It’s Planning Season
Content Creation Public Relations

It’s Planning Season

By Sue Hamilton

Don’t you love the January magazines with all of their stories on organizing and goal setting?  They reflect what I’m thinking about at this time of year, anyway – planning.  The start of the New Year is one of two times in the calendar that my mind definitely wants to plan (the other is September – clearly a holdover from back-to-school days).  These natural times for setting goals are, not surprisingly, also popular times for us to hear from clients and prospects.  While I plan what books I want to read, what running goals I want to reach, and how I’m going to set aside time for more writing, photography, and hosting dinner parties for family and friends, they, too, are thinking about the things they want to accomplish in the coming year.

If you are the person at your company who is responsible for marketing or public relations, or your company’s CEO or COO, you, too, might be viewing the start of the year as a good time to assess your public relations efforts and set some objectives.

So, why not grab a cup of tea or coffee and treat yourself to a little planning session?  In honor of the new year, here are a dozen ideas that will strengthen your PR program and make you and your team better prepared for opportunities and issues in the New Year.  Choose a manageable few to focus on this year, or consider tackling one a month.

Then, pour yourself a second cup and consider creating a list of personal objectives and goals, too.  See #9 below for a little inspiration, or start flipping through those magazines!  Visit our Facebook page to share your ideas.

  1. Conduct a message audit.  Much of our work with clients begins with a communications audit, reviewing sales and marketing materials to determine what main message points are being  communicated to target audiences and whether or not those messages are consistent and the right messages.
  2. Write a key message document.  Write down what you want people to know about your company, your services or your product and create a roadmap for all future communications.
  3. Incorporate the key messages in all of your communications outlets – press releases/boiler plates, fact sheets and backgrounders, social media, media interviews, signage, etc.
  4. If you don’t yet have one, write a PR plan.  You’d be surprised how many companies don’t have one.  Your plan doesn’t need to be exhaustive, just specific about the things you want to achieve and how you will achieve them.  Start with a background or situation analysis section (this is where you include any research), then write your objectives and any measurable goals.  Develop strategies for reaching those objectives and goals, and identify a few specific tactics for getting there.  Include time to track and measure results.
  5. If you don’t yet have one, write a crisis plan.  Every industry – and every client we work with –  has the potential for a crisis.  Make sure you are prepared by identifying the issues most likely to escalate to crisis.  Identify your Crisis Action Team and write your plan.
  6. Conduct a mid-year review of your PR and crisis plans.  Are you on track for meeting your objectives and goals?  Does your plan need tweaking or revisions?
  7. Listen in.  Be aware of what others are saying about you in the media, in online reviews, on social media outlets, during focus groups.  This will give you a sense of whether or not you are doing an effective job of communicating your key messages.
  8. Set aside dedicated time to encourage brainstorming and idea sharing.  In addition to pop-up brainstorming sessions, we have two standing meetings each week at D+P – our Monday morning C3 which is a chance for us to come together to connect, collaborate, create; and our Friday lunch, time to chat about the past week, the upcoming weekend, and share ideas through our lunch and learn series.
  9. “Exercise” your creativity by “book”-ing time to “travel” to your creative places.  Running, reading and traveling are all things that make me more creative.  Photography, watching movies and talking with people in industries different than mine are on that list, too.  Make time for the activities that inspire you and expand your universe of knowledge and you will be a better writer, idea generator and PR professional.
  10. Spend more time with media.  Encourage team members to identify new outlets and share their research with the group.  Divide outlets among team members and have them report back.
  11. Practice what you learned in media training.  Conduct some practice interviews.  Evaluate yourself (or your company’s key spokesperson) on whether or not you were able to communicate your key messages.
  12. Share your talents.  Offering an internship, mentoring a student, or volunteering for a nonprofit or charity are rewarding ways to share and sharpen your skills, develop new media relationships, learn, and do good.

I hope these ideas are a good starting point for a successful year for you, your company, and for your PR and marketing team.  Happy planning!

Sue Hamilton

Sue Hamilton