by Dan Ward
It’s often difficult for people to understand why public relations plans need to be fluid, and why communicators can’t define six months out exactly what they will do and say.
Plans must constantly evolve because our ability to deliver a message is constantly affected by external stimuli, the “noise” in most communication models that impacts whether and how a message is received.
No plan can be so detailed as to anticipate everything that “might” happen. We’re working with one client right now to assess and update their crisis communications plan, knowing that it’s impossible to anticipate every potential crisis. (For example, our 2010 plan for Beaches of South Walton didn’t anticipate a massive oil spill.) So instead we plan for the process … who is in charge, who to contact and when, where to establish communication centers, how to identify audiences, etc.
I’m working with another client on a major public issue, and the primary spokesperson was just called for jury duty … on a case that could last at least three weeks. I can guarantee that “next steps when client has been sequestered” was not part of my original plan. Luckily for us, he was rejected in voir dire, but you can bet we were already updating our plans to adapt to his potential absence.
The only constant communicators can plan for is change. It’s up to us to make sure our companies and clients understand that the plans we develop will almost always differ from the plans we implement.