The A-Team’s Hannibal, the character that captained the group of veteran outcasts from the 80s’ action series, mentioned his trademark saying in almost every episode when his team needed to overcome a challenge. Who knew that his famous saying could apply to PR, but they do, nearly spot on.
As the year comes to a close, it’s important that a PR agency or department (should you have an internal team) begin planning its activities for 2011. For the A-Team, the plan was necessary to overcome a challenge, and this philosophy should echo the same in a PR plan. Every business has challenges, hopefully more good than bad, that help motivate the organization to improve itself from the year before. With the plan, the agency or department can ensure that PR is correctly aligned with the business objectives of its client or organization, which will pay dividends down the road when the PR program is being evaluated to measure its effectiveness and value to the business.
Below are some key steps to ensuring a solid, annual PR plan:
1) Arrange “knowledge transfer” sessions with the key client/business liaisons in order to extrapolate the information/goals necessary to start building the plan. Hannibal never created a plan without knowing all the variables and insights of a problem.
2) Set budget and time expectations, so the client/business can understand how much investment the plan will take and when drafts of the plan should be ready for review.
3) This isn’t a plan to exercise and lose weight. Unlike personal goals, this is a professional document that needs to meet or exceed its objectives. If you’re building in bogus objectives that you know you probably can’t fulfill, don’t do it.
4) Be creative! The plan is an opportunity for the PR program to show its imagination as well as present additional budget requests for the following year. By demonstrating what the program can accomplish and how it can achieve it (sometimes through unconventional methods – again creativity) it’s easier for the client/management to approve additional budget to support those goals.
5) Make it measurable! In the TV show, it was easy to objectively measure the A-Teams success and it should be the same way for the PR plan. Make sure your goals are quantifiable benchmarks that can measure your efforts against the objectives you previously set.
6) Get approval! Don’t just create a plan for a plan’s sake. Make sure that when the plan is going through final client/management approval that you get written sign-off on it. That way you have a record of the key players being on board with it. It’s your job contract!
Finally, after the plan is complete, it’s all about execution. I’ve always been a big believer in going the extra mile, so don’t use a plan to just accomplish the objectives, but instead, use it to exceed expectations. Clients/management like nothing more than a PR team that can surpass the metrics highlighted in the plan.
Sometimes the plan would work out so well for the A-Team that someone other than Hannibal would steal his trademark line at the end of the show. Make that someone be your client/management at the end of the year. There’s no better compliment to a PR program when the client/management says, “I love it when a plan comes together!”