I’m a person who likes plans. I like lists. But I’m also someone who loves having space to be creative. And for me using those creative thoughts and putting them down into some kind of structure just works. But for some, the idea of planning creative work is sheer madness. They feel that the only way to get messages out there well is definitely not by following a rigid strategy. Here are some thoughts on the pros and cons of both…
Where you work
Much depends on the kind of organisation you work at, whether you are a freelancer or part of a bigger creative hub or organisation. Every person and place will have a tried and tested method that works for them. For me it’s about bringing together the creative brainstorm and the corporate plan – balancing inspiration and ideas with structure.
It’s important to share your ideas of working that have been successful for you. Use your judgement and ask around too. The communications community is a mine of information. I ask my friends in comms who work in national museums, charities and agencies how they are getting their message out there – and they’ll want to do the same! Share your experiences around and don’t be afraid to ask others for their thoughts.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations provides lots of courses and advice in planning campaigns – always worth checking their site for the latest PR findings and training that will help you keep up-to-date in industry know how.
Even for this – I wrote a list of what I was going to say. Once you have that, then you can write creatively with a point. In a feature even more so - writing logically and having different voices to illustrate the issues rounds out the story. You need plans and you need creative inspiration.
If you are working in a reactive press environment, trying to put together detailed plans in a situation where you are reacting on the hoof just doesn’t work.
I like what Andrew Green, Press Officer at Oasis says: ‘Plan for the unknown. It’s good to leave space in the week for unpredictable press calls that are too good to turn down. Because of this you’d rarely find me saying ‘today I’m in back-to-back meetings’.
Even here though, you do need some kind of considered forethought. An idea, however brief, on what you want to convey on behalf of your organisation. Andrew agrees:
“A crisis is another good reason to leave space but sometimes crises can be easier to predict because you are often aware of what might trigger them. However, knowing what to do in a crisis is definitely a good plan to have!”
If you want to be heard on an issue throughout the year, from climate change to your client’s new range of chocolate bars, you need to plan ahead. Planning around milestones and events so you can be heard at key points in the year all add up to a clear consistent voice.
The approach that you take in your reactive press work also affects how you plan long term. It needs to adaptable. Andrew says that for him his plans hinge on that:
“Strategy must remain flexible because I might need to prepare and run a new campaign between or alongside other campaigns that are timetabled in.”
If you are planning a complete overhaul of your brand – then even for the most plan phobic person, a strategy is vital. The sheer amount of elements that a re-brand encompasses means that even just a list of the areas that you need to work on is needed. Brand Republic is a brilliant website to find out about the latest re-brand news and how organisations are doing them. There is also a great blog Brand New where you can find thoughts on brand.
Strike a balance. Get creative but then get those inspired thoughts down into a plan however brief. You’ll see how they can work practically and you’ll get great results.
Bex Taylor is a freelance PR consultant and writer, currently working at the Evangelical Alliance