Annual comms plans – move beyond the template

Many PR pros are asking me about creating a strategic communications plan.

It’s as seasonal as an inbox full of Cyber Monday offers 😊.

In fourth quarters of the past, I might have shared a template. But nowadays that doesn’t add value for you. You can get that in five minutes with a well-crafted dialogue with ChatGPT4 – here, I’ll save you the five minutes.

So here’s a tip you won’t get from AI or Google:

Yes, include traditional management terms such as “KPIs” and “ROI.” And most plans have an editorial calendar with flexible story ideas quarterly or monthly.

But if you want to really increase your media relations results next year, push yourself to answer this question:

What foundational action(s) will yield sustainable, repeatable assets or angles year-round?

I don’t want to push you in any particular direction – there is stupendous value in pushing through the fogginess that question generates at first. Do that, then brainstorm the actions unique to your organization or client.

But for the sake of clarity, consider these real-world examples I’ve seen:

  1. An association had the typical goal of “Highlighting our discipline by connecting our member experts with journalists seeking comment on relevant topics.” But instead of pursuing that case-by-case, like every other association ever, they assembled a team of 30 members who bought into the goal. They provided these members media training and even pitching training (that’s how I got involved). Media coverage shot up, and the message pull-through was much higher.
  2. An organization that helps people overcome an embarrassing condition often struggled to offer journalists “customer success stories.” So they leaned into this challenge and spent a lot of time seeking and recruiting the few customers who wanted to help other people overcome what they’d struggled with. It took time, effort and coordination, but where they once had no one willing to talk, they then had dozens expecting to get connected with media. Their media coverage doubled twice.
  3. An organization was successful at getting print/online coverage for launches and announcements. But the team struggled to get TV coverage and engagement on social media. They realized that the visuals they offered were static shots of the completed product or research results. So they made a point to engage their video and photo team much earlier – like, months earlier – to document the projects in process, instead of simply at the end. The results weren’t as dramatic as my previous two examples, but they were meaningful.

I’m such a PR nerd I’d love to read your comms plan (won’t share it) – send me yours.

P.S. When you write your own thought leadership pieces, do what I did here. Check ChatGPT first, and make sure your contribution goes deeper.

This article was originally published on November 30, 2023

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