“Strategic communicator.” It’s a ubiquitous moniker in the PR industry. In practice, strategic communications plans are anything but consistent. So, what should one expect from a communications expert or agency when one requests a result’s-oriented plan? Here’s our take on the four key components:
Before a plan can be devised, a thorough audit of a client or project environment should be taken. This is a situation analysis and is the foundation from which plan recommendations are made.
This process incorporates research, audits, risk assessment and analysis in order to gain insight into the current landscape. It should also include thorough briefings with you, the client, and with relevant stakeholders so that business goals, objectives, and target audiences are understood. A solid comprehension of a client’s position in the marketplace from differentiators, marketing strategies, and public perceptions to market conditions, and an analysis of stakeholder communities all contribute to an insightful situation analysis.
Once the situation analysis is complete, your agency should have the information required to make recommendations that forms an overall strategic approach in a summary. You should expect goals, strategies, objectives and program specific tactics within a defined scope of responsibilities. It also entails confirmation of target audiences.
Goals are higher-level concepts about what needs to be achieved, a strategy is the approach, objectives are the steps to accomplish a strategy and a tactic is a tool used to achieve the objective.
To be successful in supporting goals, your agency should commit to objectives that are specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive (as well as consider overall strategy). And, tactics should consider an integrated mix of activities that ladder up and support the strategy and will reach target audiences, such as media relations, experiential marketing, influencer campaigns, digital and social, events, community outreach, government relations, and employee and internal communications initiatives, etc.
Scope & Budget
It’s important that your agency defines scope. This allows a client and the agency to understand the roles and responsibilities associated with executing the strategic plan. Within the scope are detailed timelines, human-resource allocations, program guidelines and key milestones/deliverables.
Strategic communication plans should also include budget detailing costs for all recommended tactics as well as any administrative outlays, third party costs, and out of pocket expenses. Budgets should also be able to scale up or scale down given that communications planning process is often fluid and may require periodic adjustment.
Measurement and Reporting
An approach to measurement and reporting should be set during the planning process and take into a consideration a regular cadence throughout a campaign in order to monitor and assess continuously. Successful communicators do not wait until the end of campaign to evaluate. Reporting could include feedback from research, audits, surveys and focus groups to digital and social data (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter all provide activity and engagement reports), as well as media relations analysis and event management metrics. If possible, integrating business results such as sales or engagement results is a terrific way to connect communications objectives with business objectives.
To find out more about how Mansfield Inc. can create a successful strategic communications plan for you, click here.