On Wednesday, March 20, two panelist shared their knowledge on crafting a PR plan at PRSA-NCC’s “How to Write a PR Plan” workshop to communications and PR professionals at the Navy Memorial. Open to all professionals at any stage of their career, the workshop featured steps to develop a PR plan, and the content that should be included. The panelists answered audience questions about new tactics to foster new plans and strategies to update the old.
Mitchell Marovitz, Ph.D., APR, of the University of Maryland University College thoroughly outlined the components of a PR plan while Lauren Lawson-Zilai, director of public relations and national spokesperson for Goodwill Industries, used Goodwill’s Beyond Jobs, a program that helps women find and keep jobs, as a relevant example. Both Marovitz and Lawson-Zilai shared personal experiences as well a wide array of tips for any organization that is writing or reworking an existing PR plan.
Marovitz explained that a PR plan gives you a structure, and is the framework to raising your profile while preparing for cognitives. The more time you spend detailing the beginning of the plan, the more time you will save revising it. The success of a PR plan is affirmed by the order of the plan and how it is presented.
The start of any PR plan is the executive summary which should hook the reader. Marovitz and Lawson-Zilai both agreed that the executive summary is one of the most important components, and should be concise enough to fit on one page. Along with the executive summary, the background sets the stage for the plan, stating the problem and a short history. Marovitz emphasized that the problem statement is neutral, as it is only used for people to understand and should be non-political, “The problem statement is the composition of the mission,” adds Lawson-Zilai.
One of the main components the panelists explained were the goals of the PR plan. “You have succeeded when you have met your goals,” said Marovitz. Three types of goals to be included in the plan are output, process and outcome, some of which are easy to measure, and others giving more insight than others. An easy way to create goals is to follow the S.M.A.R.T. format: specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive. Marovitz recommends using the S.M.A.R.T. format stating, “There’s no sense in doing something you cannot do. Make sure your goal is obtainable.”
The core of a PR plan is your intended audiences and the messages you would like convey. Lawson-Zilai explained the three different audiences in terms of primary, secondary and intervening. From the Beyond Jobs standpoint, she outlined the primary audiences as the prospective program participants and think-tank groups, the secondary audience as the general public including donors and business owners and intervening audiences as the local and national media outlets. Messaging to your audience decides what you want to say to whom, with some messages being appropriate for all audiences and some for only the targeted.
The strategies in a plan are the approach to reaching the objectives outlined. Drafting strategies typically involve positioning, attention, engagement and attention. Strategies are one of the hardest steps to write as they are not always measureable. Along with strategies, tactics support the objectives by detailing the products you will produce. Lawson-Zilai said that they can be formatted in word or excel and can include press releases, earned media or commercials. Program phases include launches that are national and local through influencer communications such as Congress or internal communications such as newsletters.
At the end of your PR plan, the two recommended a formative or summative measurement and evaluation. “What gets measure gets done,” and “What gets counted, counts,” said Marovitz. He said in Goodwill’s plan, it was necessary for Goodwill to develop a donor recognition report to communicate the results of Beyond Jobs at key intervals and at the conclusion by holding regular stats calls and meetings. “If you have written smart objectives, your summative evaluation will write itself,” said Marovitz.
Other advice from panelists included:
- Don’t fudge your budget and factor in a cushion of about 10%
- Map out objectives to your goals and then your audiences to your objectives
- Select measurable that will influence you during the campaign and provide feedback
- If something doesn’t pass, it doesn’t mean the PR plan failed; you can still accomplish a goal
- Put a time limit on your objectives even if it might be a tough sell
- Use keywords such as change, increase, decrease, create, reinforce or maintain when messaging