Building a Resilient 2021 Communications Plan.
This year has been overwhelming, from COVID-19, to murder hornets, to record-breaking wildfires—and we haven’t even made it through the presidential election yet. For businesses, these hurdles have meant nearly constant changes to navigate. This time last year, many organizations were putting pen to paper on 2020 communications plans. Just a few short months later, the pandemic hit and many of those plans had to be ripped up and thrown away. Since most businesses were sent back to the drawing board in March, Clyde Group helped many of its clients tackle crises, take events and campaigns virtual, and prepare new communications plans. We’ve taken what we’ve learned from this unpredictable year and created a step-by-step guide for businesses preparing to create pandemic-proof 2021 communications plans. Step 1: Look at What Worked and What Didn’t. Before you start working on a plan, look back at 2020. Analyze what was successful and what fell short. If your thought leadership plan led to speaking opportunities at major virtual conferences, consider continuing those efforts. If a social media campaign with local influencers didn’t result in the website clicks you were hoping for, rethink that strategy for the new year. This is also a good time to rethink annual traditions, like holiday campaigns or yearly conferences. If you took your annual conference virtual this year and saw low engagement, it might be time to think about a different way to connect with stakeholders. Step 2: Define Your Overarching Goal. Think big picture and identify the main outcome you want to see for your organization in 2021. Develop a solid message that can endure, regardless of what happens with the pandemic, the election, or the status of Britain’s royal family. For example, you might go with something like, “Build a positive reputation around our brand within target markets by reaching key stakeholders and engaging new audiences.” Step 3: Set Key Milestones. Determine which major events, activations, partnerships, or campaigns will help you accomplish your goals in 2021. Perhaps it’s an annual conference (virtual, of course!) that gathers all of your members together to talk about changes within the industry or a resource hub for students in need of tools to successfully learn from home. Plot those milestones out on a calendar and plan out the tactics you’ll want to deploy for each. Step 4: Measure Success. Figuring out how you want to measure success is a huge part of a yearly communications plan. Metrics help you determine if you need to try new tactics or lean into specific tactics that have performed really well. To measure success, you’ll need to know what matters to your organization and determine which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the most important. Some organizations care about social media or earned media impressions for visibility, while others are more interested in the overall sentiment of media exposure. Need a hand with determining KPIs and measuring success? Here’s a list of all the things you can measure and how to measure them. As just one example, your KPI might be something like, “Grow social media platforms by 52,000 new social media followers and increase engagement by 2%.” Step 5: Get Ready to PIVOT! 2021 is sure to throw some more curveballs our way, which is why it is so important to be flexible and know how to, in the words of Ross Geller, “PIVOT!” Ross was talking about a couch, but his advice still applies to your 2021 communications plan. No communications plan runs exactly as intended, so make it adaptable, create contingencies, and prepare your team to adjust on the fly. Get ready to scrap campaigns if needed. If you’re planning something in person, have a virtual backup plan ready just in case.