The Christmas adverts are doing the rounds and client lunches being put in diaries. The end of the year is nearly here and that signals one thing for a communications consultancy – the culmination of the 2016 planning process.
For some clients, this process begins almost as soon as the previous one has ended. At the other end of the spectrum are those who will only really begin planning the coming year in Q1 of that very same year.
Some communications experts will approach this in isolation, reporting only to the client. For others, planning involves an extensive piece of work involving a cast of seemingly thousands.
Yet regardless of the method, the ingredients required for a successful and effective set of plans remain the same.
Communications and marketing plans must be closely aligned with the business’ overall strategy for the year(s) ahead. While some of this may be included in a brief, much of this will be found from other sources – conversations had with people within the business, snippets read in the news, competitor tracking and so on. Keeping an eye out for indication of what the client – and their bosses – will be aiming to achieve, and factoring that into your own plans, provides an invaluable signal that you truly understand the business.
What’s more, the plans should also build upon the successes and learnings of the previous year – what worked should be amplified and what didn’t, remedied. This should include activity from other business functions; if a sales campaign worked particularly well and the client has mentioned it, see if it can be repurposed for communications. Building on existing momentum helps both you and the client.
A good plan will include a succinct overview of the concept, but also be clear on what will be achieved – and how exactly. Putting the thought in at the planning stage will always pay off. If not, you risk starting the next year by scrambling to deliver on something that you only really vaguely remember coming up with in the first place. And the outcome will inevitably be less than great for you, your team and your client.
Brainstorms and forums for creativity are – when run well – arguably one of the highlights of consultancy life. Getting a group of people excited about campaign ideas and the potential work that they could do for a client is always great. But you should also try to retain this energy in some form throughout the planning process. Ultimately, when the plans are revisited in the New Year, you should be confident that they will inspire your team to deliver on what was promised, and your client to remain invested in the project.
The old adage that by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail rings true. Planning presents a clean slate for the coming year and one that the best consultants will be able to fill with relevant, clear and inspiring ideas.