Is your PR plan good enough (part six)?

PR plan

In part five I focused on tactics in terms of creative, channels and calendar. In this final part I am going to look at resourcing and commitment.  At least the plan should have an outline of what resources are needed and the investment required.

  • Schedule of activity – I would also recommend a critical path analysis to see if there are any potential bottlenecks. This also reduces the level of management oversight required, as it can be just focused on the co-dependencies which might cause bottlenecks
  • Budget
  • 1-pager outline of plan to get sign off from the person deemed ultimately responsible
  • Signed commitment by all parties. I am not talking about the legal agreement, instead a simple written agreement by everyone involved in delivery. Behavioural economics research has shown that owning a commitment increase the chance of someone actually doing it

Appraising ‘resources and commitment’ in a PR plan

  • Do you understand from the plan what can delay implementation and how much that delay looks like?
  • Is there a clear understanding of resources and priorities?
  • Is the amount of effort (and budget) realistic for the outcomes desired? (PR since it depends to a certain extent on earned media  is always a game of chance)
  • Have all the people on both agency side and client side needed committed to delivering on the activity in writing?

This is the last post in this series. I have put up a workbook for those assessing PR plans here. In the meantime if you need assistance in developing a communications plan or want an existing plan thinking validated get in touch.

More information
Is your PR plan good enough (part five)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part four)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part three)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part two)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part one)?
Critical path analysis introduction on Wikipedia
Stephen Waddington’s original post on ‘how to write a PR plan in ten steps’

Is your PR plan good enough (part five)?

PR plan
In part four I touched on strategy expanding on Wadd’s guide to PR plan development to provide ways of assessing each step. Wadds broke out tactics into creative, channels and calendar.  I’m bundling them together as creative use of channels such as Domino’s UK profile on Tinder crosses boundaries. I believe that an interplay of creative and channels shouldn’t be discounted out of turn.

I also won’t put an emphasis whether the media is paid, owned or of earned nature. Public relations professionals have historically taken an earned first approach, but when you are looking after the relationships between stakeholders and a brand does it matter method of channel choice so long as it is appropriate?

This is all mapped out in a content calendar. It is worthwhile checking it against public holidays and if it takes account of client processes (technical input, legal sign-off, corporate media black-out periods).

Appraising the tactics in a PR plan

  • How do the tactics track back to the job to be done in the objectives outlined?
  • How do they tie back to the KPIs?
  • Does the content plan make sense?
  • Do the tactics make financial sense? I worked with an agency that pioneered storytelling to drive feature article coverage for their clients. However given the amount of time that this process took, it became cheaper to buy a full page advert in The Wall Street Journal than it was to pet a half-page feature published
  • Do the tactics consider what was required in terms of reach, repetition (repeated exposure to marketing messages) and engagement? Depending on the communications objectives there may not be a focus on all three elements. A key failing in PR tactics can be an overly focused on engagement as this is strength of public relations as a discipline.

You can read the final part in this series here which wraps up by focusing on resources and commitment. If you need assistance in developing a communications plan or want an existing plan thinking validated get in touch.

More information
Is your PR plan good enough (part four)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part three)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part two)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part one)?
6 Brands That Used Tinder as a Social Media Marketing Platform | The Content Strategist
Study: Only 1% of Facebook ‘Fans’ Engage With Brands | Digital – AdAge
Stephen Waddington’s original post on ‘how to write a PR plan in ten steps’

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Is your PR plan good enough (part four)?

part four

In part three I touched on Situation – this what PR Smith grouped what Wadds called ‘Publics or Audience’, ‘Research’ and ‘Insights’. In this part I want to look at strategy. This sets the tone for everything else following in the plan it is the essence of how the plan will meet or exceed the objectives outlined at the beginning.

Strategy

I don’t want to get too hung up on what strategy is, there are differing opinions. The traditional view would be a high level, long term plan. Chinese strategist Sun Tzu looked at it more in terms of competitive methods or bing fa. This is much more about guiding the correct (set of) responses to a given situation. This isn’t that far away from the way that game theorists approach strategy. My personal preference is for an emergent approach closer to Sun Tzu’s view rather than a high level, long term plan.

Appraising the strategy in a PR plan

  • Is it clear?
  • Is it unambiguous in nature?
  • Is it reasonably concise?
  • Does it get into tactics?
  • Does it consider a channel to be a strategy? (No is the right answer).
  • What are its weaknesses?
  • What factors would cause the strategic approach to change?

You can read part five here which focuses on tactics. If you need assistance in developing a communications plan or want an existing plan thinking validated get in touch.

More information
Is your PR plan good enough (part three)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part two)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part one)?
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Stephen Waddington’s original post on ‘how to write a PR plan in ten steps’

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Is your PR plan good enough (part three)?

Post Graphic

In part two, I looked at measurement and goals. In this section I am looking at Situation – this is where PR Smith grouped what Wadds called ‘Publics or Audience’, ‘Research’ and ‘Insights’.

Who are the stakeholders that PR is trying to influence in order to meet its objectives?

What data is there to draw upon?

Depending on the business category the client may have already done a lot of in-depth research defining and understanding the audience.  Vigorous interrogation of the client organisation is a good first start.

If they have a good media budget it would be worthwhile getting hold of any media planning materials.

These usually define the audience, any insight that they have on an opportunity to drive the desired stakeholder behaviour.

Sales departments have field sales report data that can be combed through, interviews with field sales people who know existing customers can also be very useful.

  • What are they like? (Age, gender, work life – part time / full time, personality traits, class, caste, education background, engagement with their alma mater)
  • What are they concerned about? (Business issues, key product or service considerations, risk level and how they define risk)
  • What topics are they interested in? (Wider business pain points, future opportunities such as deregulation or international markets, competitors / competitive tactics, channel changes within their business)
  • What do they read? (Are there specific blogs or forums? What magazines do you notice around their office? What publications or articles have they referenced? Are there particular analyst houses that they cite?

What are competitors doing?

Again, the sales team and field sales report can be a good source of information, but do your desk research first.

What is being said about competitors?

It should go without saying but run the client brand through the same tests as the competitor brands.

  • Google / DuckDuckGo / LexisNexis / Google Scholar / ScienceDirect – who is ranking what is the nature of the mentions?
  • Social listening
  • Social channel audit for client and competitors. Don’t forget to do LinkedIn, it’s data isn’t well represented in tools, it will have to be done manually.
  • Content audit – what are they saying across channels, how does this differ from the client? How has their content changed? (I would recommend Archive.org’s Way Back machine to understand how they’ve changed). Meghan Casey’s book The Content Strategy toolkit provides access to some great templates that can be easily adapted for the process

Broader environmental analysis

There are various models for this PEST, PESTLE, STEEPLED etc. SWOT is the most basic framework that most people are familiar with.

All of this gets distilled down to insights. Insights give you something to hang a strategy around.

  • Are there specific needs or passion points that the PR plan can engage with through activity?
  • Do the insights present a picture of distinctive set of audiences?
  • Is there a specific behaviour? Is it time-based?
  • Are the insights more than something you could make as an assumption?

Appraising the audience definition, research and insights work in a PR plan

  • How rigorous has the research been? Does it reflect the total knowledge of the client organisation?
  • Are the audiences clearly defined? Everyone is not a definition?
  • Are there audience segments that have different requirements?
  • Are they distinct or do they suffer from ‘grey man’ syndrome? Do they blend into an amorphous mass or are there key concerns, worries or passion points that PR programmes can align with?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of competitor strengths and weaknesses?
  • Are there broader things that will affect the programme? If not, is there evidence that the possibility has at least been considered?

You can read part four here which focuses on strategy. If you need assistance in developing a communications plan or want an existing plan thinking validated get in touch.

More information
Is your PR plan good enough (part two)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part one)?
The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right by Meghan Casey
PEST analysis on Wikipedia (also covers variants mentioned in this post)
SWOT analysis on Wikipedia
Stephen Waddington’s original post on ‘how to write a PR plan in ten steps’

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Is your PR plan good enough (part two)?

Post artwork

In part one I talked about setting objectives and factors to consider in assessing the qualities of the objectives.

Goals and measurement

There is a strong argument for having goals and measurement at the end of a plan. Paul Smith (P.R. Smith) in his SOSTAC model puts things in a different (though logical) order to Wadds’ planning order.

  • Situation – where is the business at present
  • Objectives – sets the goal or mission
  • Strategy – overview of how to achieve the objectives
  • Tactics – detailed approach
  • Actions – roles, responsiblities and timings
  • Control – how the process is monitored

The list above belies the interplay across different parts of the plan. In particular between the situation analysis, the goals and measurement and the strategy. If the goals and measurement are unreasonable based on current circumstances, no strategy will work.

What does a successful PR programme look like?

In some of the larger PR agencies goal and measurement setting has benefited from work on agreed standards. These have been derived from industry and professional organisations, notably AMEC.

It is very easy from a measurement point of view to reflect on all the metrics that you could get hold of. But two things generally go wrong:

  • Measures align to ease of recording rather than communications objectives
  • Every metric available (particularly in digital) gets measured

In the first option, programme management gets lost. There is saying ‘what gets measured gets done’. Measures that aren’t alligned to the objectives will cause a drift away from what is needed.

In the second option, you get paralysis or the data recorded being ignored. I have worked with clients where measurement was a 60 page PowerPoint document of all the recorded data. There was no prioritisation of information.

It is helpful to drop these measures through a sieve:

  • Key performance indicators: Behavioural change – fulfilment of a call to action. A high value action on the way to completion of behavioural change
  • Diagnostic metrics: these are measures which help the PR team optimise a campaign. Only the people responsible for campaign delivery will care about them. They are not pertinent for those people accountable or consulted about the campaign. Diagnostic metrics answer questions about ‘why things happened’. The answer of what to change is implicit in the ‘why’.  Real time performance metrics would tend to fall into the diagnostic metric category. A learning marketing organisation cares about, and records diagnostic metrics over time
  • Everything else. Measures that fall in everything else won’t help you achieve the campaign objectives. They won’t shed light on what’s happening under the hood. Don’t look at them, its usually a waste of time

AMEC’s integrated measurement framework provide heuristics that cover the majority of PR campaigns. Use them to prompt ideas, but do not follow them slavishly. As a colleague memorably said to me ‘guidelines are not tram lines’.

I would argue that understanding the audience and whatever communications journey they are likely to go through is key for key performance indicator  development. This goes back to the point that I made at the beginning of the post about the interconnectivity of  situation analysis, the goals and measurement and the strategy.

Once you’ve got your measures you need to define what are the appropriate values of those measures in this case the goals that Wadds talks about in his article.

Quick aside: in many business books goals is used to refer to
a 'super objective'that all the other objectives contribute to.
I hope that clears up any confusion.

If you have your measures done right your goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results-focused
  • Time-bound

The goals also need to be internally coherent, if the different measures are co-dependent on each other. For instance it would make no sense to have a larger goal for unique users than page views for a specific website.

Appraising the PR measures and goals
  • Do the measurements and goal values match what you'd expect based on the objectives?
  • Are they internally coherent or do some of them contradict other measures?
  • Are the measures tiered (for instance KPIs and diagnostic  metrics)?
  • Are the goals S.M.A.R.T.?

You can read part three here, which focuses on the ‘situation’ consisting of factors around the audience, research and insights. If you need assistance in developing a communications plan or want an existing plan thinking validated get in touch.

More information
Is your PR plan good enough (part one)
SOSTAC marketing planning model guide | Smart Insights
AMEC’s integrated evaluation framework
Stephen Waddington’s original post on ‘how to write a PR plan in ten steps’

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