Life in PR, marketing, community relations comes with lots of planning! I’m no expert, but I do get asked a lot to share my strategic planning for communications and PR. Frankly, I use this same process to plan everything from my son’s graduation BBQ to the crisis communication plan for the non-profit hospital for which I work.
Strategic planning may sound threatening and ominous, like a painstaking process that requires sleepless nights and gallons of caffeinated beverages to accomplish. But it doesn’t have to be. Now, full disclosure here, I’m the kind of person that is organized, goal oriented and creative, I actually like strategic planning! A strategic plan is not scary, it’s more like a road map. Nothing more than a suggested course of where we may head on our next year-long road trip for the organization.
But just like any road trip, there may have to be adjustments along the route. So using the road trip analogy, I’ll outline how I prepare a strategic plan. Whether it’s a single event, a marketing proposal, donor project or complete campaign, I follow this same map and find that it gets me where we need to go, or at least in the right direction! So, pack your bags, get ready and let’s hit the road!
Building a strategic plan:
1. Pick your destination. Just like you’d select the city you plan to visit on a cross-country road trip with the family, you have to at least know the general direction you’re heading. Typically we don’t just pick a random city off the map, but we look into it. What is there to do? How much does it cost? What are some of the main attractions of the area? How can you get there? Can I get the time off work for that trip? What are the kids’ schedule? You get the idea.
The same holds true for marketing/PR or event practicalities. Ask yourself, what is the event? When is it going to be held? What time and where? Who is supposed to be there? What else is going on in the area at that time? What facilities or resources are available? In this section you would also ask yourself questions like, how much budget do you have (or don’t have)? But most of all you have to know why you are going. What is your goal with this campaign, event, communications, etc.? If you don’t know that, you might as well just save yourself the time. Sit and just write our a check and give it away! To approach a campaign, program, event, project without knowing why you’re doing it is like putting gas into a car with a hole in the tank!
2. Plan the big stuff that you need to take. If you’re driving and camping across the U.S. you will need a tent, sleeping bags, camp stove, etc. If you are planning a grand opening or anniversary event for your organization, you will need a speaker, facility, emcee, decorations. Are you serving food? Taking donations? Need a photographer? The big stuff takes planning. You have to get these first. What good is it to plan your wedding and then find out there is no available chapel or preacher for the day you picked? This is your chance to really look at what resources you have then decide what you can and can’t do. If I only have an $800 budget for a big anniversary campaign, you may only be able to print and mail to a limited number of people and then use social media, word of mouth and public relations to get the word out to the rest. Then, you still might have to enlist your mom to help make the cookies!
3. Plan your timeline. When is your event/campaign/launch/trip to Mount Rushmore? Put it on the calendar and then work backwards. When will you need to pack? Prepare packing lists? Hire a house sitter? Request the time off work?
Again, for successful event planning or strategic planning, break down your project. Work it backwards from your desired “hit” date. Create a project flow. Graphic ideas/colors by March, printing by April, mailing in May, social media campaign in May-June, advertising on radio in June, PR hits in July the week of event.
You’re on your way…check back for Strategic Planning pt. 2!