A Mayan-Proof Client Planning Guide for 2013

In any client-based PR and marketing environment, the holiday season is traditionally time to start looking back at what your team accomplished this year, and ahead to what’s in store for next year. Chances are you and your team have either already participated in our scheduled a planning meeting with your clients to discuss your 2013 game plan.

If the Mayans have something to say about it, all of that planning is nothing more than wasted time.

Underground doomsday theorists have predicted from interpretations of the Mayan calendar that the world as we know it will end on December 21, 2012. You may want to keep this in mind for holiday shopping purposes this year!

Assuming we avoid Armageddon, in-depth planning and review meetings with your clients are a great opportunity to ensure uniform (and possibly updated) messaging, highlight goals and tactics to consider for the following year, and outline where both your team and the client team can help each other achieve even more.

As you and your clients start looking ahead, here are some things to consider to lay the foundation for a successful 2013 – this way, should the world not end, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running in January:

  1. What’s our Message? – How does your client want to be perceived in its target markets? What are its key offerings? How do these differentiate from competitors? Nearly all PR and marketing projects center around a core message, and it is critical to understand what this is and how it translates to develop relevant activities. In some cases, your client may be overhauling its messages – for instance, one of my clients this year shifted its overall identity to emphasize its cloud computing services and expertise as opposed to its traditional IT foundation. It is important to identify any such changes early on, to begin building a possibly year-long promotional schedule.
  2. What are our Goals? – How does your client measure success? Whether it’s media impressions, tradeshow visitors or down-and-dirty sales revenue, confirm with your client what metrics are most important towards its overall vision. Driving thousands of visitors to a webinar might be a great feat, but if webinars don’t matter to your key stakeholders, the successes will be irrelevant. Outlining these metrics will also help your agency team set goals to work for throughout the year – having something to chase creates extra motivation! What's on the calendar?
  3. What’s on the Calendar? – Your client should have a decent idea of what landmark dates are tentatively on its 2013 calendar – including product launch dates, tradeshow participation, events, and awards programs among others. Work with your clients to outline a 2013 schedule. Although its likely some (if not all) of these projections will change, a rough schedule will allow both sides to budget enough time for pre- and post-event activities, and prepare outside parties, such as designers, printers and the media, for what’s ahead with minimal surprise.
  4. What Can we do that’s New? – While some clients are content with running through the same activities, with mild spin, year in and year out, it is our challenge as PR and marketing professionals to come up with that next great idea to help reach those target goals. The easiest place to start is by reviewing what’s been done – successful or not – in previous years. Did your client once run a successful webinar program that was discontinued a few years back? Do you have potential case studies in your back pocket from content customers? Sometimes reusing, rather than reinventing, the wheel can drive great results. Likewise, consider new activities that can cross over into multiple formats – for instance, results from an industry survey you collect can be used in countless PR and marketing thought leadership tactics.
  5. What’s the Competition Doing? We’ve all heard the cliché that there are no original ideas in PR and marketing, and that everyone just modifies what someone else did before them. While this may not be fully true, it’s always beneficial to keep an eye on the strategies your closest competitors employ. Taking the pulse of the market can help your team identify opportunities that may be right for you, but never thought of previously. Keeping a close eye on the latest industry trends is also critical to tailoring your activities and messages to the right audiences, as hot button issues are more likely to generate greater response.

As you and your clients are pushing through the final projects of 2012, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2013 and beyond. When you do hold that planning call or meeting for 2013 activities, asking the right questions will enable both sides to develop a clear, concise and targeted action plan that can drive improved results and make both sides even happier when it comes time to start planning for 2014.

But if by some chance the Mayans are right….

By Sami Jajeh – December 3, 2012

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