Carefully Crafted on March 15

HOW TO Write a PR Plan: Situation Analysis, Research and Goals/Strategy/Objectives

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series.

I recently asked you to weigh in on content for the blog — choose your own adventure, if you will. Between the comments, tweets and emails I received, it was clear that you wanted more info about how to write a PR plan. After all, failing to plan is planning to fail. And, lucky for me, strategizing is one of my favorite PR activities. (There’s nothing better than getting praise from a client for a plan well received.)

No two PR plans are the same. If you take a “cookie cutter” cutter approach to public relations planning, you’re doomed to fail. Step back and take the time to do your homework. What are you trying to accomplish, and how are you going to get there? To create that framework, a plan should include some or all of the following sections:

  • Executive summary
  • Situation Analysis
  • Research Summary
  • Goals/Strategy/Objectives
  • Target Audience
  • Key Messages
  • Tactics

Now, keep in mind, not every plan needs to be a three-ring binder (or the equivalent in our online world) full of pages and pages of detail. Sometimes, a tactical PR timeline works just as well, as long as everyone is one the same page about the goals. That said, I’m going to walk you through each of these items and you can pick and choose the elements that make the most sense for your specific situation.

Executive Summary

Sometimes, we present plans to a large group of people, some of whom want all the nitty gritty, while others just want the high-level overview. If someone is only going to read two pages of your hard work, this is it. The summary is just that: an overview of the rest of the plan. If your plan is fairly brief, you can skip this section. If you do include it, make sure it’s an accurate reflection of the entire plan — not just an overview of the tactics. Odds are, if an exec is only reading the executive summary, he/she doesn’t want to get bogged down in tactical details. They’re probably more interested in the end result. What’s the problem and how are you going to solve it? (Tip: Write this section last. At least, that’s what works best for me!)

Research Summary

Every good PR plan is based on solid research. That can be extensive, in-depth research (which my friend Chuck Hemann will talk to you about any day) … or it can be a simpler way of collecting information. Research can include interviews with:

  • Employees. But, don’t just talk to a bunch of “yes men.” Interview an accurate representation of the company — management to entry level. Each has a valuable perspective to offer. Try to conduct the interviews without other management in the room. INterviewees will be more forthcoming with honest answers if they feel like the information won’t be held against them.
  • Current customers/clients. Why are they doing business with your company over the competition? What do they like about working with you? What do they not like? How do they think you’re perceived in the market?
  • Former client interviews. This is where the real wealth of information lies. Why did someone choose to stop working with the company? How can PR play a role in addressing those issues?
  • Focus groups. This doesn’t have to be expensive. It can even be done online. But, try to get a group of people together to spark conversation and understand how people perceive your company/service/product.
  • Community leaders.

Sounds expensive, right? It doesn’t have to be. While a phone survey conducted by a professional research company is optimal, interviews conducted internally can work just as well. I once wrote a PR plan for an international religious organization’s quadrennial event. To keep their costs manageable, our agency conducted about 70 interviews by phone. Though time-consuming, it was an effective way to gather anecdotal evidence that provided the basis for the plan.

In addition to interviews, collect qualitative data:

  • Conduct a survey. SurveyMonkey is an affordable, easy to use option.
  • Assess online conversations. How often are people talking about your company vs. the competition? Who is talking? Are comments negative or positive?
  • Competitive Analysis. Who is the competition and how are they positioning themselves? Define their brand vocabulary. Where and how are they promoting themselves? What are they doing well? What are they not doing well?


It can be hard to differentiate between goals, strategies and objectives. Sometimes it’s helpful to reference blog posts that effectively explain how each is different and how the three areas feed into each other. A quick definition of goals, strategies and objectives, courtesy of Amber Naslund:

Goals are your general intentions, the big picture aims. Your objectives are the outcomes that represent achievement of that goal. Things you can actually observe. In order to be classified as an objective, something has to be measurable.  You need a way of defining whether or not you have completed them successfully.

Strategies are the action plans you’ll execute to reach the objective. Tactics are the pieces and parts of the strategy. So that’s the hierarchy.

Amber’s post about how to create measurable objectives is really easy to understand. Bookmark it to reference whenever you find yourself struggling to define and measure your PR efforts.

And there you have it.

Those are the elements that lay the foundation for the plan. So far, we’ve assessed the current situation and defined where we want to go next. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about who we need to reach and how to craft messages that will resonate. Then, we’ll get into planning tactics. Don’t miss out. If you’re not already a subscriber, I hope you’ll sign-up to receive in your inbox or RSS reader.


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  1. […] useful idea to gather information about the audience you are wanting to target is to develop a Public Relations plan. I think by doing this it will be time efficient, well organised and very […]

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