When it comes to forward planning, no one does it better than those who work with the land – the gardeners, the allotment owners and the farmers.
To maximise productivity and make the most of what each season offers, they plan ahead – preparing the ground and scheduling planting to get the best from the soil. They know that if you want to harvest a crop or enjoy some ornamental planting at a certain time of year, such preparation is key to success.
Communications teams can follow the same principles – planning ahead to bring the right projects to fruition at the right time and making the most of resources to deliver a flourishing comms function.
Preparing the ground
If you’re planning a media campaign, prepare your ground first by doing your research and making contacts before you plant the first seeds. You’re more likely to succeed with careful targeting of media who know who you are and why you’re relevant to them and their audience.
For a social media campaign, check whether you’re properly geared up – are there any ways you can increase your following before you kick off? Are you making the most of all the channels available and considering how you can link online and offline messaging?
Also have a look at your team before you get started – do you have the right capacity and skills mix to deliver the goods? Is your best event planner on leave on the day in question? Is your best copywriter on holiday when the bulk of the work needs doing? Do you have enough runners on the ground for a successful roadshow? Whatever project you’re planning, make sure you fill any gaps with the right people – using specialist temporary support if needed.
Getting your timing right
For a campaign of any kind, remember to take into account the lead time to get everything ready. Even in today’s world of online publications and easy-to-update websites you can’t fast-track the work needed to get your messages right and approved, line up and brief interviewees, get additional staff in place if needed, and so on.
And if you’re going to link with printed publications such as trade magazines or local papers, remember they will have their own lead times and possibly editorial plans that you’ll need to work around.
So, much like gardeners scheduling their planting, if you’re aiming for a summer crop, start your planning at least one season ahead.
Making crop choices
All teams have a maximum capacity that they can work to at any time and it makes sense to focus on projects that should see the best return, based on the time and resources available. By looking at an annual plan in advance, you should be able to schedule in all the important projects at different but complementary times and avoid unnecessary peaks and troughs in demand for your services – also reducing the risk of bewildering your audiences with multiple messages at once.
Bring in seasonal workers
Many farms bring in seasonal workers at key harvesting points of the year. This can be a way forward for busy comms teams with pressure points in their calendar when the core team simply can’t manage the workload. For example, you need to deliver a national conference at the same time as promoting the opening of a new facility – there’s enough fertile ground to succeed at both if you have the capacity.
Taking on external support, on demand, could help at these times. Use quiet time before the pressure points hit to do a bit of research and line up people you can call on as and when needed. (You can read our suggestions about how to find the support best suited to your needs here.)
Have an annual plan
Like any gardener who wants to see an interesting display all year round, try not to have any obvious gaps in your schedule. Going quiet for a couple of months will take you off the media’s radar so they may not think of you when they have an opportunity to offer expert comment. And your social media followers may lose interest and move on.
Make sure you keep up-to-date with regular tasks such as monthly or quarterly newsletters – it’s important to keep to the schedule as readers will come to expect your updates and look forward to hearing from you. This is another area where an agency can help, leading on the scheduling for you and driving the content to meet your deadlines.
Get the most from your perennials
Of course some plants come around at the same time every year no matter what you do, but they would still benefit from some attention. It’s the same in the comms world, where opportunities such as AGMs and annual reports are there every year. Think about how you could boost their productivity, perhaps by working reciprocally with partners to promote each other’s publications, events and messages – so increasing your audience with no need for additional copywriting.
Getting expert support for your green-fingered team
Planning ahead is great but of course there is always the challenge of day-to-day crises that you have to deal with, which can take you away from your carefully developed timetable.
A green-fingered team that wants to see their hard work bear fruit and understands the importance of delivering on the agreed work plan will always try their utmost to juggle the extra pressures, but you can also consider increasing capacity through external support to ensure you don’t miss any opportunities and that the weeds don’t take over.
Campaigns and projects were put in your annual plan for a reason, so make sure they don’t wither on the vine. If you’d like some totally flexible outside support, just drop us a line. We’ll bring the plant food.