Step 1: The Basic Approach
PR and communications strategy plans are unique in many ways, but all the successful plans share certain characteristics. A template can be followed to increase the odds that the plan you create is correct, but such a template cannot be a simple fill-in-the-blanks process. In fact, many of the key steps in creating a plan are intellectual only: preliminary thinking that must occur prior to or during the development of other parts of the plan. And, in fact, that is especially true in the case of the very first step in the process: adopting the right approach.
The first thing you must understand is that this is a creative process. The second thing you must understand is just what that means.
Most people think that developing a PR plan is a creative (as in imaginative) process because they think it is an effort to create the memorable phrase, ingenious promotional event, etc., that will cut through the clutter of competing messages. But it is also creative in a very literal way. You will actually be creating something. In many ways, you will be creating the organization itself.
How do organizations exist? Think of the company that makes coffee cups. You can observe the company’s products, its cups. You can hold them, sell them, and use them. But what about the company itself? How do you observe that? The cups aren’t the company. Pointing to the office building, the manufacturing equipment or the logo wouldn’t suffice as an answer to explaining the existence of the company. So, how do corporations exist? As ideas. Concepts.
Thus, creating the idea — the myth — of the organization is the real goal of a PR and communication strategy.
The organization is largely defined by the qualitative attributes it acquires over time, including its strengths and weaknesses, standards and values, personality, etc. Some of these attributes come to be known as more important and better developed than others. Because the attributes change over time, the definition of the organization – its existence as an idea – also changes over time.
Thus, a PR plan and communications strategy is played-out over time. In that way, it is like a chess game. The next moves only make sense in relation to future moves. The strategy needs to be driven to achieve a well-defined goal. From the very beginning, the first move, you have to see all the way to the end: how you want to win. In other words, the first step in creating the successful plan is to start at the end:
STEP ONE: Describe the idea of the company that will exist when it achieves success. Focus on the qualitative attributes that contribute to the definition of the organization. Do not write your thoughts. Just think about the organization in terms of an idea, a concept. Add details to the concept so that it becomes palpable and real to you as an idea. It will become the goal of the PR plan to turn that idea into a myth.