Gini Dietrich

13 Things to Include in a Communications Firm Business Plan

By: Gini Dietrich | November 11, 2014 | 

Communications Firm Business PlanningBy Gini Dietrich

On Thursday, Benson Hendrix is going to give you a really good rundown on what should be included in your communications plan (if you haven’t already registered for the free webinar, hustle over there!)

He talks about how most of us prefer to jump right to tactics and we forget about the research and plan phase of what we do. While it’s certainly not as exciting as tactics, it should drive everything that we do.

And, just like a communications plan for your client or the organization where you work, your communications firm must also have a roadmap for where you are going. Can you imagine being in a new city and having to find your way to a meeting without GPS, your phone, or a good old fashioned map?

That’s what it’s like when we try to run our communications firms without a plan. We’re trying to drive somewhere near without having any idea where we’re going.

If you dread annual planning—or really have no idea where to start—I have something that will help!

Following are 13 things every communications firm should include in their plan that will drive all marketing, business development, and growth.

A Communications Firm Business Plan

  • Objective: If you want to grow your communications firm, the objective will always be to increase client acquisition. This is where you’ll state which kinds of clients by size, industry, and marketing needs. You also should say how much the increase should be and make it realistic enough that you can actually achieve it (i.e. don’t say you want to be a $10MM firm next year if you’re only $1MM now). 
  • Strategy: This is to build and enhance your reputation as a specialist to attract more clients in your target market. The specialist could be in the type of work you do—crisis management, reputation management, media relations, content marketing, etc.—or it could be the industries in which you specialize.
  • Plan: Develop deep and narrow expertise in industry XX or in specialty XX with focused positioning that include targeted staffing, research, special resources or capabilities, relevant work experience, and other activities.
  • Executive Summary: This should be a one-page recap of everything in your plan and should sit on your desk so you can review it daily.
  • Key Challenges: A description of the services you want to market, and a bulleted recap of your goals, as they relate to any of the challenges you might see. For instance, maybe a competitor has more experience in an industry or your communications firm doesn’t yet have the history a prospect would want. List them all out.
  • Situation Analysis: Identification of key industry status metrics, including your overall goals and focus, your culture, your perceived strengths and weaknesses, and your market share position.
  • Customer Analysis: The type and number of clients you are striving for, including the values of the targeted sector(s) and an overview of the decision process those prospects use to hire communications firms.
  • Competitor Analysis: Analysis of your marketing position, along with the market positions of your closest competitors, including any weaknesses that could curtail your efforts to compete effectively.
  • Implementation Summary: Analysis of how you will use the above information to achieve your goals. This should be as specific as possible to allow for accountability.
  • Positioning Statements: Language you will use in your marketing materials to differentiate you from competitors, highlighting your key service mission and qualitative skillsets.
  • Cost Strategy: An overview of your pricing structure, relative to that of your competitors and averages for size of firm, industry, and region. The more you can claim deep expertise, the more you can charge. Crisis communications experts do well here because they get paid based on their expertise. Don’t worry. This is an internal document. You don’t have to post it externally anywhere (though I would argue you should post pricing). 
  • Promotion Strategy: A recap of the specific methods and initiatives you will use to get your marketing language and related content in front of potential clients. It should include a detailed delineation of who on your team will implement specific elements of the plan, and a timeline.
  • Changing Market Analysis: Forecast anticipated changes in the fiscal landscape of our target industries in the next three to five years. How will these changes affect you? For instance, no one could have predicted the Polar Vortex would bring business to a screeching halt earlier this year, but these are the outside forces Laura Petrolino discussed a couple of weeks ago that you have to prepare for, even if you can’t predict the specific instances.

Update: Christopher Penn commented that this is missing a measurement piece. He’s right, of course, and it’s unlike me to forget something like this.

If your objectives are measurable, you have the metrics in here. So make sure you follow the SMART structure when creating your sections: Are they specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound?

Get ‘Er Done!

It’s not an easy assignment. If you don’t already have many of these things written down and in stone, it may take you several weeks of brainstorming and testing to get it right.

From here, you can start to get really smart about business development and how you grow.

More on that on Thursday. For now, get to work on this.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • The one thing I’d add that’s missing: have a measurement plan with a budget line item so that you invest in measurement of your goals from the start.

  • cspenn Crap. Yes! How did I miss that?!?

  • cspenn I added a little update. Thank you!

  • Forty million dollar company FTW!!!! LOL #gobigorgohome

  • ginidietrich cspenn You’re welcome, madame! I can’t strongly advocate enough about budgeting for measurement. It’s done so rarely.

  • belllindsay Is that Canadian or US dollars??

  • This post is a doozy!

  • belllindsay Oh boy.

  • jasonkonopinski You’re welcome.

  • ginidietrich jasonkonopinski you were dozing again Jason?

  • I must say from my own experience it is SOOOO MUCH easier planning for a client than for your own business. But I thought the way you measured a firm was how much comm they pump out and if they doubled the number of comm they create that is a sure sign of success vs this client thing that was debunked back in 2002.

  • Howie Goldfarb It’s WAY easier to do this for someone else than yourself.

  • SocialMediaDC

    Very good post. Will definitely incorporate into my next project.

  • SocialMediaDC I hope it’s helpful!

  • chipgriffin

    I would add that the process is as important as the plan you come up with. If done right, it will force you to confront challenges and contradictions that could trip up future growth. To that end, it needs to be developed in concert with colleagues who feel comfortable being brutally honest. The reason it is harder to plan for one’s own company (versus a client) or edit one’s own work (versus a client) is that we often see what should be rather than what is.

  • chipgriffin Yes! We talked about this very thing last week, in fact. My leadership team is very uncomfortable right now because we’re being brutally honest. I keep telling them that it is good. I’ll send this comment to them so they can see it’s totally normal.

  • jasonkonopinski Like a pocket full of posey so you won’t fall down 😉

  • ginidietrich chipgriffin This is such a great comment Chip. That last line in particular “we often see what should be rather than what is.”

    It’s also much easier of course to see the acute, because that is what you are dealing in every day. Stepping out of that and looking at the long term is much more difficult when it comes to predicting challenges

  • belllindsay Bahahaha! I totally thought of that when I was reading this! LOL!

  • martinseth1983

    MeghanMBiro ginidietrich who is Benson Hendrix…could u please tell me…

  • Pingback: Business Development for Communications Firms Spin Sucks()

  • Pingback: The Eleven Most Read Blog Posts of 2014 (and a Bonus!) by @belllindsay Spin Sucks()

  • TravelnKids

    Needimages GWPStaff LorrieArias cindycapo lorimcneeartist ReadersGazette SydSalesman dramroll juliepaige5555 song7942song TYSM

  • Pingback: Understanding the Mechanics of Measurement by @SusynEliseDuris Spin Sucks()