The Iterative PR plan

Through our work in the IT space, I’ve become familiar with a new spin on a traditional term – “iterative.” While the classical definition of this term indicates repetitiveness, in IT, the word connotes making small changes to your processes and technology so that you can stay focused and adapt to an ever accelerating business cycle.

This is a cornerstone of the increasingly popular concept of “agile” business transformation. It essentially says that instead of following the traditional model of coming in, identifying everything that is wrong, and attempting to completely reshape it according to your vision, you strategically identify business processes that are feeling pain points and begin aligning, one step at a time, those processes to your overall strategy. In this way, you maintain your foothold so that you can more quickly adapt to changes in the business environment. You incrementally bring the organization in line with your overall vision in a non-disruptive way that doesn’t leave you out of the game when the unexpected occurs.

It’s no major imaginative feat to begin to see how this philosophy applies to the cornerstone of our work – the PR plan. Too often PR plans are formulaic and rigid, offering an approach created without regard to the needs of those whom it serves, or the ability of those involved to carry out its various tactics.

It was only a few years ago that Jeff Wofford asserted that “The Business Plan is Dead.” Of course planning will never be “dead,” but our approach should change with the times. Am I offering a new model upon which to base the new PR plan? No. In a way, that’s the point. There’s no formula that holds up universally in 2011 – the hyper-evolutionary communication landscape has seen to this.

I do suggest, however, that we keep a few things in mind when creating our plans:

  • The plan serves the organization, not vice versa
  • It’s better to have something workable with realistic goals, than a dazzling vision that will ultimately leave you and your client unsatisfied
  • Like on-demand content, you need to be able to leave the plan as new opportunities (or crises) arise, and then come back to it when you’re ready to resume

I know this doesn’t lend much in the way of specific action items, but I’d hesitate to get more detailed without knowing your business. But, if you want a takeaway, try this: make your plan a living breathing document by physically placing it in a location where everyone can tweak it simultaneously, in real-time, such as Google docs. This serves not only the purpose of allowing it to grow with the reality on the ground, but also keeps it from becoming what most PR plans seem to become: irrelevant.

–Michael Burke, MSR Communications

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