PR Wars Podcast: Writing a communications plan

Communication planning will help you get better results. PR consultant, Isabel Peña Alfaro is our guest on the PR Wars podcast today. We’ll learn how to focus on the priorities, while we write some fun into a 2021 communications plan.

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Announcer
It’s time. Welcome to PR Wars coming at you live from Atlanta, Georgia. Now, here is your host… Chris Shigas.

Chris Shigas
Hey everyone! Welcome to PR Wars. It’s 2021 and I’m Chris Shigas. Thanks for listening. Yogi Berra said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Well, communication planning is difficult. It takes thought, strategy, patience. If you love to run around and do cool tactics, it feels like planning just gets in the way. But planning will keep you focused. It will force you to prioritize those tasks, on things that move the needle. Tactics that make an impact. Our guest on PR Wars today has worked for a couple of the largest PR agencies in the world. Her clients are big. I mean, like fortune 10, kind of big. Now she’s a PR consultant in New York. Her website is IsabelPenaAlfaro.com. Welcome to the show, Isabel Peña Alfaro. Isabel, thank you so much for joining us on PR wars today.

Isabel Peña Alfaro
Thanks so much for having me excited to be here.

Chris Shigas
Here we are the beginning of a new year. Right. Everyone’s hopeful This one’s gonna be a good one. All right. Well, so far, it’s been a little shaky, but it’s gonna get better. Planning. Yeah. All right. It’s something that maybe people don’t like to do a lot. I’m a big believer in planning. How about you?

Isabel Peña Alfaro
You know, planning is not necessarily the most exciting or sexy thing about PR. But getting results is super exciting. So the way to get those results is by planning and having a really good strategy and backbone to how you’re going to execute. Hmm. Yeah, I like the exercise of planning. I think even even a bad plan is better than no plan. Because because it gets you thinking, What am I doing? What Why am I doing this? What does success look like? Right? There’s all kinds of plants that sometimes plants don’t wake at work out. And you have to change. We learned that in 2020. Right? If I look at my January 2020 plan, it was very different than my July 2020 plan. It’s a new year, I need a new plan. Where do I start?

Yeah, that’s a great, that’s a great question. So you know, the place to start is really to hone in on the priorities. So a PR plan doesn’t necessarily exist on its own, you have to really communicate with the team and figure out what the business priority is. So you start there, and then you move into objectives, tactics, benchmarks or goals, and then the annex section.

Chris Shigas
Mm hmm. So at the beginning with with your priorities, these are kind of some broad objectives that that you’re really looking at, of what you want to accomplish. Are these at this point? Are these are these meant measurable? Are they more inspirational?

Isabel Peña Alfaro
They are, they’re more inspirational, and they go back to the business. So they’re usually business strategies. So when we talk about priorities in a communications plan, it’s the one piece that is not necessarily about communications, it’s more about the business priority or the company priority. And so so you ask questions, like, what is the company’s mission right now? Or what is one piece of our business that our constituents and stakeholders should know about? But don’t necessarily know? And then, in the plan you get into, okay, how can communications drive that goal?

Chris Shigas
Okay, yeah, I understand. So you’re looking at how communications fits into the broader business picture. And so once you start looking at, okay, what are some of the objectives, my communications can help support that priority? Right. Right, and you’ve worked with agencies before to what I would think is that you’ve done a lot of different plans for a lot of different types of industries and verticals, what are some common threads that you see when you’re trying to build some objectives that you can measure? What are some of the KPIs the sum of the measurements that that you will really want to make sure that your objectives address?

Isabel Peña Alfaro
Yeah, so in your objectives, you get into two or three things that you want to accomplish. So what you want to do in the objective objective section is get very clear and not necessarily go into, you know, in a million directions, you want to get very strategic and think, okay, How can two objectives or three objectives be the center of where I’m going to go from there? So, for example, you know, one of your objectives can be engage audiences, such as consumer media investors, non NGOs, and your own employees through thought leadership. So that’s it, you know, you’re not going to get very, very granular yet you just get that objective is going to be you know, your audiences and thought leadership. And that’s, so that’s one objective. And then you can say, okay, what’s another objective that will again, drive back to my priority, the business priority. So it can be something like, you strengthen your internal and external networks through third party organizations, so that it’s not just your company talking about you. But it’s those third parties now talking about you, in a positive way, of course.

Chris Shigas
And that’s really what public relations is right? To get a third party to give you credibility, right. Whether it’s the media, or a influencer, or maybe a analyst, you know, who’s talking about your company, at this stage? Do you find that most companies go too big or too small? object with the objectives? Yeah. Are they trying to accomplish too much here? Or are they maybe not trying to accomplish enough? What are you seeing as far as the typical mistakes in limiting your objectives?

Isabel Peña Alfaro
Typically, it goes too far out. So you know, trying to do too much, right. And so I think that’s where you always have to think back to the business priority, it’s because, you know, you can go in a million directions. So you, you hone in and you say, Okay, how am I going to achieve that, and then you also want to think about what your resources are and how big your team is. So, you know, when your objectives you, you drill in on that, but you think, Okay, how are we going to do that with the resources that we have in a smart way? Because, you know, you can go very broad, but it can be sort of a thin, thin layer versus having those very strong objectives, and then just drilling in and trying to get those results.

Chris Shigas
Yes, sometimes when you’re looking at the, the measurables on an on an objective, and you go back and you say, Okay, well, what we really want to do is raise the number of impressions for our brand, if that doesn’t support your priority. For example, a trade magazine might have a very limited number of impressions, but it reaches a very specific target audience for you. Otherwise, you just say, hey, let’s buy a superbowl commercial, because that’ll have a lot of impressions. And then I accomplished my plan.

Isabel Peña Alfaro
Right, right. So you know, it’s really about the quality and the communication and also the engagement. Because you know, if you’re engaging with an audience, you a lot of times you want to create a, you start a communication between both parties. So so it’s more about the quality, then, like you said, then the quantity.

Chris Shigas
So now you have these business priorities. And now you’ve outlined some communication objectives to help support that, now we get to the fun part. NASA tactics, right? Yeah, boy, it’s just seems like this big giant bag of tricks that anybody can pull out and do whatever. How do you get your arms around? Oh, we got all these tactics we want to do, do they align with our objectives? We have a limited amount of budget. Do we want a lot of tactics? Do we want inexpensive tactics? Do we want one big expensive too? How do you even approach this?

Isabel Peña Alfaro
Yeah, so this is the part where you can get really creative and part of being creative is how to use those dollars. And also how to use your creativity so that every piece of coverage that you get or every piece of PR that you get, you give it the legs that it deserves. So you know for example, if you get a story How are you going to get it across different channels so that you give that visibility, that extra visibility to that piece of coverage. So in the tactics, you put in all the different ways that you’re going to do this, you get into the nitty gritty of how you will execute. And you really getting granular on everything, including, you know, what types of platforms you’re going to be in, like you said, are you going to do trade magazines versus, you know, national media publications? Are you going to engage influencers? Are they are they going to be paid or not? You get into all of those things, and, and you just lay it all out?

Chris Shigas
One thing I’ve noticed when I was working with an agency, when you’re looking at tactics, it’s easy to get in a rut, and you have the stable of clients. And sometimes you tend to put in tactics, because those are the tactics you’re comfortable with. Right? And, and you you recommend that this client, oh, you should do these tactics? And then you get the next client? Oh, yeah, you should do these tasks. And I just curious, working with agencies and things like that now as a consultant, how do you get yourself out of that rut? To expand your scope of services, to really look at your bag of tricks and tactics and and how to make that really relevant to those objectives?

Isabel Peña Alfaro
Yes, I agree with you completely, you can get into this rut of always putting in what you know, you will achieve, yeah. But, you know, it’s kind of like in fitness. If you say, Okay, I’m good. My next goal is to do 10 push ups without stopping. But you know, that you can do 12 push ups, no problem. So then what’s the fun of it, you know, you get to the gym, you do your 12 push ups, and you’re done. And that’s it. And so you’re taking out the fun in the whole process. So what I would say to that is, be real with your, with your goals, because it’s part of the fun that you that you that you’re gonna have with your, you know, with your own plan. And

Chris Shigas
I love that I love that idea of having fun with your own plan. And it’s kind of like, yeah, you can have your, your stable block of tactics, the blocking and tackling and the media relations or whatever, but put in a little, something, a little cherry on top, a little sprinkle chocolate on it, something that’s gonna make it plain five, might not be the center of your plan. But maybe something that is a pilot that you can experiment with have fun. And if it works, you just added a tactic to your toolkit. And yeah,

Isabel Peña Alfaro
yeah, yeah. And, and, you know, really, it’s about not letting your fears drive your goal setting. In other words, you know, not letting your limiting your failure, your fears of failure of not, you know, not accomplishing what you those limiting beliefs about what you’re capable of achieving, drive your goal setting right?

Chris Shigas
Now, tell me about this idea of annex. I’m not familiar with this word for this. So So give me a little bit about your thoughts about this, this part of your plan.

Isabel Peña Alfaro
The annex is another part that is not necessarily it doesn’t sound exciting, but it is very, it’s so useful, because this is where you put all the extra detail. So you add in, for example, you add in a calendar, and you put in what you know, is coming up each month, and you might not have all the details for every month of the year, but you know that you know, your earning season. For example, if you have earnings in your company, you might have some industry events. So you can add that. And you can also add a list of reporters. And this you know, going back to the goal setting that we were talking about, you can add a list of those reporters that you want to start reaching out to or networks that you might not be in touch with that you want to start communicating with, you might have put all your ideas down in January, but by March, you forgot what what ideas you had in January. So the annex is super important because it it it is a a roadmap to to getting to your goal. And the annex is really where you put all your details. So it’s gonna be really helpful as you go through the year.

Chris Shigas
And that’s wonderful because here’s, here’s the number one crime that happens with plans is you spend a month on this thing, you plan everything out, and then when you’re done, you present it to your boss, you stick it in a drawer and you never look at it again. Right? Like that’s a crime. This should be a living, breathing. breathing document. Right? How do you keep your plan alive throughout the year?

Isabel Peña Alfaro
Yeah, the the key to the plan is printing it and referring back to it daily, and having it next to you on your workstation. And like you said, it’s a it’s a breathing document. So every day you’re adding, adding things to it taking things away, and you do a whole refresh of it at least once a quarter. While it might not change drastically, you are looking at it through the lens of Okay, what needs to be adjusted, including the goals and what can we change to strengthen the whole plan, right.

Chris Shigas
And you know, when I really love taking out a plan, after you do a giant initiative, when you do a big tactic and everyone’s happy and you’re patting yourself on the back, you don’t want to lose momentum. That’s the perfect time to pull out your plan and go Okay, what’s next? Right?

Isabel Peña Alfaro
Absolutely. Yeah, yeah, once you have the momentum, you want to keep going and you know, we’ve been talking about that goal setting and executing and just when you got that when is when you are so expect dreams and, and you know, those it’s not just about you achieving that dream that you had or that goal, it’s about getting your entire team behind that goal and together, reaching that and and you know, achieving what you want for you and your business.

Chris Shigas
Wow, Isabelle, thank you so much for talking to us about planning today. I really appreciate it.

Isabel Peña Alfaro
Thanks so much for having me. I had so much fun. Awesome.

Chris Shigas
You can watch a new episode of PR Wars every Sunday night at 8pm. I want to thank Isabel Peña Alfaro. Her website is IsabelPenaAlfaro.com. Do me a favor. When you’re writing your 2021 plan, keep it focused on the priorities. But don’t forget, sprinkle in some fun. If the plan is boring. The work will be boring. Make your plan shine, and be a PR superstar. Now go get ’em.

PR Wars was selected as a Top PR Podcast You Must Follow in 2020 by Feedspot.

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