New Year, New Plan – Using a PR Agency for Next-Level Strategic Planning

We’ve counted down and popped some champagne, so it must be true – it’s the New Year! With each New Year come resolutions – what will yours be this year? Will you eat healthy, get to the gym more or just resolve to smile? It’s great to make personal changes in the 2018, but consider what resolutions you can make for your organization as well. We at Bottom Line suggest a strategic planning resolution – don’t just prepare for a single new year, but three to five by creating a strategic plan!

A strategic plan is important to help set the direction, vision and expansion of your organization. Just like New Year’s resolutions, strategic plans don’t last forever. If five years—or more—have passed since your last planning session, it’s time to look at revising and changing your plan.

Not sure where to start? Here is a guide for achieving this New Year’s strategic planning resolution:

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Preparing

Like any good New Year’s resolution, begin your strategic planning by gathering ideas and establishing your organization’s goals, guiding principles and mission. These will reinforce the direction for your plan.

Next, gather information on your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, things going well and things to be improved. Engaging staff, decision makers and stakeholders can give you a diverse pool of information to analyze for key results and new ideas.

Planning

After information has been gathered and key takeaways have been identified, it’s time to gather to create your actual plan.

It’s important to ask a number of questions in your planning sessions: what do you want to accomplish? What will you do to get there? Who will be responsible, and how will you track if you’re making progress?

After these questions have been discussed and your ideas have been built on, it’s time to draft a plan to be shared with stakeholders and, eventually, finalized.

Implementing

Don’t let your strategic plan be something you write and forget. After it’s finalized, it’s time to put it into action!

Depending on the size of your organization, it’s likely not everyone was in the room for planning. If so, be sure to distribute the plan and explain it to all employees of your organization. Responsibilities also should be delegated to involved parties (action teams) by managers and leaders as specified in your plan.

Once the plan is in action, managers should make sure to track progress and monitor how successful the implementation has been.

Revising

Keep in mind, your strategic plan is a living document. If something isn’t working, change it!

Weekly or monthly meetings with managers and actions teams can reinforce goals, deadlines and responsibilities, and reporting on what’s working and what isn’t can help keep the plan up-to-date. If major changes need to be made, you may need to reconvene planning groups to make changes, update your plan and circulate those changes to employees throughout your organization.

Resolve to better yourself and your organization this New Year. Hiring an external public relations agency can make a world of difference in your strategic plan. Our approach is flexible, offering everything from day-long planning sessions to several shorter sessions spaced out over months to match your organization’s resources.

Give us a call! Our best practice strategic planning process and third-party facilitation will guide your team to a tangible plan and a path to begin executing that plan, helping your organization make serious changes in 2018.

Elevate Your Brand in Today’s “Trust Gap” World: PR Answers the Call

Trust GapPublic relations can deliver the authenticity and distinctiveness to elevate a brand, bridging the trust gap in today’s world in ways that advertising cannot. Numerous studies over the years have suggested that public relations often may be more important to building and maintaining brand value than advertising, especially for purchasing decisions related to complex products and services.

Consumers are demanding greater transparency in nearly all aspects of public life: transactions in the financial services industry, executive compensation, government spending, even transparency for social networking websites. In this environment, the most effective messages likely will be those that are transmitted through trusted third parties or by word-of-mouth.

As third-party validation becomes more important, public relations also matters more to brand value. In a recent Nielsen report, researchers asked consumers what factors would increase confidence in the safety and soundness of their financial institution. Only 21 to 25 percent reported that consistently seeing internet and regular advertising would boost their confidence. Nearly 45 percent of consumers reported that reading positive news stories would increase their confidence.

A recent study by Content Analytics assessed how both earned media and advertising spend contribute to brand value. By looking at the relationship between brand value, the study found that media prominence accounts for 27 percent of the variation in a brand’s value compared to only 2.3 percent for advertising. For perspective, research using similar methodology has demonstrated that high SAT scores account for only 10 to 20 percent of the variation in whether or not the first-year college student will earn a high GPA. 

In his book, Unleashing the Power of PR, Mark Weiner reported on AT&T’s marketing mix. In the model, he compared public relations to outbound telemarketing, direct marketing and advertising. The model revealed that positive media coverage of AT&T increased the success of other marketing efforts, but the effects were not reciprocal.

A key takeaway: the more complex purchasing decisions a product requires, the more likely it is that buyers will research the category and seek information that they can trust. The current cultural tensions and the economy only serve to amplify the importance of trust and marketing via third-party influencers and neutral venues. These third parties vary widely, from mainstream media to blog, to forums to friends, but consumers are going to rely more and more on trusted third parties for advice.

The bottom line: public relations can be just as effective, and often more cost-efficient, than advertising for building long-term brand value. How are you using public relations to build brand value, both short and long term? Let’s have a conversation.