PLAN is a four-letter word
But I don’t have to tell you that. Many otherwise perpetually productive people break into a cold sweat just thinking about the annual and bi-annual planning process. The word ‘plan’ strikes fear in their hearts, giving rise to pessimistic ‘P’ words like panic and procrastinate and other potentially problematic participles, even the dirtiest of all planning words: (gasp) postpone.
But planning doesn’t have to lead to paralyzing perfectionism, performance anxiety and petulance. Make it a group effort by practicing the following:
- Engage Agency Partners. There is nothing your communications agency would like more than to help you become as successful as possible. They understand how busy you are and they want to help you accomplish your business goals by directly aligning those goals with your marketing and public relations plan. They just need to know what you are thinking. It’s okay if you haven’t completely defined your goals yet. A high-quality agency will provide strategic individuals who are well-versed in helping you ask and answer the right questions to determine what those goals are and how a marketing and public relations plan can help you reach them.
- Engage Partners Early and Often. It is common to work in a silo for the sake of actually. getting. something. done. For simplicity-sake, it may seem more pragmatic for each individual marketing team to create its own plan and wait to share it with each other, the public relations teams, and their agency partners. But often the result is several semi-complete plans, conflicting identification of priorities, strategies, tactics, and a failure to effectively use resources. Avoid the cycle of endless meetings and revisions that often result from planning in a silo by engaging your agency before, after and during the planning stages. Agencies employ expert project managers and communicators and it is their job to serve as a liaison between you and your other partners. Engage them before, during and after your bi-annual and annual planning and you will no longer dread the planning process.
- Plan Your Planning. Mid-year or annual planning is daunting primarily because it just. seems. like. so. much. extra. work. And yet the purpose of a plan is to create focused, targeted goals and actions that will save you time and money. How does that work? The initial business plan along with the initial communications plan will require extensive planning but once you have those, planning should no longer be a bi-annual or annual event. If you are using your plan correctly, you should be assessing and reassessing the plan as you make decisions throughout the year. When it’s time to make a bi-annual or annual plan you will have already been doing the ongoing assessment required and the process will be a lot less daunting.
- Remain Flexible. Planning is important, but so is the ability to assess and reassess the plan, leaving open the possibility that, depending on an entire host of factors that you cannot always predict (abrupt market changes, exit or entry of competitors, new products and services, etc.), your plan may need minor tweaks or it may need a complete overhaul. An overhaul certainly isn’t the end of the world; game-changing solutions are rarely created by those who are satisfied with the status quo.