Greatest Accomplishment, Goals and Objectives: The Second Steps in the Modern Communications Plan

Once you have determined your vision for your effort, identifying a “greatest accomplishment” and goals and objectives should be next.

The “greatest accomplishment” section is short. It could be one line or even one word. What is the single most important communication achievement that your organization or project can achieve?

An example would be for a business or industry is to have changed a particular conversation in its marketplace or introduce a new idea. But name the change or idea. Don’t let it remain nebulous.

If you are successful, what will have occurred very specifically? Make it achievable, but also hard. Contrary to popular belief, “hard” can be quite motivating for a team if they are given sufficient resources and structure. Identify a “holy grail” moment for your team and you will have incentivized the game.

Next, identify at least three goals and objectives.

We define goals as things you reach. They are milestones such as audience numbers, a specific partnership formalized or specific media attention. Again, how will you know you are successful? Where are you now and where do you want to be? How will you know you’ve “arrived?”

Objectives are things you create, such as introducing a new conversation that takes hold in the public discourse or a certain status for your organization. What will be different if you are successful? How will your organization, your industry, a certain audience or your team be changed?

One note: We realize some people have differing definitions of goals and objectives. But these work for us and our programs. As long as your team is on the same page, you’re golden.

Part Two of the Modern Communications

Your Vision: The First Step in the Modern Communications Plan

Just like you wouldn’t go on vacation without knowing your destination, you shouldn’t launch any communications effort without knowing where you’d like to land. This is at the heart of Your Vision.

We suggest one line or up to one paragraph that shows how you want the organization, its work and its people to be known at some point in the future. Often we ask our clients these questions to help them identify their vision:

  • In five years, where do you want this organization to be? Get specific from number of employees (if any), products launched, services rendered, legacy left behind, market share and position, and even your size.
  • If you meet your business and communication goals, what will exist? In other words, what do you want to leave behind when your communications effort and projects are complete?
  • How will your target audiences be better off when you reach your goals? What problems will you have solved in five years because you succeeded?

Having a solid vision statement will help everyone keep their eyes on the prize, as the cliché goes. Without one, you could find yourself being pulled in directions that lead to nowhere.

A Template for the Modern Communications Plan

Beyond the usual strategy and tactics (reaching out to reporters, attending trade shows, etc.), what are some of the things that need to be considered as part of today’s communications planning? Below is a template that we use for planning our client’s overall communications and special projects. Throughout the summer, I’ll blog about each part, including providing questions that need your answers, tips and techniques, and identifying the big changes taking place in the world of mass communications.

1. Vision
This section is a one paragraph answer to how the organization wants to be known. Or, if it is a project, what do we want to leave behind when the project is complete? An example would be for a nonprofit organization to be the “go to” source on all things related to their cause.

2. Goals and Objectives
This section differs from the greatest accomplishment in that goals are things you reach (milestones such as audience numbers) and objectives are things you create (happenings from new conversations and ways of thinking to a certain status).

2a. Our Greatest Accomplishment
This section highlights the single most important communication accomplishment that the organization or project can achieve. An example would be for an organization to have changed a particular conversation in its marketplace or to introduce a new idea.

3. Target Audience
This section can include demographic data, market research, and other information that showcases who you are communicating to.

4. Main Communications Channels
This section should describe the main channels (social channels, traditional, media outlets, events and shows and more) that you are going to use to push our your information, thought leadership and ideas.

5. Strategies
This section discusses the main strategies employed and why. Employing social media, engaging in media relations, community relations, holding events, launching a new “theme” for your industry — these are some tried-and-true strategies you’ll find in a plan.

6. Main Tactics
This section is the action plan. It answers what you are going to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to move the communications effort forward. Hold contests on Facebook? Develop a PSA series? Provide stakeholders with toolkits to help spread the word? this section houses the details.

7. “We Won’t” List
This section does precisely what the title says. Knowing what you will not focus your attention on (but could) is vital to ensuring focus.

8. Content Strategy
The section addresses how you are going to assess, develop and manage the ideas, thoughts and content you will use to direct conversations, viewpoints and reputation and image.

9. Positioning, Messaging & Storytelling
This section should include your message guide, from a positioning statement, value proposition to spotlight pitch on the organization or project. It sets the message tone so everyone is clear on what you are going to say and how.

10. Monitoring & Measurement
This section, one of the most well-intentioned but often ignored areas, will go into how to tell how you are doing and how to share that with managers, executive teams and other stakeholders.

11. Team Players.
This section will identify – by name – who is going to design and implement the plan.

12. Timeline.
How are you going to ensure your company will use it? There is no sense in having a communications plan if you aren’t going to use it, so plan out your activities. Set dates.

Lucky number 13: How much money are you willing to spend? The reason there is no formal section above is because, in my 30 years of experience, every organization is different around money. Some know exactly how much they want to spend and will tell you up front. Others wish to see a plan with a budget attached before making a decision. Regardless, began to talk about money early and as the above template unfolds. The plan will usually tell you how much you need to spend to be effective. Decisions can be made from there.

The #1 PR Trend to Watch in 2014

Are we done with all the “top trends” and “top ten” lists for 2014 yet? I waited a few weeks to let the noise die down before putting forth our own predictions for 2014. Now, after talking to colleagues in the industry, as well as a dozen or so executives, one trend seems to be rising above all others.

Quality over quantity.

If you aren’t producing quality content, speaking to the right people in the right venues, and earning media attention that is seen by your most important customers, now and in the future, why bother? Gone are the days of scooping up a hundred earned media articles on you and your company and declaring success. What did that coverage do? Did it reach who you needed it to?

Ask yourself those last two questions when considering public relations strategies and tactics.

You might realize an enviable SEO position – for one day – with numbers. You might see a surge in phone calls or see your Web site visits rise for a time. But, none of it will sustain a business’s reputation and image without a fundamental commitment to quality. This means robust stories in media that make a difference to you. The right people as spokespeople who know how to engage audiences. Quality business values that connect with customers. Content that engages, gets passed around, discussed and kept for future reference.

(Oh, and it should go without saying you’re providing a superior service or product.)

Wise leaders not only know this basic tenet for longevity, they act on it. What are you doing in 2014 to boost the quality of everything you do — especially in the realm of public relations?

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Public Relations Questions To Answer For Results in 2014

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve added a new blog post. However, the reason is why this new post exists. We’ve been very busy at Four Leaf, readying several major client announcements for the Fall. What many business leaders may not realize is this: to announce something in October, you need to start in April. Hence, Four Leaf’s all-hands-on-deck craziness that ensued this summer to make sure everything goes smoothly for said clients in coming weeks.

So, want to start 2014 with a bang? Now’s the time to think about any initiatives you want to debut, make known or push forward in January. Below are five steps to take to make first quarter 2014 a time to remember.

1. How do you want people to think about you and your initiatives in January?

2. Who is going to be the most important person or group for you in 2014? Has it changed from 2013?

3. Do you know what makes your best customers sit up and take notice? (i.e. Your ability to provide a “personal touch,” your commitment to excellence, your price point, etc.)

4. What content (i.e. thought leadership, tutorial information, helpful messages) will they need to understand how you’re better and different? Are you prepared to deliver it by January?

5. How will you get the word out to them? No, really. How? Advertising, PR, social channels, marketing, direct sales, CEO-to-CEO*? Will that put you ahead of your competitors?

*Intrigued by CEO-to-CEO? We’ll blog on this soon.

 

What Not To Worry About

We are about six weeks into the new year and thought it was high time to check in. While most are sharing how they think the new year is shaping up, we’re taking a different tact.  Rather than rehash the same old public relations trends, we’re going to share the things you needn’t worry about, communications wise, in 2013.

1. How many people are in your social networks. Really. The question is, do you have the right people following you, posting on your channels, and engaging with you?

2. How many awards you are winning. Kudos are nice. But, do you have the clients you want? Do you have the kind of work you want? Are you being profitable?

3. How much volunteer work you are doing. We are all for pro bono work. We do much of it ourselves. But, are you ignoring your profitable work for affairs of the heart?

4. When you are working. Yes, you should be available when clents need you. But, when does your best work happen? Work then.

5. If Washington, Wall Street and Main Street will work it out. If you watch enough news you might want to throw in the towel (or other things). Ask yourself, am I doing the best I can today and are we making progress?

Starting Off The New Year Right

Happy new year to you and yours! At Four Leaf, we make a habit of starting off each new year in retrospect. What worked? What didn’t? How did our outcomes for clients compare to the year before? Did anything take us by surprise? If we could anything over, what would it be, and why?

As you wrap up 2012 and start fresh this month, what questions will be you be asking yourself? January is a terrific time to conduct a communications audit, especially if you haven’t taken stock of the image you are portraying, the reputation you’ve been building, and the stories you’ve been telling – even indirectly – over the last 12 months.

  1. What are the top 5 stories about you or you company that you tried to tell in 2012? How were they received? Did they impact your brand or reputation?
  2. How did your media coverage, social media presence, thought leadership and marketing outreach fare compared to the year prior? Did you see an increased number of conversations, media mentions and requests for more information?
  3. Do your stories and messages, graphic identity and marketing outreach activities “match” and support one another? Or did everything grow “organically and you now have a patchwork quilt?
  4. Do you know who you are trying to reach? And, how did you inform them of your business?
  5. How did your communications effort fare against the competitor’s communications?

Answer these five questions and you’ll be on your way to better understanding where you should invest in communications (or not) in 2013.

Yes, You Can Measure Communications Against Specific Objectives. Here’s How

On Tuesday, I wrote about communications measurement and how influence, attitude and behavior change should be measured in addition to eyeballs, butts in seats, clicks and follows. Number of followers, re-tweets, event attendance and web site spikes are all well and good. But, to sustain any real impact from a communications effort, you need to know how much your communications are influencing an audience’s way of thinking and acting. Below are just a few ways to measure against the top 6 communications objectives.

Objective 1: Visibility (positioning and awareness)
Ways to measure:
• Before and after surveys
• Focus groups
• Social media conversations, particularly changes in message, penetration and sharing
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), including competitors’ placements and messages, message penetration, tone, and coverage compared to competitors
• Blog and article comments
• Web site statistics

Objective 2: Influence and persuasion (issues management, attitude and behavior changes)
Ways to measure:
• Before and after surveys
• Focus groups
• Social media conversations, particularly changes in message, penetration and sharing
• Blog and article comments
• Comparisons of competitor services and products to yours
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), including competitors’ placements and messages, message penetration, tone, and coverage compared to competitors
• Opinion polls
• Rulings, policies and legislation on issues
• Sales of services and products in your industry, overall

Objective 3: Volume attention (sales, attendance, web and social media traffic)
Ways to measure:
• Sales volume (spikes or dips before, during and after campaigns)
• Incoming calls and e-mails
• Event attendance
• Web and blog traffic
• Sudden increases of fans, followers and subscribers of social channels
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), particularly in trade niches
• Google statistics

Objective 4: Recognition & Appreciation (kudos, awards, sales support)
Ways to measure:
• Number of new, warm leads
• Sales force feedback
• Unsolicited RFPs earned
• Number of referrals
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), particularly in trade niches
• Media coverage analysis (against competitor media coverage)
• Key message delivery through media and social channels
• Number of “shares” of presentations, PowerPoints and slide shows via online channels

Objective 5: Employee recruiting and retention/employee communication
Ways to measure:
• Number of unsolicited resumes and outreach received from potential employees
• Number of resumes and outreach received from job postings
• Employee surveys
• Comparison of media and social channel coverage of organization (particularly employee sentiment)
• Awards for “best places to work” and the like
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), particularly in trade niches
• Overall retention rates

Objective 6: Investor perception (stock value, investor and analyst attention)
Ways to measure:
• Stock trading volume and activity in relation to communications campaign
• Analyst and adviser recommendations
• Analyst surveys
• P/E multiple in relation to peer group and competitors
• Stock price volatility relative to peer group and competitors
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), particularly in business and financial press
• Media coverage analysis of analyst commentary

How do you measure the effectiveness of your communications?

Communications Measurement Is About Showing Progress, Not Just Number Of Followers

Measuring the value and promise of communications and PR, in particular, has been an ongoing conversation in organizations, in board rooms and in the industry itself. Everybody wants it, not many know how to do it.

Getting crystal clear on your objectives is job number one. There are many reasons to have a communications effort:
• Visibility (positioning and awareness)
• Influence and persuasion (issues management, attitude and behavior changes)
• Volume attention (sales, attendance, web and social media traffic)
• Recognition & appreciation (kudos, awards, sales support)
• Employee recruiting and retention/employee communication
• Investor perception (stock value, investor and analyst attention)

From there, more exact goals and objectives should be identified. It’s not enough to just say you want to generate buzz. (Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries did that just fine, but was that kind of visibility a goal? Well, maybe.) You need to be more specific. This will help you focus on the impact that is made over just volume attention.

Next, identify what would directly and what would indirectly identify the impact a communications outcome will have.

For instance, if one of your goals is to develop a stronger pipeline of sales leads, you may engage in a speaking engagement program where you speak at many seminars and conferences where potential customers attend. Attendance at those events, number of after-presentation conversations, and web site statistics spiking (or not) are typical measurements. But those measurements don’t really identify the impact your speech had on the potential clients’ way of thinking, their conversations with peers after the event and what they tweeted, posted or commented upon online after your presentation was different than what they believed before, and how that unidentified reporter sitting way in the back changed his story because of what you said.

Numbers are good. But, numbers with the additional layer of attitude and behavior changes are better. How do you do that?

Furthering our measurement program for developing a more robust sales pipeline, other measurements to include would be:
• Before and after surveys (of conference attendees) (What piqued their interest?)
• Focus groups (Have beliefs and behaviors changed?)
• Feedback from the sales force before the year of conference hopping and after (Did they notice any changes?)
• Conference media coverage (Did it include you or rather instead include the competition?)
• Google analytics summaries (Did traffic come from the conferences?)
• Media, blog and social channel “audits” before and after a year of conference appearances (Did the conversation change?)

In the end, communication efforts take time to influence. Measurement takes time, too. But, the investment of resources, including your time and energy, is well worth the labor.

On Thursday, I’ll take each macro objective and provide a list of potential measurements to consider.

How To Know It Is Time For Public Relations

I often hear from colleagues that they believe public relations (though they don’t always call it that) is as important as managing a business’ finances. Yet, when it comes time to actually launch a formal communications effort, suddenly PR is a “nice to have, but not necessary” activity. I have been a professional communicator for more than 25 years. To save you lost time, if you have any of the symptoms below you need to run, not walk, to the nearest PR firm. You are missing or losing business every day.

  • You can’t remember or seem to focus your message. Or worse, it changes every few weeks.
  • You see or read about your competition more often than you read or see your own company’s news.
  • You repeatedly hear surprise from potential customers that you exist or that you offer what you offer.
  • You hear things out of your employees mouths on the phone, in trade show booths, in the media, and in sales calls that make you wonder who they work for (because it can’t be your company).
  • Your Web site hasn’t gone uder a message and content refresh in more than 5 years.
  • People are talking about you, publicly, and you feel it isn’t too bad so why get into it?
  • You think social media is for the birds and just a fad.
  • You have no communications staff, haven’t hired any communications help, and trust that everyone is just “doing their best at telling our story” and that “good enough is enough.”

But, this wouldn’t apply to you, would it?