A 10-point checklist for vetting your PR plan

You’re about to launch a campaign, or maybe it’s still in the planning phases. Better print out this checklist and bring it to your next meeting.

Typically, a communications campaign is only as good as its plan.

Like any other avenue, a public relations road map should be reviewed not only with overall business goals in mind, but also with an eye toward opportunities and obstacles specific to PR.

Here’s a checklist based on the most frequently overlooked or underrepresented elements. To fully evaluate your plan, ask yourself—or your PR team—the following questions.

What is PR’s role?

The PR program should have a distinct and defined role within the bigger marketing picture. Often, the best use of PR is to add depth or detail to brand messages or to lend credibility to an advertising claim. It’s rarely just “positive visibility.”

Does it include internal audiences?

Many plans don’t address employees and stakeholders, or they just pay lip service to them. These audiences can be very powerful ambassadors for nearly any PR strategy. For a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, they are crucial. If employees and partners aren’t fully informed of a program’s goals and strategies, it can create roadblocks. Failure to do this is simply a lost opportunity.

Is it coordinated with other marketing elements?

Maybe full integration isn’t a goal, but simple coordination adds value to every piece. Very often we see newsworthy elements in other parts of the marketing plan, but we find them out too late to offer input or realize the news potential.

Does it allow for full story development?

In our haste to generate publicity or social media impact, we sometimes underestimate the time and research required for full story creation and for multiple storylines. Because this is the meat of most PR programs, it should be afforded time for fairly robust research, development, and vetting. The beauty of PR may be that we can shift tactics or change messaging without incurring production costs, but who wants to lose the time?

Does it include a ‘Plan B’?

For the publicity piece of a PR plan, you should always have a backup plan—particularly if the planned coverage hinges on a seasonal opportunity or culminates in a special event. As every PR professional will tell you, breaking news can undo months of hard work and planning, so spread out your publicity opportunities wherever possible.

Is it flexible?

Similarly, any plan should be adaptable to market conditions, competitive developments, or changes in the news cycle as you go. Most PR programs operate within a very dynamic media environment, so change is the rule and not the exception. Take advantage of it with monthly plan reviews and adjustments.

Does it include a contingency or crisis plan?

It always pays to think through potentially damaging scenarios and be prepared with a defensive strategy.

Is the timing realistic?

In my experience, many clients underestimate the time required for research, tactical planning, and achieving media relations traction. If you want your publicity to hit in September, you should be starting at least three months ahead, if not more.

Does it budget for measurement tools and services?

New tools make measuring outcomes much easier and more precise than in the past (see below), but sophisticated tools can come at a cost.

Does it define success?

Brand preference? Business lead generation? Web traffic? Whatever the desired outcomes are, they should be more clearly defined than just reach, as measured in impressions.

Dorothy Crenshaw is CEO and creative director of Crenshaw Communications. A version of this story first appeared on the MENG blog.


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