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)
- 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.