10 Steps to a Successful Public Relations Plan

It’s that time of year, when thoughts turn to planning for 2018. Taking a 12 month, or even quarterly, outlook is challenging when operating in a period of such uncertainty but organizations need to continue to take bets on investment and talent.

Our recommendation is to take the longest term outlook feasible for your organization but to test, measure and adapt your plan over time. Real time measurement and agility is a reality for any modern public relations team.

Here’s an approach that I use based on Ketchum’s planning methodology. It can be applied to any size of organization and market.

1. Objective:
What is the objective of your public relations campaign? This should be the objective that is set by your management team.

2. Goals and Measurement:
What do you want to achieve and what will success look like? Measurement is typically an afterthought in public relations programs. That’s a mistake. It should be defined at the outset and included throughout a campaign. AMEC’s Integrated Measurement Framework should be your guide. Real time performance measurement is increasingly playing a role in public relations.

3. Publics or Audience:
Who do you want to influence? The key to good practice is defining your public, or audience, as robustly as possible. This may be based on behavior, location or a demographic.

4. Research:
We have access in public relations to first, second and third party data to help understand publics better than ever before. Ensure that you focus on your public and the media it uses.

Tools such as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and PESTLE (political, economic, social, technology, legal and environmental) analysis are useful to help define a micro or macro environment.

5. Insights:
The ability to identify publics and use data to understand behavior and motivation is the point where art and science meet in public relations. Data science is increasingly becoming part of practice.

6. Strategy:
Your strategy statement should summarize how you plan to achieve your goals, in a simple action focused statement. Measurement aside, it’s the most debated part of the public relations planning process.

7. Creative:
What content do you need to develop to engage your publics in a conversation? This relates to channels. Traditionally our business has been focused on pitching press releases to media, but it’s changing rapidly.

8. Channels:
Modern public relations campaigns need to work across all forms of media. Earned or owned media typically leads with paid and social used as a means of amplification and engagement. Activity needs to be planned around your audience.

9. Calendar:
I grew up in the public relations business 20 years ago using news grids that set out campaigns against time. The modern equivalent is a content calendar that sets out campaigns against media channels and time.

10. Resource:
I’ve already set out many of the skills required to execute a modern public relations campaign including data science, planning, measurement, insights and creative. Set out the resources and investment you need for each element of your program.

You should be able to summarize your plan on a single piece of paper and be able to explain it in five minutes. This doesn’t mean dumbing down the planning process, but is good management practice.

You know where to find us if you need help with your planning for 2018.

About Stephen Waddington

Stephen is a Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Chairman of Future Proof policy unit and Past President, CIPR. Author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals; and editor and contributor to Share This and Share This Too. Connect with him on Twitter: @wadds