Laura Petrolino

How to Protect Your PR Plan Against the Forces of Evil

By: Laura Petrolino | October 16, 2017 | 
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How to Protect Your PR Plan Against the Forces of Evil

If you build your PR plan in a desert, your goals will be a mirage.

That’s one of my favorite quotes about PR planning, and not just because I just made it up.

(Just now….clever right?! Woohooo. I’m on fire today, dropping the “thought leadership” bombs.)

Also, because it’s true.

No matter how great your PR plan is from a structural perspective.

No matter how smart your strategy and innovative your tactics.

You will fail if you don’t build it with context.

Why Your PR Plan Needs Context

When I asked my friend, the dictionary, to tell me what she thought about “context,” she said context refers to:

The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

Building a PR plan without context is the same as doing scientific research in a test tube.

While under “laboratory conditions” everything might work perfectly, once the findings are applied to the real world, external conditions and circumstances change the game.

Don’t build your PR plan in laboratory conditions.

There are A LOT of forces that can call foul on your laboratory PR plan.

Some of the main ones include:

  • Goals
  • Team
  • Technology and resources
  • Budget
  • Environment

Let’s journey through the desert and review each of these.

We’ll go through to build a PR plan to be successful within the context of the world in which it will be executed.

Dig Deep into Your Goals

We talked about goals two weeks ago when we were looking at how to write a PR plan.

But goals need context, too.

When you set your goals, it is important to look at them from short- and long-term perspectives.

While your plan might be built to get you where you want to be at the end of the year, it should also move you along the five-year path.

It is more common than one might think to see organizations build short-term goals that are not compatible with their long-term goals.  

Questions you should ask yourself include:

  • What does success look like in five years? Ten years?
  • What does the path to that future goal look like?
  • What steps do we need to take this year to move down that path?
  • Does our strategy for year one build the foundation needed for where we want to be in year five? year ten?

Do You Have the Proper Players to Execute Your PR Plan?

A PR plan is only as good as the team available to push it forward.

If you don’t have the right team or partners in place, your plan will look great on paper, but never be executed or managed effectively.

You have three options here:

  1. You can build a PR plan around the team you have and their capabilities and/or potential. 
  2. You can build into your PR plan the hiring of the right team to execute the plan you want.
  3. Or, you can land somewhere in between, which is the reality for most organizations.

The best first steps are to:

  • Look at the human resources you have.
  • Find the holes.
  • Determine your ability to fill holes based on budget, time, organizational structure. and management capability.

As you build your plan you need to know who will both lead and execute the different parts.

Each piece must have an owner.

If that person isn’t on your current team, then part of the plan should be to find an owner.

Questions you should ask yourself include:

  • Where do we have gaps in our skill sets and strengths?
  • Do we need to adjust the tactics we employ to account for these gaps?
  • How will individual personalities affect our overall goals?
  • Do we need to realign roles in order to best maximize each team member?
  • Will our organizational structure support our plan?
  • How about our culture and internal communications?

Understand Your Technology and Resource Opportunities

Listen, we’d all like to have access to ALL the cool technology and monitoring software available, but sadly, that’s not often the case.

Make sure, when you build your PR plan, you do so in terms of your current resources.

This exercise is helpful because it forces you to line item the technology assets you have and those you could use.

Then prioritize how and when you acquire what.

For example, if you have an out-of-date website that’s not responsive or mobile-friendly, it will both limit you strategically and affect your ability to drive your objectives. 

For instance:

  • Does your site have a blog?
  • Do you have/use a CRM?
  • Are there ways to capture leads or add calls-to-action?
  • What other obstacles exist?

Then part of your plan needs to look at what upgrades you can do, what technology you can add, and where you can find workarounds, if needed.

You might not be able to go the optimal path to start, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start and plan how to make your journey more efficient.

There are so many plugins, apps, and SaaS programs out there today to help you democratize your technology needs.

This allows you to implement and execute a plan even in non-optimal situations.

Be creative.

Don’t stomp around frustrated you can’t have what you need.

Remember part of a creating a PR plan is finding solutions to obstacles, and in many cases, these obstacles might be resource- or technology-based.

Budgetary Requirement Fact or Fiction

As much as I sometimes forget it when I ask myself why I don’t yet have a vacation home in Vernazza, things cost money.

And sometimes your creativity is larger than your budget.

The budget should be one of the first things you determine before you sit down to build your PR plan.

Building a PR plan you can’t afford, in technology, resources, or human talent, is pointless and frustrating.

Set a realistic budget and then clearly understand how and where you will allocate.

This is also not a time to “guess” how much something will cost.

This is a time to lay out the numbers and see what will and will not fit.

Then take that information to help you prioritize where you should spend  your available budget.

And, just like with your technology needs, don’t be discouraged.

Often the requirement to work on limited budget forces you to be more creative and efficient with your time and resources.

Likewise, if you have a huge budget, act like you don’t.

Force yourself to maximize opportunity on a smaller budgetary scale and then devote extra to the areas which prove to be effective.

Never Underestimate the Environment in Which You Operate

The environment you operate affects the way your business runs, how you communicate internally and externally, and whether your company succeeds or fails.

You must consider it when putting together your PR plan.

This means you need to understand what is going on in the world around you—economically, politically, socially, and culturally.

You also need to examine the environment in your particular industry.

A PR plan is about proactivity.

It requires you to analyze what’s happening around you, look at trends, and prepare for the road ahead.

Questions you should ask yourself include:

  • What does the economy look like this year?
  • How will governmental activities affect our business (elections, laws, healthcare, other types of conflict or change)?
  • How will that affect the strategies we employ to reach our goals?
  • Do we need to put certain initiatives on hold or schedule them differently to maximize environmental opportunities?
  • Do we need to change our messaging to adjust to the current climate?
  • How will environmental factors affect our employees and/or hiring?
  • What’s the outlook for our industry? Are there any big changes or upheavals we should be aware of?
  • Is there the potential for policy changes that might affect our industry or our particular role in it?
  • How can we be proactive in lessening environmental disruptions?

Evaluate Your Business Plan Intelligently

This type of deep dive into the context your PR plan will be executed in forces you to effectively evaluate the strategies you put in place.

Context helps you create a PR plan that doesn’t just look good on paper, but works successfully in practical application.

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • Dawn Buford

    This is great advice for any business plan, not just PR. You should always be looking at it from every angle. Great advice Laura!

    • Thank you so much! And you are right. To Pat’s point above, it’s super easy to become complacent. You have to look at things from every which direction to make sure you cover all your bases.

  • Pat Rhoads

    I find your lack of Star Wars references disturbing…

    Nonetheless, great post! I think too often people fail when it comes to their environment. Familiarity breed complacency sometimes, and that can be dangerous when launching any type of campaign.

    • I know! I’m sorry! I actually didn’t have the brilliant idea for a Star Wars tie-in until I finished the post and made this genius image. Don’t worry, I’ll make it up to you in the future.

      And you are absolutely correct about complacency. It’s a hidden evil people don’t often even realize exists in their plan until it’s too late. Removing yourself from the familiar is a super important part of creating a plan.

    • I hurt myself from rolling my eyes when I read this in the editing stage. Seriously.

  • This: “If you build your PR plan in a desert, your goals will be a mirage.” Love it!

    Great post, Laura!

    I would add: Make sure to include project management in creating and implementing your PR plan. Treat your PR plan as a project and assign a project manager who will put together your plan, assign human and financial resources, and will make sure your plan will be put in practice in the timeline and budget assigned.

  • This: A PR plan is about proactivity.

    Building any kind of plan in a vacuum or without considering what’s going on in your industry, your country, the world, is going to be fruitless. Great post Laura!

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