We can all agree that the first quarter of this year was an extension of 2020. There was an air of apprehension hanging around; COVID-19 cases were still high, vaccine rollout started out slowly, and most people were still working out of home offices. But brighter days seem to be ahead.
If last year’s phrase was “uncertain times,” I’d argue this year’s is “cautiously optimistic,” even for public relations professionals. If you don’t have a crystal ball—or are pretending to read one like Professor Marvel in The Wizard of Oz—then you’re most likely creating rough, always-in-draft PR content calendars this year.
The start of the second quarter is a perfect time to reassess communications tactics at a high level for the remainder of 2021 because sentiment has shifted and budget projections are stronger. Public relations strategies draw from mission and values, business goals, tone, and services, and presumably, those characteristics aren’t changing in the immediate future for your business. As a reminder: specific tactics can and will shift, but strategy must not be abandoned.
Our PR team initiated planning discussions with clients to learn how to best serve them this year and found some were apprehensive to dive head-first into content planning because of the previous year’s woes. We’ve come to understand these conversations are ongoing for this year’s planning and will take additional time as we gear up for 2022 talks as well. If your content calendar still says “TBD,” here are some ways to fill in the blanks.
Flowers are blooming, start anew with stakeholders
It’s officially spring; new flowers are budding and trees are coming back to life. A bit Wonderful World of Oz-esque I admit, but please use this metaphor to be inspired to have new conversations with stakeholders. Your PR team and these audiences were most likely in different mindsets earlier this year—don’t be afraid to restart those talks.
Now that the grass is a little greener, your employees, board members, customers, investors, and community partners most likely feel better about the direction of 2021. They’ll have clearer minds about what they’d like to see from your company. Capturing that feedback now will undoubtedly help you shape the rest of your content plan.
We bring you good news, or haven’t you heard?
Conferences and in-person meetings may continue to be put on hold, but it’s guaranteed there will be annual reports to produce, new products and business ventures to announce, and holidays to celebrate this year.
Your company should plan to share milestones and important news with audiences. To successfully communicate news and updates, you need to deliver content in a smart, timely fashion. It may be unclear what that event or announcement looks like at this moment, but adding these to your calendar will give you time to work on plans “A” through “C” (or “Z”).
Don’t let your joints rust; make sure you’re flexible
As you’re building out your content calendar, don’t get caught in an April shower like the Tin Man and find yourself stuck with a bad plan. The key to this year’s plan—and really any plan–is flexibility.
If you’re planning a major company announcement, assess if it has to be attached to a specific date. This way, if there’s a breaking news item that could minimize attention on your news, you’re able to shift. Remember that you can find multiple times throughout the year to use evergreen content—it doesn’t have to be when you originally slated it. Consider these questions too: Are there items from last year that were put on hold that you can now incorporate? Do you have wish list items for this year that might be more successful next year?
And for you, Dorothy, a checklist
Based on the above advice, here’s a simple checklist your public relations team can use to guide mid-year content planning.
- Review marketing and business goals internally.
- Set up meetings with internal and external stakeholders.
- Monitor health guidelines and reporting to create contingency plans for annual events.
- Assess announcement dates for company news to see if they can shift.
- Build in evergreen topics for guaranteed content throughout the year.
- Add relevant ideas or events canceled in 2020 to this year’s calendar.
- Watch The Wizard of Oz if you missed all my references.
Companies may not be out of the gate and off to the races, but they’re at least keeping a steady pace to the finish line this year. As PR pros, we’re clicking our heels three times and saying, “there’s no place like cautious optimism.” It may not be the ideal place, but at least we’re not in “uncertain times” anymore, Toto.
Need help planning PR editorial content? Drop us a line, not a house on our heads.