Creating and Implementing a Strategic Communications Plan with Virginia Mann, Virginia Mann Communications

October 2016 WMPRSA brought in Virginia Mann from Virginia Mann Communications in Chicago.  Virginia’s blueprint for creating and using a Strategic Communications Plan includes Strategic Planning, Research, Key Messaging, Developing, and  Using in Crisis and Measurement.  Virginia presented a real life crisis one of her clients faced last year.  I believe the crisis resonated with many of us as it explained the peril Chicago dogs were in last year, which many of us pet owners can relate to.  The brilliance of a well thought out plan Mann explained, is that it can help in times of crisis such as this.  I have chosen a few key takeaways to share.

The key to any work in PR and Communication is building relationships based on trust and expertise with your constituents and the media.  Getting your message out does not involve faxing press releases to a multitude of sources, hoping one outlet would print 4 inches of your story in the paper.  We need to create personal relationships with our media contacts, offer them only newsworthy or interesting items, and know who should be receiving your information instead of flooding everyone in the newsroom with your release.  We need to be able to give our media contact access to our executives or someone else in authority who can provide an expert opinion in a way which your public can understand.  Creating these authentic relationships allows for knowing who would benefit most from telling your story and what the proper outlet is for your message.  These best practices of building a relationship with your media allow for mutually beneficial relationships which are necessary for success on each side.

 Create a plan that works for you and for your client, whether that is a virtual or paper calendar.  A virtual calendar that is easily shared and maintained by those involved with the account has many benefits including being accessible to all who require the information, immediacy in updating and communicating changes and keeping the client involved in the process.   Beware of drawbacks including allowing too many people to make updates and changes, causing confusion and chaos. Always keep in mind that when placing any document online there is a chance of unauthorized people accessing your information.

 The content created for your communications plan requires consistency in tone and message and in visuals.  To achieve consistent messaging, communication with other departments or key players is a must.  Social messaging, marketing and advertising all need to be aware of what is said and how it is said and when to say it.  This falls back to the communication plan that you have already implemented.  If everyone follows the plan, communication should be consistent.  Visuals also require consistency in the font type, size and color, the placement and usage of the company logo, and the design style and colors of the graphics.  Virginia Mann’s example showed how her client’s monthly info graphics were all the same in appearance and always provided valuable information to the target audience.  When there was a pending crisis, Mann’s team was able to adapt the template, quickly providing a message that was different from the scheduled message, but important and relevant to the crisis.  The message was still authoritative and recognizable as from a trustworthy source.

Mann shared much more information than this during her time with WMPRSA than I could write about succinctly.  I appreciated how she shared that providing a strong foundation in a communications plan can help you prepare for any situation which may arise.

 

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