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How to write a public relations plan in 10 steps

A blog post about writing a 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 economic and political uncertainty but organisations need to continue to take bets on investment and talent.

Our recommendation is to take the longest term outlook feasible for your organisation 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 organisation 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 Frameworkshould 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 behaviour, 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 behaviour 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 summarise 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 Workplan

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 summarise 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.

This article was originally posted on the Ketchum blog.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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