A few years ago, I lost a bunch of weight after working out on an ellipitical for about six months. To add some variety to my workouts, I started running again (after taking a 25-year hiatus when the the track season in my senior year of high school ended). While my ultimate goal was to remain fit and live a healthy lifestyle, I wasn’t satisfied with running a few miles a day at a moderate pace just to keep the weight off. I wanted to challenge myself, so I registered for the Hershey Half Marathon and began a training regimen that ultimately helped me beat my goal time by 5 minutes (I finished in 1:45:12).
It was all about having a strategy. I could have simply run every day without a specific purpose for each workout, but that’s not the best way to reach your running goal. I had a plan that scheduled each run so that it built on the next one. For instance, long runs at an easy pace build endurance, while track intervals to help improve speed.
This is just like public relations. You can do plenty of communicating – writing news releases, publishing newsletters, creating Facebook pages – without a strategy. And the chances are that you’ll feel good about it. After all, coverage in the media or have a flashy newsletter or post something on social media, are tangible things that you can see, read or hold in your hands. The question is, by jumping straight to those tactics, did they contain a message that you want your audience to receive? Moreover, did they reach your intended audience? And most important, did it have the impact you wanted (e.g. more sales, a change in behavior)?
An effective communications plan will take all of that into account. By first identifying key audiences, where they are and where they get their information, you can develop messages and tactics that are pertinent to them. Of course, you still need to do research about where your audience is, as I learned this spring with my son.
Like a runner training for a big race, planning a comprehensive communications strategy isn’t easy and takes time. But if you have done the work, you can implement the strategy with confidence and cross the finish line with the results you want — and maybe even better than expected.