startup-photosIf you find yourself well into this new year without a finalized marketing communications plan, or have been frustrated in past years with plans that don’t produce the results you want, don’t worry. It’s not too late to develop a plan that meets your marketing and sales objectives plus helps you accomplish as much as you can with your budgets. But you must act fast – especially if you want to maximize your impact in 2016.

The key to effective marketing communications planning is to use a proven, repeatable planning process. We recommend the Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation (RPIE) method endorsed by major marketing and public relations associations, including the Public Relations Society of America. This four step approach allows you to tackle projects, especially campaigns with several moving parts, in the most strategic, intelligent and measurable ways possible.

STEP 1: Research

Start with research to understand and define each opportunity or issue you face. You may need to use more than one method – primary/secondary, formal/informal and quantitative/qualitative – to really understand who you need to reach, what you want your target audience to do and what type of messages need to be communicated.

STEP 2: Planning

To be successful in marketing and public relations, it’s important to plan the work, then work the plan. Planning begins with setting clear objectives for each opportunity you want to address, then creating the framework to meet each objective. Perhaps you want to increase booth traffic at your company’s trade show exhibits this year. Or maybe your company is introducing a new product to the market. Whatever your goals, you must first identify target audiences, objectives, strategies, messaging and budget allocation to determine the right mix of integrated activities to get the results you need.

STEP 3: Implementation

The most common mistake we see is when companies bypass the research and planning stages and jump directly to implementation. For most marketers, creating ads, brochures, websites, trade show graphics, and generating public relations campaigns is the most fun part of the process. After all, this is when the ideas really come to life. Skipping the first two steps of this process, however, is a slippery slope. More often than not, collateral and campaigns implemented without proper research and planning do not produce the desired results and don’t meet bigger picture objectives such as strengthening a company’s brand. Our experience has shown that investing the necessary time to research and plan, combined with strong project management, are the keys to ensuring each project is on strategy, on time and on (or under) budget and meets the objective.

STEP 4: Evaluation

Measurement is an often forgotten, yet oh-so-important step in the marketing communications cycle. Campaigns are an investment of time, money and other resources. It’s important to know how these investments performed. Evaluation of a campaign’s effectiveness and measurement of the results also becomes a very valuable tool for planning future programs because it clearly identifies which tactics worked best. If you need help with planning or just want a second opinion, let us know. We’d love to discuss how we can help you make some noise in 2016.

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