A few months ago, I launched a new blog series looking at what my experiences of fitness training can teach us about the world of public relations. The reaction to the first blog was incredible but like many follow up acts I have found it harder getting back into the ring for the second instalment. So, after much procrastination and a myriad of excuses – a little like that voice that tells you to go for a run in the morning, then another tells you to forget it and snooze your alarm! – here goes…
As I wrote last time round, in each blog I will focus on a different attribute and draw on real life experiences from 15 years of advising clients from all around the world on protecting and enhancing their reputations, showing how applying these principles will lead to outstanding results.
Like anything in life, if you do something at all you may as well do it right, and so planning is always the first step on the road to success.
Just like in sport or fitness training, the same is true of a good PR programme. To reach an objective it is critical to know what the goal is and then plan out a clear route to get there.
I am currently a little obsessed with Peleton (yeah yeah, I know, me and every other middle age professional during lockdown!) and I am working towards increasing my cycling FTP score. Without boring non-cyclists with the details, this stands for Functional Threshold Power and is the average level of power you can hold for an hour when cycling. It’s a great way to measure results in cycling and overall fitness. As a relative beginner my score when I first did the test two months ago was 212 (2.6 w/kg) – ok for a newbie on the first test but I have my sights set higher. My aim is to increase incrementally, to hit 3, then 3.5 and see how far I can go. Ultimately, always focused on the next target, whilst keeping in mind the bigger picture.
What does any of this have to do with PR? Well, for me to hit my cycling goals, I need to plan out my training. What sessions do I need to do each week? When? How can I structure my day to make sure they happen, as well as balancing all my other responsibilities? Success will not just appear magically without the time and effort spent on a plan. There are no short cuts, you cannot just wing it. And whilst you may have help – in my case the brilliant Matt Willpers from Peleton – I am the one that needs to make it happen.
Just like when we onboard a new client, one of the first things we work on is what we call an “editorial calendar”. In this critical document, our roadmap if you like, we set out what activity we have coming up and when is the best time to action each item. This includes planned press releases, blogs, conferences, predictable industry news flow on which can comment, events etc. Everything is put into a table and the appropriate timing and cadence is agreed in advance to ensure balance, consistency and of course delivery – just like my cycling plan!
We also need to have a clear idea of what we want to be saying when we go out to external stakeholders on behalf of clients, so a lot of preparation needs to go into the messaging to make sure we are communicating the right things to the right people at the right time. Just like you wouldn’t want to get on the bike without knowing the type of ride you are doing that day, in the same way you would not want to speak to media or other stakeholders without planning the talking points .
Sometimes clients say to us, why do you need to waste your time putting together a programme? Can’t you just get on with pitching media and telling our story? Sometimes clients worry that they don’t know what is coming up and can’t think even a few weeks ahead when it comes to news flow or communications activities. The answer I give them is the same as my cycling PT gives me – “proper planning prevents poor performance”!
It doesn’t have to be perfect. The schedule can change in line with events and life itself. But without a map we will never reach our destination.