Communications Planning 2014: 3 Steps to Start Planning Next Year’s Program

By Katja Schroeder, Expedition PR

Fall is here. The leaves are turning. Yearly PR programs are heading into their final quarter and marketers soon will turn the final page in their 2013 play book.  It’s time to start seeding and planting ideas on how to advance next year’s communications programs.

Here are three easy steps to start the planning process.

Conduct an honest review of the past year

Every new plan starts with a critical assessment of what has been achieved in the past year. While achievements deserve recognition, the review should not be a pure exercise of shoulder clapping. Looking at encountered challenges – and even failures – can be tremendous beneficial. The review should include asking questions like:

  1. Were the overall communications goals met? If not, why not?
  2. What communications strategies and channels were the most effective, and why?
  3. Did we expand and strengthen the relationships with key influencers?

As resources are typically limited, companies usually question whether they chose the strategy and tools wisely – did we communicate our story efficiently?  One quick way to measure efficiency is to look at the communications output (what the company has communicated via announcements, blogs, social media, email campaigns, events, etc.) and communications outcome (the results generated and measured). For example, if certain types of news announcement did not generate story interest or traffic to the organizations’ website, a focus on other types of content might lead to better results. This also applies to types the tools used. We always track what types of tactics, i.e. pitches, blog posts, news announcements, among others, generate the best stories for our clients. A thorough review can identify areas where an organization can build on or improve on in the next year.

Create a preliminary editorial calendar

While you will typically enter the New Year with a lot of moving pieces, including moving timelines for product announcements and corporate milestones, there are some internal and external events and trends that can be used as a loose framework to start building a calendar on a tactical level.  Those can include, among others:

Corporate events External Events
-Quarterly reports; annual report -Industry trade shows and conferences
-Executive travel schedule (visits to other offices and regions) -Seasonal events and holidays (Back to school, Black Friday, Mother’s Day, etc.)
-Executive speaking engagements -Rankings/Industry Awards, i.e. Inc5000
-Customer or influencer events, i.e. customer/analyst summit -Trending industry topics – that related to the corporate positioning/offering
-Corporate initiatives (one-time/recurring), i.e. CSR/sustainability initiatives or sponsorships -Editorial calendars, stories planned by publications that relate to a company’s market and offering
-Planned product/solution launches -Competitors’ events

Start a wish list, Brainstorm creative programs

A well-oiled ongoing communications program is a basic requirement to build a solid foundation and get results over time.  We often call it the nuts and bolts PR program. However, to set a company truly apart, often requires the audacity to be bold in your communications endeavors and go beyond a basic PR program.

The end of the year is also the time to start dreaming of communications strategies that will be a gamer changer for the organization. What would it take to achieve certain communications goals – goals that will move the needle further for the business and make the company stand out? Connect with the corporate strategy team, brainstorm ideas, write them down, prioritize them, and determine required resources for at least 2-3 of your best creative ideas that – and the start building the business case for it.