If the past year and a half of navigating a global pandemic taught us nothing else, it’s that agility and flexibility matter. In fact, I’d say they’re critical skills to hone both in our business and professional lives.
It’s true when it comes to communications planning, too. The idea that organizations once created annual PR plans today seems quaint. Even the kind of quarterly planning we do for our clients at Tier One only reflects a stake in the ground based on what we think might happen and when. We help our clients to appreciate that the most impactful plans are living documents that continuously flex to keep their organizations a step ahead of shifting economic winds and the national news cycle.
This means the best PR people must count “news junkie” and “trend spotter” (in addition to “skilled re-prioritizer”) alongside their other abilities. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen too many PR pros stick to the script, running through a rote list of weekly PR activities — while meanwhile Rome is aflame with issues that have the potential to negatively impact a company’s business or result in a gazillion missed opportunities to take advantage of new PR narratives.
PR teams must not only embrace the idea of daily listening, we need to become a little obsessive about it. Our teams start each day with a scan of national outlets like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal in addition to local publications such as The Boston Globe looking for headlines and trends that affect our clients’ businesses or offer an opportunity for them to proactively offer a perspective to reporters. We’re also big fans of daily subscription newsletters like Fortune’s “CEO Daily'' that share high level insights into the issues with which business leaders are grappling. Marketwatch alerts are a fantastic ear-to-the-ground resource for breaking news. We also rely on advanced listening platforms like Critical Mention in combination with Google Alerts and Factiva to regularly serve up insights on our clients’ competitors’ actions and what our key media contacts are writing about.
This daily homework positions us to counsel our clients in real-time about new earned media or other PR opportunities — whether it’s proactively crafting a media statement, sharing a client’s position on an issue, adjusting an announcement strategy, or any variety of program tweaks that drive greater impact. Plus, regular listening simply makes us savvier, more informed business professionals.
The ability to be more agile and flexible with our PR planning also benefits from building deeper, trusted relationships throughout an organization. This helps company leaders feel confident pulling PR teams into conversations about things like potential M&A activity, new product announcements or potential crisis issues, enabling us to develop early and effective plans to support these business drivers.
Agile and flexible iterative planning must become the new normal in a business environment that not only shifts faster than ever, but is resetting in real time as we emerge from the pandemic. So build those quarterly plans with the knowledge they’re merely a placeholder for what a company needs to do, armed with your insights, to drive competitive advantage.
Learn more about how the Tier One Team can help your brand build an agile communications program.