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.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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