Kickstart your 2021: PR and Communications plan

It’s no big secret that 2020—the most awaited year of perfect vision—was one of the biggest disappointments for most people. From bushfires, droughts and floods to COVID-19 and worldwide economic recession (and then for good measure, throw Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Brexit into the mix), there’s been no shortage of doom and gloom.

But—yes, there is a ‘but’—there’s always a silver lining. For some it’s easy to spot, for many others, not so much. But it’s there, whether you see it now or you realise it later.

From job redundancies came side hustles and , and from changed consumer behaviour came businesses that pivoted and found an unexpected foothold. From (likely involuntary) time off work came more quality time with the family. And from terribly difficult situations stuck between lockdown and loss of income came resilience and kindness from the community.

So while we look towards 2021 with renewed hope and vigour (fingers crossed), let’s also take in the lessons of 2020: forward planning, having Plans B and C, and resilience and adaptability.

Of these, a key thing to keep in mind is planning—and that includes your business’s PR and communications. Having a well-planned PR and comms strategy will help you achieve and manage consistent, valuable and engaging communication with your audience, which keeps you front of mind no matter what curveball the year may throw.

Here are some simple steps you can take in planning your PR and comms strategy for the year.

1. What do you need to say, why do you need to say it, and when?

Think about purpose and timing. Look at the year from a bird’s eye view—what key internal and external events are going to be happening? Are you going to be launching a new product or service? And will COVID-19 restrictions (if any) affect your business?

Consider what key brand message(s) and information you want to drive home over the year, and then map out what you need to communicate to your audience each month. And always have a crisis comms outline prepared (cause, y’know, COVID-19)—with information on how your business is operating safely (if applicable), and whether there will be any changes to your business’s operations (such as delivery times, operating hours, virtual meetings, etc).

2. Where do you want to say it, how will you connect with your audience?

How will you get your message across to your target audience? Will it be through your website, your social media accounts, guest spots on a podcast, or through news/media coverage?

Whatever the platform, consider these questions:

  • Where does my target audience spend the most time? Radio, magazines, podcasts, Facebook, Instagram?
  • Is my message going to be long or short? (If long, consider a blog platform, or through eDM.)
  • Is my message more corporate-ish than casual, and more suitable for people in the industry—or is the message meant for the layperson?

3. Schedule, create and share

Once you’ve locked down your key messages and have an idea of which platform to use to speak to your audience, you’ll need to come up with a content/comms schedule.

This may sound daunting, but start small—break the schedule up into 12 parts, one for each month. An easy, visual way to do this is to draw 12 boxes on a piece of paper.

At the top of this piece of paper, write down your overall PR/comms goal(s) for the year. This can simply be “Connect with target market”, “Increase brand awareness”, “Increase product/service exposure” or “Generate positive sentiment”.

Then, in each of the 12 boxes, write down a key event that will take place that month that’s relevant to your business (e.g. in January, the new year begins and businesses reopen [event]; this is relevant to my business because I want to reach out to other businesses and offer valuable advice that can help kickstart their year).

After that, write down two to three content topics for each month; this can look like any of the following:

These topics will serve as your brain food, for when you write that blog post/press release/social media post/podcast script.

Next, create your content (I know, I know, easier said than done), and share it!

4. Engage with your audience

After sharing your content, be sure to generate discussion and insightful participation by engaging with your audience. You can do this by responding meaningfully and sincerely to comments, or tag someone you know who could do with the information you’re sharing.

I know these four steps take way more effort than it sounds, but it’s worth it. Don’t stress if you can’t create content as quickly as other businesses, but still do it, and do it well—even just one piece of well-crafted content a month can help build your brand’s credibility and bring value to your target audience.

All the best, and sending lots of light for 2021! Till next time, x

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