Written by Rob Smith
Benjamin Franklin, one of the most instantly recognisable Founding Fathers of the USA, coined a phrase that has echoed down the ages. The statement “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” may not be the reason Franklin features on the $100 bill, but its meaning and significance is as, if not more, poignant in the modern age as it was in the 18th Century.
With the seemingly unstoppable rise of instant, modern communications, planning is at the forefront of effective and impactful brand engagement.
Opinions can swirl around social media, stories can be published with the click of a button and there is more noise now than ever before. The best way to ensure your voice is heard, therefore? Planning.
Planning may be arduous and far from glamorous, but it is an absolute necessity because without a plan, how can communications stick to the industry’s favourite buzzword – strategy?
Strategy – a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim – may be bandied about by armchair generals, but its role in delivering desired results is of paramount importance. Although a Brobdingnagian topic to tackle as a whole, an important facet of strategy and planning is good timing.
Good timing is very important and what’s vital to remember is that, with hard work and a refusal to say “that’ll do”, it’s actually rather simple and can be achieved with the following:
A calendar of events and key dates should be the first item to create prior to any significant campaigns.
No two clients will have exactly the same calendars, but most plans of attack will revolve around regional, industry-specific and trade dates alongside important national events and announcements.
Certain national events will have potential for most organisations. Events including the Budget and the Queen’s speech at the State Opening of Parliament, for example, will more often than not have something for most industries to comment on. An increase in VAT is another – how will this affect the leisure industry? Infrastructure? Retail? Logistics? The list is almost inexhaustible because most announcements of this ilk will concern money.
Around these opportunities, a calendar should then include items such as relevant trade events, shows, charity awareness days and assorted regional events and opportunities.
These occasions can help communications professionals by providing the opportunity to actually action a paradox – to react proactively. By having something to say in reserve – ahead of the identified diary date – organisations can seize the initiative and get their comment in ahead of the competition.
No, you’re wrong on this one – it’s the forward feature schedule. Publications often adhere to an annual calendar of features which are published on their website. These dates are just as important as the identification of events to “react” to because with a simple phone call, you can ensure that your client is quoted on an important industry topic.
What’s more, if you know what’s going to be written about in July when you’ve just passed New Year, you have plenty of time to accurately research and interview and really get into the communications bread and butter.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is a constant maelstrom of media activity and even the greatest communications professionals can be caught on the hop. With a concrete plan in place, however, issues can be predicted ahead of them happening. That being said, a crisis communications procedure and an understood chain of communication is very important, and once again feeds into the importance of planning and preparation, which Ben Franklin so astutely observed all those years ago.