|Just imagine him saying, "PLAN!"|
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Having a plan is having a roadmap. Without a roadmap, you're the blind leading the blind taking chances that your organization just might not be able afford to take. Trust in me, your valued public relations practitioner, when I say planning can be simple, easy, and not the headache that many make it out to be.
While your organization's mission and vision can be vague and abstract when determining the future of the firm, each and every public relations and communications campaign or program you implement should be well-thought and well-planned. A public relations plan, or campaign, has four basic elements: research, planning, implementation, and evaluation. Almost as simple as do re mi, isn't it?
Research is the very first step when a campaign has been decided. Forget those awful days of undergrad media research where you spent hours and hours nauseatingly viewing hours of microfilm in a dark hot room with tension headaches - research isn't as always as bad as that. This phase includes reviewing past campaigns, gathering information about potential projects, events, and materials, interviewing key individuals, review demographics, and researching other opportunities for the campaign. And focus groups...those can be fun!
Planning is the next crucial step in the campaign process. This is where you bring the various elements of your research together to form a cohesive plan, or strategy, that will later be executed. This is where you pour the concrete foundation. You decide the direction your campaign will take, form your message, and decide how your message will be disseminated. You'll also figure a reporting mechanism so you track your campaign's success.
Implementation is go time. This is when you take the master plan and put it into action...tally ho and view halloo. Message is disseminated, feedback is received, and operations continue in action. While your plan is strong and concrete, as you should make alterations as you receive feedback from stakeholders. For example, you might implement a weekly Twitter chat that is failing miserably as planned. Thus, make changes, such as implementing a blog discussion forum. Though the implementation stage is putting your plan into action, it's also an evolving process for your campaign as you should make alterations as necessary.
Evaluation is the last leg of a campaign where you take time to analyze the successes and failures of your campaign's plan and implementation. Review feedback from stakeholders, write reports for other organizational executives, reconcile your budget, discuss the research and planning phases with your committees and staff, and overall ask yourself what you did well that should be done again and what didn't work well and why. Evaluation happens when a campaign ends...that's a hint that your campaign should be timed (short-term or long-term, but with an end date). Oh and celebrate...no matter the how successful or how failed your campaign is, you and your team will have given your blood, sweat, and tears for the program, and thus the end should be celebrated.
The bigger your campaign, the more time and effort each of these stages will require. However, don't be intimidated...planning is important and can determine your success (or failure).
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