Committing to Communications Planning: Another Unmet New Year's Resolution?

Committing to Communications Planning: Another Unmet New Year's Resolution?

January 2010

Most public relations professionals would probably agree that developing a solid communications action plan is one of the first steps to take in kicking off a successful year. The process of crafting the plan can help to pinpoint the prior year's accomplishments, define new objectives, and identify areas requiring improvement.

These are some of the most-often cited PR resolutions for 2010:

  • Establish/maintain status as "go-to person" for the media
  • Prove the value of social media initiatives
  • Attend more industry events
  • Build relationships with stakeholders, constituents, reporters, and online friends, etc
  • Blog more frequently/establish a blogging schedule
  • Become a mentor/mentee
  • Discover a new PR tool such as an up and coming social network or platform
  • Strengthen internal communication with key employees and executives

When it comes to implementing a communications action plan, however, many PR practitioners fall short of the mark. Like those who have resolved to "eat less junk" or "save more money," we soon revert to old patterns, straying from the intended strategy, and in effect killing what should be a living document in our communication arsenal. (Bob Nunn hits upon a similar point in his post on the Search Engine People blog when he asks, "Will your own social media program face a similar burnout down the road?")

5 Ways to Assure Success and Beat the Resolution Blues
There are proven methods to stay on course, though. Here are five tips to help you fulfill the promise contained in your communications plan:

  1. Commit to achieving goals, not making resolutions. By adjusting your mindset, it is much more likely that you will hit your benchmarks. That's because having a goal implies accountability and requires that action be taken to achieve it, whereas a resolution can often be translated as "There's always next year." F. John Reh, who pens the About Management blog, states: "Setting goals is important. That is how you convert good, but ephemeral, IDEAS (cut expenses, increase sales) into specific, measurable TARGETS (reduce G&A expenses by 5% before the stockholder meeting in May; increase sales of the retail brands by at least $60,000 per quarter)." Want more best practices for setting "smart" goals this year? Check out this post from BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blogger Colleen Flood.
  2. Know why you've chosen your particular goals. In other words, uncover the need behind the need. Aligning communication goals with organizational objectives is the first step in this process. As part of the process, spot the trends taking place in your industry and within your practice, and determine how those factors are influencing your company's, agency's or client's business decisions.
  3. Research your major audiences. Reexamine your key messages. As times change, so can your stakeholders. To ensure you are reaching the relevant targets and in the manner they prefer, interview clients and conduct surveys, among things. In short, invest the time to do the research and listen to what your audience has to say. If appropriate, then revise your key messages keeping them aligned with their values and your strategic plan.
  4. Remember that tactics are just one aspect of your overall plan. Well conceived and executed tactics are essential to the success of any communications program. But tactics are merely the tools for achieving your strategic objectives; they are not the actual goals.
  5. Establish a method of evaluation . If you're not carefully monitoring and measuring the results of your communications program, you're missing out on valuable information and potentially jeopardizing the chances of your program's success. While analyzing your coverage and activities, year-over-year can help you get a jump on how to proceed the next, it's also essential to evaluate your progress quarter-over-quarter. This way you can make tweaks as new information or circumstances arise. A good system will allow you to identify trends before they become "issues" and allow you to stay proactive in your communications.

Sticking to a clearly defined communications plan takes commitment and discipline. But the work you put into it will pay big dividends.

About BurrellesLuce

BurrellesLuce is the U.S. leader in media monitoring. Professionals in a wide range of industries rely on our comprehensive curated content from local and national print, online, broadcast, and social media sources. BurrellesLuce has a turnkey copyright compliance program that allows us to provide copyright-compliant, behind-the-paywall content not available to other services. BurrellesLuce combines grade-A content with easy-to-use software, allowing users to evaluate and analyze their media coverage and PR efforts. It's all integrated into our user-friendly interface, BurrellesLuce WorkFlow™.

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