Since we’re well into the time when most of us are making professional and personal plans, I wanted to quickly examine two types of planning that we all need to do: strategic planning and day-to-day activities. Both of them should be written down, either on paper or electronically.
Strategic planning is your “big picture” planning. I won’t delve into the specific planning that you need to do for communications work, e.g., editorial calendars for blogs and in-house publications, social media marketing, email marketing, and of course overall public relations programs. Instead, I’ll examine the more general aspects of this type of planning.
Strategic planning consists of five tasks that constitute a continuous cycle:
1. Identifying or defining problems/opportunities through research and stakeholder feedback. Your research should include the overall mission and goals of your organization so that you can determine how your department/division can help to achieve those goals.
2. Setting specific, measurable objectives based on the results of the research done. This involves determining the segments of the public you’ll be targeting as well as ascertaining the time, team members and money available to help achieve these objectives.
3. Establishing the methods, communication channels and specific activities that will best support your goals.
4. Implementing the plan, which may involve keeping a record of outcomes for later evaluation.
5. Evaluating the plan’s outcomes, which includes measuring changes in behaviors, attitudes, etc. The means for evaluation should be embedded in your plan design (which is why the plans and objectives should be measurable) rather than tacked on as an afterthought. After all, you can’t improve unless you actually know what needs to be adjusted. I say this because your evaluation will provide you with the means to build on your successes or improve strategies and tactics that weren’t so effective. Basically, it provides material for task #1, so you can begin the cycle all over again.
Daily Planning Tactics
A good strategic plan will be hampered if your ordinary daily planning is awry, so here are a few general tips:
1. Make the next day’s to-do list before you leave work so that you can jump right into the new day.
2. This goes against most expert advice, but I recommend starting the day’s workflow by checking email, phone messages, etc. and adding any relevant items to your task list. This way, you’ll be able to factor in any emergencies or rush jobs that cropped up overnight.
3. Prioritization is key. Organization expert Julie Morgenstern advises that your highest priority tasks should be tasks that save money, generate revenues, create products or deliver the service. Of course, you may need a little more than that to set priorities. The following questions can also help:
- When is the deadline?
- How much time does it require?
- What’s the payoff/consequence?
You can either number the tasks on your list in terms of importance or urgency or you may prefer to shuffle them around on your daily calendar when necessary.
4. Mark high-priority work for the times of day when your energy is highest. Use low-energy periods to do routine emails or administrative tasks. This schedule should not set in stone, but in the event your workflow is interrupted, it can help you effectively figure out what to do with the time and tasks you’ve got left.
I hope these tips will help you in your long-term and short-term planning efforts. The way plans are made and carried out can depend on an organization’s culture (e.g., top-down distribution versus group brainstorming) and your own personal style, so please feel free to share any tips or insights.