Have you ever found yourself wondering if the development of a communications plan is absolutely necessary? It can certainly be a daunting task, but a strategic plan that includes solid tactics provides a sound road map for you and your communications team. It is a must-have document that defines the structure for how you will work towards your goals and provides validation that the initiatives you plan to execute map back to your overall strategy.
Recently, I have found myself working with multiple clients to develop PR and social media plans. To start the process, we like to conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of current communications initiatives, followed by a discussion around PR goals and strategy, and then we can best determine the tactics to reach the agreed-upon goals. Everything from traditional and non-traditional media relations, to an SEO campaign and message development, to corporate social responsibility can be included in your plan, but if there is one tip of advice I can give you… be sure one of your tactics is to develop/revisit your crisis communication plan and incorporate new mediums, like social media. I think we can all learn a few lessons from the recent Pampers and BP Oil issues!
Once your plan is finalized, it is important that you measure your success and evaluate results quarterly, annually, at year-end, etc. It’s important to remember that good communications plans are living documents—no one should continue down a tactical path that upon following an evaluation, no longer aligns with the overarching goals or current landscape of your industry.
I would encourage all PR practitioners to use the month of June as a reminder to check in on your strategic plans. Whether you are a one-person communications team or a team of five, take a couple of hours to evaluate your plan. If you don’t have a communications plan, take a leap of faith and develop one!
To help get you started, below are eight steps that I like to follow when creating a plan. Remember, it can be overwhelming to pull a plan together, but once you have it, you will be thrilled to have your “communications guidebook.”
~ Jen Wills
Eight steps to consider when developing your strategic communications plan:
1. Conduct a SWOT analysis of your current communications initiatives
2. Define your overall communications/PR goals and objectives
3. Determine your key audiences – current and future
4. Develop two to four PR strategies
5. Define your internal and external communications tactics – including traditional and non-traditional media
6. Determine your budget
7. Set metrics. Include methods in your plan that you can use to measure and evaluate results.
8. Evaluate, redefine and re-align with goals