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The Science of Strategic Communications Planning

The Science of Strategic Communications Planning


Every PR plan needs: goals, ‘stepping stones’, and a bit of Cupid’s magic

Strategic planning is the first and most important step of any new PR campaign.

Not having a PR plan means having no clear goals and objectives, no target audience, and no intentional business outcomes.

Not having a plan means being lost, with no guiding purpose apart from media coverage for its own sake.

Having a sound, actionable PR strategy is what makes our success meaningful, measurable, and directly connected to objectives that serve a business purpose.

What makes that success possible in the first place is the planning we put into our PR strategy.

How do we design that strategy? With a reliable methodology, built on experience, but unique every time — each one customized to the client’s goals, and built on a deep foundation. 

Set Goals, Stay Grounded

Any good PR plan needs to start with setting goals.

Without clear goals, your PR strategy will devolve into simply chasing media coverage, without efforts to leverage it into a bigger achievement.

As I’ve written about previously, the objective of public relations is not earned media coverage, in and of itself.

Earned media coverage is important but your real goal is how you properly leverage it. 

Your goal should be anchored in the realities of your business. Focusing only on the metrics of media success — reach, audience, engagement — gives you only one dimension of understanding.

Need to reinforce confidence in your company, and give your share prices a boost? You need to reach investors.

Want to establish yourself as a thought-leader who is sought after as a speaker and industry expert? You need to publicly build up your credibility in the spaces that matter to insiders of your industry.

Hope to have your company’s product or services front and centre in the minds of people most likely to pay for them? Then you need to reach those people in particular — not simply as many people as possible.

These are examples of truly business-anchored goals. 

Playing Cupid as PR Professionals

As PR professionals, one of our roles is playing Cupid.

We are matchmakers. We look for the perfect fit between the story our client wants to tell, and the platforms that reach their target audience.When we’re doing strategic PR planning, we need to remember this matchmaking role.

We can’t expect our client’s story to ‘click’ with every publication out there. We’re Cupid, and Cupid has to understand where to find the right fit.

That means knowing who the target audience is, what kinds of outlets will reach them, and whether or not the message, objective, and audience all line up.

Setting out your Stepping Stones

Once we’ve narrowed down our goals, and identified our target audience, strategic PR planning is about creating a path of stepping stones.

It becomes about creating opportunities to leverage the media coverage we’ve received. That’s why getting media coverage isn’t the final goal — because it’s actually the first of several stepping stones.

The road to getting coverage from national media (if that’s your goal) isn’t a straight line. Instead, it’s a ladder to climb..

If you’re starting from scratch, that journey might begin on social media, with simply getting a message out into the world.

Say your message gets heard by a local community newspaper or blog. An article from that small outlet starts building your credibility, and gets you noticed by the regional TV broadcaster. 

Make a good impression on that TV segment, and you can leverage that into an opportunity to write an op-ed for a regional paper.

Tell a compelling story on that mid-size platform, and we can use that to open doors to a keynote speaking opportunity. Knock it out of the park in that larger setting, and we can use that to go door-knocking at national outlets, to secure a spot on a panel or as a guest columnist.

And so on, and so on. In this way, instead of going in cold, by the time we get to the eye-popping media opportunities, we’ve built up the kind of track-record that makes those doors open.

That, in essence, is what making a strategic plan for your public relations campaign is all about. That’s what makes it a methodology, instead of aimless ambition.

It’s by making this methodology the foundation of everything we do that we can actually deliver results for our clients.

Without it, all we would have is empty promises — and as PR professionals, that’s not the business we are in.

Kamran Shaikh

Account Director

Team leader, master storyteller, media connoisseur and science, and technology geek with a penchant for rooting out success stories. Avid Golden State Warriors fan and field hockey player who loves good food and stimulating conversation. Strategic planner, team player, motivated by seeing clients in the headlines, being on the winning team, and working with the most imaginative team of professionals around.

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