Planning is a core component of PR that helps you to decide which direction to take and how, where and when to reach your target. 

"You can [always] conceptualise what you want to do but a concept alone has no meaning until it's translated into a plan," says Brightness Mangolothi, Litmus Consultancy director and former PRISA board member.

It's also important to remember that a PR plan is different from a strategy. A strategy looks at the broader picture but a plan is informed by the strategy; basically, you translate whatever issue that needs to be addressed into a plan.

Mangolothi adds, "Many organisations confuse a strategy with a plan or have a plan without a strategy. A strategy is broad, in business language; it's called the umbrella body of what informs multiple plans that exist within a department."

Remember, when creating your own plan, start small. It needs to be realistic and achievable. You don't have to always come to grips with every aspect at once. Don't worry, we're here to help. 

media update's Pamela Manzenze gets down to the nitty-gritty of a PR plan:

1. Conduct a situation analysis

Ask yourself: Where are we?

Use research to gather information about the problem or situation. Doing a SWOT analysis will be very useful. You need to understand how these contribute to the situation before you develop any strategies. 

The SWOT analysis has two factors:

The internal factor examines the strengths and weaknesses of the company. Consider company strengths by looking at the advantages the company has. This may include customer loyalty, reputation, social media presence and good corporate social responsibility. In terms of weaknesses, you can look at challenges that the company might face.

The external factor is information about things that are outside company control or influences like trends. 

For example, if you want to introduce a new product, use this formula to determine anything that could support or prevent the success of introducing your product or to increase awareness. 

2. Consider your PR objectives

Ask yourself: Where do I want to be?

These are the desired actions or achievements that assist with reaching your goals. Think about what needs to be achieved or where the brand strives to be. Your objectives need to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely):

Specific: If the objective is clearly defined, it is easy to understand what you are trying to accomplish. For example, you could want to build your brand reputation by posting campaign-specific content to grow your social media following. 
Measurable: You need to measure the progress of your objectives. 
Attainable: Your objective needs to be realistic and doable within the specified period. 
Relevant: Your objective should be relevant to what your client wants to achieve. It should have an impact on the overall performance of the client or brand. 
Timely: Setting a timeframe for achieving your objective allows you to set milestones and monitor your progress. For example, your client's objective could be to increase awareness by 20% and become one of the country’s most well-known sportswear and equipment brands within 12 months.

3. Understand your target audience

Ask yourself: What is the direction of my message or content?

A target audience is the group of people that you are aiming to communicate with, so it is important to identify them and understand who they are.

Imagine your client is a sportswear brand. Your audience could therefore be adults from the age of 20 to 40 who want to be healthy and fit.
Therefore, your planning for your target audience should look at:

Demographics: Age, gender, income and occupation. For example, a sportswear brand would target age ranges from adults between 20 and 40 who are healthy and fit. This could also include students who are working-class (mostly from urban areas).

Psychographics: Attitudes, opinions, values and interests. People interested in sportswear value healthy living and fitness. They might also be interested in sporting events and merchandise. 

Communication channels: This is the proper medium in which you can reach them, be it social media, newsletter or press release. You can easily reach people from the age of 20 to 40 as they mostly use social media channels like Tik Tok, Twitter and other platforms to connect with their friends and family. They also generally share their gym wellness sessions on these platforms.

This is a fundamental part of your PR plan as it helps inform the content you create. 

4. Refine your PR strategies

Ask yourself: How do I want to get there?

You need a game plan to achieve your ultimate goal. A perfect strategy will set out a direction or act as an umbrella approach for your tactics.

In order for your efforts to be effective, you need to tie the strategy to your company objectives and target audience. This is a high-level approach to achieve a set of goals that you have defined. 

Using the same sportswear brand as an example, imagine you are planning to have an event or social media campaign to drive traffic to your client’s pages and increase visibility. You need to consider what you’re going to do in order for consumers to recognise and recall the brand.

For instance, you can post relevant content and visuals that show your brands logo and also encourage other brands to share your event via a unique hashtag that you've created. The most shares could land up in a competition where the user who gives your brand the most publicity wins a prize or free tickets. 

5. Explore your tactics

Ask yourself: What will I do to get there?

This sets out the specific actions you'll take to achieve your goal and will be directly informed by your strategy. Think of what you will do to get where you want to be using the approach from your strategy. 

For example, you could have a social media campaign where the first 100 people to share their experience of the sportswear brand on Twitter and Facebook will be able to participate in a boot camp. The winner of any activity from each group in the camp will get a holiday/spa voucher and a pack of training clothing, shoes or equipment. 

You can also host a health and wellness seminar that will address issues relevant to health. You will then have to post tickets of the event on social media and write a press release about the seminar for your website.

6. Create a timeline

Ask yourself: When will I get there?

One of the easiest ways to ensure you stay on track is to create a calendar for your planned activities. You are simply sequencing when you want to achieve your goals. You also need to schedule all your tactics or activities in realistic timeframes. This also helps in determining when key messages are most meaningful or impactful.

Since things can change anytime, it is important to communicate expected timing with the company so that everyone is prepared and on the same page.

Take the below calendar as an example, and to get you started:  

As you may note, each section is colour-coded for clarity. For example, the text under Objectives is red, so the block that identifies it is also red.

In the calendar, the objectives are completed last because it's what you are hoping to achieve at the end. Your Strategy is the plan of action that is already designed to attain a long-term goal, so it would be the first thing to plan.

Tactics is the actual action that is directed by the overall strategy; it's best to execute your strategy in between your timeframe so that you can measure your success. Setting a total Budget at the beginning of the year helps you not to overspend and also allows you to establish how much is needed for developing and implementing your entire plan. 

Your Implement & Evaluate section is at the end so that you can see the progress and impact of your strategy. You need to determine whether the plan accomplished its purpose so that you can improve the performance over time.

You can find this calendar template, and many more, on Canva.

7. Set a budget

Ask yourself: How much will it take to get me there?

Budget is a vital part of the plan as it provides an overview of how much the activities will cost. This also helps with measuring the success of your objectives by comparing the expenses with costs that you have projected.

It allows you to determine how much will be needed for the implementation of your objective. This may include labour costs in terms of writing, media kits or newsletters, as well as unexpected expenses. 

8. Implement and evaluate

Ask yourself: How did I perform?

This is where your strategies and tactics come into play. You need to ask yourself if they address the main objective and how your strategy will engage your target audience. Whatever you have planned, you need to ensure that it adheres to your timeline and budget.

Evaluate or monitor your campaign regularly to ensure that it's on track. You need to monitor every step of the implementation process by checking if you have achieved your objectives. 

This can help you to reallocate your priorities to have better performance. This stage also gives you the ability to tell your client what you have accomplished and also improve on what was done wrong.

What other elements of a PR plan do you think are essential to achieve your objectives? Let us know in the comments section below.

Ufuna ezinye iindaba ezifana nezi? Rhuma kwincwadana yethu yeendaba.

The world is constantly changing and moving to a more digital, innovative space. With that in mind, check out the Five ways to future-proof your PR strategy.
*Image courtesy of Canva