It amazes me how strategically plan-less we are most of the time; especially when it comes to public relations and marketing. I think most of us realize how important it is to have a plan and even undertake the planning process, but then fail to actually use the plan. So we end up with a bunch of not-started or half-finished plans clogging our file cabinets and computer folders. Not to the mention chaotic, ad-hoc, disorganized work processes and little idea of what we are actually accomplishing.
I’ve seen large organizations undertake costly and time-consuming strategic planning processes only to post to a website and promptly forget about it. This creates huge problems for an organization when it comes to efficiency and innovation, for how are we to get better when we don’t know where we’ve been? Not only that, but there can be no building on previous successes when people leave and new people are hired. You end up starting from scratch every time.
Equally, I’ve seen small businesses fail to get off the ground because they fail to implement and follow their carefully laid plans. Usually it’s because the owner gets too busy, or perhaps lacks confidence in their marketing skills. But, without following a good marketing plan, no small business can reach their potential, especially in the long-run. For perhaps you have enough business now, but what about next month/year? If you don’t know how best to attract and retain new customers, you’ll be in trouble.
So here are my top five ways to increase the likelihood that you will keep yourself on track and actually use your plan:
1. Realize that even the best plan will change over time. It’s OK to make changes to a plan. When we write a plan, we can only use the best information we have at that moment. As we get new information, it’s important to incorporate that into the plan or we will only compound any problems with it and render it irrelevant. Don’t throw it out, adapt!
2. Be flexible. Allow for activities and budget items to be added or subtracted as necessary. Keep in reserve some time and resources to allow for situational opportunities (i.e. those that pop-up unexpectedly) as they occur over the course of a year, and they always do. You can’t plan for everything.
3. Build-in accountability. As part of your plan, include scheduled plan reviews when you gather and evaluate the data you have received so far. Go over what has happened vs. what the plan called for, identify what changes may need to be made, and make adjustments as necessary. These quarterly reviews have the added benefit of making end-of-year reporting so much easier!
4. Keep the plan visible. Have the planning document easily available and make sure that all appropriate stakeholders have read it (whether they are directly involved or not). Transparency with regards to your goals and objectives is important to facilitate common understanding. Your strategic plan should never be a secret.
5. Simple plans work best. When you are creating your plan, don’t overwhelm it with details and don’t make it 20 pages long. Your strategic plan is an overview of your activities for the year, and it shouldn’t get too detailed. Create separate working plans and action-item matrices to keep track of the specifics. Always follow the KISS rule!
Hopefully these tips will help you take another look at how to keep your strategic plans useful and relevant. If I’m jumping ahead, and you’re still stuck on getting your public relations and marketing plan completed, check out my series of posts on creating your plan starting here. If you’d like my help, fill out the form below and I’ll get back to you pronto!