A great annual plan should help you both mitigate problems and reach for the stars.
Most plans lack vision. They’re usually just a cross between a map and a calendar. Leave on this day, turn left here, go straight here, rest here, stop here, etc. And those are great. But your plans can be more.
A great annual plan can sometimes feel like falling into the best of the internet: a map here, a calendar there, and an atlas, Wikipedia, and a cat video to explain it all to your colleagues. Your plan doesn’t have to be boring; in fact, the best plans are inspirational. Don’t just tell your staff what to do; offer people a glimpse into what they CAN do if they pull together, workhard, and maybe caught a little bit of luck to boot.
Something to shoot for:
You won’t hit it out of the park every time. But even when you don’t land on the moon, you might an interesting comet or two to break your fall. Sometimes, you can actually get the thing that really should have been out of reach.
That kind of thinking is aligned with what author, speaker and all round good guy Tim Hurson would call “the shock of the possible.” What if instead of concentrating on all of the problems, what if we looked at all of the possibilities? A great annual plan balances practicality with inspiration.
Here’s what needs to go in your annual plan:
1. Executive summary
2. Situation analysis
3. PR goals
4. PR objectives and KPI’s
5. Key messages
7. Key tactics
This will kick off your plan for those reading it but it’s not where you’re going to start when you’re writing it. You’ll do everything else and then come back to this. The Executive Summary is where you will sum up the main points of the rest of your plan.
You’ll offer a high-level look at some of the PR problems you’re trying to solve along with what you plan on doing — but don’t get caught in the minutia. This is the place for your vision to soar!
Here is where you look at the PR problems you are trying to address. Do you need investment? Do you need to launch a new product? Do you need to change the perception of your services? Do you need to engage a different audience? Do you need to increase enrollments? Whatever the challenges you are having, here is the place to outline them.
It’s also a place to include any important historical information that people might need to know. I like to refer to shared values here to reinforce that those are the base on which everything else is built.
Finally, it’s also a place where you can look at what might be possible with a little luck and a lot of hard work. What is just beyond your grasp that you could work towards now. What’s your moon shot and what’s standing between you and that. Your plan can also look at how to start removing those barriers too.
This is the place where you outline the big picture of what you are trying to achieve this year. You might have a product or two to release, you might want to engage a new type of audience, you might want people to think about your brand in a new way – whatever the big picture things you need to accomplish, here’s where you outline them.
What will the hallmarks of success look like? Raised awareness is a goal – it’s not definitive. Your objectives should give you real outcomes against which you can measure the success of your initiatives. You can measure if web traffic to a particular landing page increased because of a video campaign. You can measure how many people shared a post on social. While engagement metrics are harder, you can define what they look like for you, the same way that you can define what constitutes a positive or negative tone in a media article.
People and channels:
Before social media, PR plans talked about “Target Audiences.” And while lots of people defined that as individuals they needed to reach, it really was supposed to be about the type of media outlet you needed to target in order to move the needle with the actual people you have to reach.
And you didn’t have to think about engaging people directly through social media.
But now, when we talk about “target audiences”, we’re really talking about:
- Who are the people you need to reach?
- What are the media outlets that can reach them?
- Who are examples of influencers that can reach them? (You will still likely need an influencer plan)
- What are the main social channels that will help you reach these people (You will still need a social media strategy and a channel plan)
What do you need people to know and believe in order to get them to do what you want them to do? Those are your key messages.
How will you achieve your objectives which will then help you achieve your goals? Remember, objectives are measurable outcomes and goals are the bigger picture things you are trying to accomplish. Strategies are the bigger bucket, more visionary things you will do. If you were to look at President Obama or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, you could say that one of the strategies they employed was pulling the public away from the fear-based narrative of their primary opponent with an alternative, more hopeful one that laid out a shared vision of what their nation stood for, not against.
What are the actual, specific things you need to do to help your strategy live. Tactics might include creating a video about a particular subject, or holding a public event, or launching a petition — what is it that you can do that will help you bring your strategy to life so that you can meeting your objectives and attain your goals.
You’ve already identified objectives and KPI’s – this is a place to elaborate and get more specific if you need to. It’s also the place to outline who will be responsible for keeping on top of the evaluation process, what tools you’ll be using, the regularity with which you’ll be measuring your success and how that reporting will be communicated and to whom.
Here is where you outline what your team will need in order to do what you’ve been tasked with doing on the PR side and what expenses you anticipate having to meet through the year.
You will have a more robust work back calendar in your Tactical Plans but on your Annual Plan schedule, you should log all launches, announcements and any key dates you need to work around. You can and should update as circumstances change and plans crystallize – that will help keep your PR plan vibrant and meaningful throughout the year.
In fact, you shouldn’t think of your plan as set in stone. You should update it with new opportunities – it will help you contextualize them and ensure that everything is moving in the right direction.
A final word about tone:
If it’s your company, make it super human. If it’s someone else’s company, I’d still suggest making it human and real, but check with them first because lots of people are still very allegiant to formal, stuffy documents that lull most people to sleep during the day. If you have the latitude, use this document to inspire people, including yourself. Put in language that will remind you of the vision and hopes you had. This is a living document meant to spur you on even when nothing is going right.