Is your PR plan good enough (part three)?

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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’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’




Is your PR plan good enough (part two)?

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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’





Is your PR plan good enough (part one)?

Stephen Waddington over at Ketchum mapped out the basic ingredients of a PR plan. Go and check his list of ingredients out, I thought I would dig into the subject area  in a bit more depth.

I have swapped around and amalgamated some of the elements that Stephen highlights in article.

When thinking about the process, I also wanted to consider how do you appraise quality of a PR plan?

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‘Building a house on granite, rather than sand’

The PR plan should be a collaborative effort between client and agency. Traditionally, the agency has taken a brief, gone away and come back with a plan – rather like Moses coming down from the mountain with the ten commandments carved in stone.

It makes sense to check in with the early stages at least. This check-in process ensures that there is not too much of a gap between client and agency thinking and prevents the plan having to be rewritten in a hurry. Each part of the plan stands on how well the previous section has been written.  A secondary reason of engaging the client is ensuring that they feel ownership and responsibility for plan, which will help on securing internal buy-in and organisation conviction in pursuing it with the right amount of resources.


How would you decide your objectives? Start with agreed business objectives. I find it amazing the degree of differing interpretations of what the business objectives that you can see when sitting down with different people in the same marketing team. It is worthwhile considering a third party to manage the ‘norming’ of business objectives in a workshop with the people who are either responsible, accountable or consulted with regards the implementation and success of the PR programme. People who fall under:

  • Responsible will be doing the work on the PR programme
  • Accountable will be those people who have the final sign-off on the activity
  • Consulted will be subject matter experts (legal team, regulatory team, brand guardianship, product or service experts). If the programme is marketing communications orientated  then third parties such as the agency responsible for  advertising media planning and creative ideas should be involved.

The responsibility assignment matrix is a great way for agencies to understand the client environment for a given project. RACI – responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. Informed people are the recipients of one-way communication when a project step has been completed.  Those being informed shouldn’t be demanding changes on a programme of activity. Understanding this helps focus the planning process and subsequent approvals process for content.

Once you have an agreed set interpretation of business objectives:

  • Define the stakeholders that you want to influence?
  • What is the behavioural change that you would need to see from the stakeholders in order to help achieve the business objectives?

From this should fall the way that you want the PR plan to contribute in the organisation achieving its business objectives.

Appraising the PR objectives:
  • How tightly do they map to the business objectives?
  • How tightly focused are they? I'd recommend three or less objectives to keep any activity focused. If there are more than three, reprioritise and focus the objectives to bring the  list down to three or less
  • Is there a 'tension' or 'mutually exclusive' element in the objectives? If so, then there needs to be a reprioritisation or complete rethink of objectives

You can read part two here which looks at measures and goals.  If you need assistance in developing a communications plan or want an existing plan thinking validated get in touch.


Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week

The soundtrack to my week was this three hour programme on the music of jazz musician Thelonius Monk

Only Japan could successfully leverage a much loved children’s TV and comic book character to try and reduce syphilis infections. It was interesting to hear that the creator of Sailor Moon was a pharmacist who saw the urgency and need. Quartz alludes to Shinjuku – the entertainment district being the epicentre. It has seen an increase in foreign sex tourism from other Asian markets driven by a larger middle class (cough, cough China).

Great short film by the Wall Street Journal about obsessive Japanese Hi-Fi buffs

A Uniqlo campaign is always something that I look forward to and Uniqlo Danpan is no exception

Interesting effort to move the discussion on around the Volkswagen brand from dieselgate

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that have made my day this week

This week I have been listening to classic Japanese pop from the 1970s and 1980s – late Shōwa era for the win!

Canada’s tourism board has been running a campaign in Japan. They got the studio behind anime blockbuster ‘Your Name’ to do this 30-second spot

The Isle of Dogs marries anime with Wes Anderson and looks amazing

Porsche have done a great piece of content marketing about conductor Herbert von Karajan’s 1970s vintage Porsche 911 RS

Expect this in every planners tool box soon – German Performance Artists Act Out Amusingly Surreal Skits for Passengers Aboard Passing Trains