Plan to Plan.

By: Victoria Corley

How much tangible knowledge can anyone pick up from reading a book, listening to a lecture or even studying for a test? Not too much. In a field such as public relations, it is vital for students to have hands-on experience with clients, creating work that can be used in the real world. Upon taking a public relations writing class, I was a bit naive about the world of PR. I now know how painstaking the field can be!

Aside from learning how to navigate through the PR bible (aka The AP Stylebook) and learning what tone to use when writing content for a media pitch, I have discovered a very important fact about public relations: It’s all about planning.

From graphs and timelines to budgets and media contact lists, public relations is more than just an event or a story featured in a magazine. Yes, you would think that I would have already known that, but the concept of planning is nothing like the actual work that goes into it.

I really began to understand what planning entailed when I first met with Nick Patterson, the director of communications for the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA). While in a PR writing class, I created a mock PR campaign for the BMA.

The first thing Patterson told me about his job was the enormous amount of planning that it took to work with media. Patterson begins planning four months in advance, whether it be for a graphic design, an event or even content published in the museum’s newsletter.

I was stunned when he told me this . . . four months? In our classes we learn that time is valuable in PR, but Patterson talked of time as if it were gold.

After working on the requirements for my campaign, I realized that four months are nothing, and that there are so many meticulous details that go into making any PR project successful.

Stephen Davis, a communications consultant based out of the UK, recently posted “12 Steps to a Successful PR Campaign” on his professional blog. Davis’ steps are a great resource to follow when working on any part of a PR campaign.

No matter how well you write a press release or compile a media list, planning is key to effective PR. Even though schedules are made and are usually subject to change, planning ahead will help you maintain your tactics while reaching your main goals and objectives for the campaign.

Gilbert K. Chesterton once said, “You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion,” and after a very stressful semester spent in my PR writing class, I learned that in PR you can’t plan a campaign in only two weeks.

As Rachel Meranus, vice president of communications at PR Newswire, explained, “Planning your PR strategy now will not only help generate new ideas and opportunities for you and your business to shine, it’ll give you peace of mind in your day-to-day operations.”

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