Do you need to download specific software or apps for PR plans? What information goes in a PR plan? What are the most user-friendly, simple PR plans we should be using?
I was delighted to run a PR Planning workshop for Female Fusion on Thursday, and the lovely ladies I met were really enthusiastic – so much so they’ve requested another session in a few weeks to allow them to develop their plans on their own and then come back to me to review them and hold them accountable! It was so inspiring and refreshing to have them suggest such a great initiative – I can’t wait to see what their plans will look like!
For now though, I thought it might be interesting to explore what a PR plan should actually look like, and what format should be used, as this was probably the most pressing question of the day.
There is an array of great planning tools that can be used to create your plans, share them with teams and hold people accountable, however from the feedback I had from the group, who were all independents or small business owners, they were looking for a very simple way to get started. For me, this would have to be a standard GANTT chart, where you list the different campaigns/themes (ie New product launch, Christmas promotions, big exhibition) down one side as sub-headers, with all of the activities (ie Press release, interviews, blog post, newsletter, YouTube video) underneath, and then the dates across the top, as weeks. You then colour block the corresponding weeks to show what will happen when. You can also include the actual start and end dates (to be more specific), and the person responsible, to ensure clear accountability and easy follow up.
Once you have your overarching PR/comms plan established, it can be broken down into various project plans, or weekly Work in Progress plans, depending on how you structure your reporting and teamwork.
The other critical document, particularly for those working a lot online with social media, websites, blogs, newsletters, etc, would be a conversation calendar. Again, there are a number of great software options available that allow you to plan, update, schedule and track your communications, however I personally always like to have something separate to refer back to – particularly if I need to be sharing it with client and partners.
If you’re looking to keep things simple, yet again I would turn to Excel to create a simple calendar with dates down the side and the different platforms, with their own timings, across the top. I like to keep a line spare underneath each post to detail the name of the image to be used with the post. You can also include a column for the news themes, events, holidays and awareness days to remind you of topical themes you should be posting about that week. I find it easier to have one sheet for the year, with the first tab being the template (too how what days of the week I post which topics/types of post – and I find it helpful to colour code these), and then I do a tab for each year – using the template to get each month’s calendar started.
As with any business tool you use however, it has to work for you. We all have different needs and preferred ways of working, and there is therefore no right or wrong way. What I would say is that you want something easy to use and update, to ensure that even when things get busy you keep using it. It also needs to be in a format that you can brief others on, and that other people can easily understand and edit as your team grows.
It’s worth taking the time now to do some research and play around to see what works for you, I have been using PR plans and calendars for 17 years across different organisations, agencies and myself as a freelancer, and every year I still end up tweaking my templates and updating them – it’s a continual evolution!
Do let me know if there are any formats you particularly recommend, or if you’d like any advice or support in creating your own. Once I meet with my group again in a few weeks I can share their feedback and any hybrid plan templates that have evolved as a result!