t assume!

To make sure you’re on top of your AP stylebook game, be sure to check out the full post here.