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Agile PR: Why you should ditch your 2017 PR plan

As Dwight D. Eisenhower said: ‘Plans are nothing, planning is everything’. Let’s face it, by the time you develop your PR plan and get everyone to approve it, chances are, it’s out of date. Things move fast. Businesses move fast. Decisions made yesterday can easily be changed today. World events can render your carefully constructed campaign irrelevant at the drop of a hat. Brands today need to be flexible. They need to be able to meet rapidly changing consumer needs and respond to events in real-time. At the same time brands shouldn’t be completely flexible, otherwise they lose their core meaning completely.

So rather than invest time and effort in crafting the perfect PR plan, I believe you should invest time in developing a really sharp PR strategy and a really agile way of working. Your PR strategy shouldn’t change with the wind, but should act as a north star for everything you do. Lots of people use the words strategy and plan interchangeably, but they are quite different. A good strategy (according to Richard Rumelt) has a clearly defined challenge, a guiding principle and a set of coherent actions. I wonder how many PR teams have invested the time in developing a good PR strategy for 2017? Probably not that many, because although it sounds easy, it’s not. Anything that requires making tough choices is hard and PR people tend to like to hedge their bets.

But having a sharp strategy provides the perfect framework for agile PR, which starts by ditching the linear, step by step approach to planning. Instead try building yourself a cross-disciplinary team from the client and agency side who can make decisions, create, test and learn together, often in real time. This is actually how PR has always operated during a crisis situation. But sadly, when the crisis is over, we tend to retreat back to our silos and lengthy approval processes, which slows everything down again. Indeed, the traditional PR plan has become a kind of comfort blanket for many in the PR industry and working in a linear way is just the norm.

We are only just starting to see agile PR in action and it will be interesting to see how many teams take a more agile approach in 2017. At Big M, we see the combination of sharp strategy and agile working as a way for PR to be far more responsive and relevant in the future.

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