PR Insight: Going the Distance With Your PR Program

motorcycle rider driving along the open road in front of a friend
By Charlyne H. McWilliams

3 minutes

Best practices for creating and executing a solid public relations plan.

Many times, when business is good and clients or members are happy, companies forget how important it is to maintain a consistent PR plan—and to trust the plan if it is working. In fact, some leaders are guilty of wanting to dismantle a perfectly solid media relations program for no other reason than it has been in place for a while. I want to encourage you to not do that.

I recently completed an Iron Butt. Let me clarify this for you: It is a phrase popular in motorcycle circles that means riding 1,000 miles in a 24-hour period. I contend that companies—credit unions too—should approach their public relations campaigns the same way I approached completing 1,000 miles on two wheels in one day.

1. Develop a plan.
Months before I started the trip, I made sure my bike was in good shape and that I was in good shape, too. I got my bike serviced, and I continued my workout routine with cardio and weight training. Credit unions should also develop a maintenance plan, one that is specifically tailored for their business, and employ internal or external resources to help develop that plan.  

2. Get buy-in from the top on your plan. 
For this motorcycle ride, I did not want to go alone, as I did not have experience riding quite that far in such a short period of time. I talked to people who had already made such a trip. I also found someone who was willing to accompany me on this life-changing ride on their own bike.

Credit union staff need to understand what top management wants to accomplish with a public relations plan, understand what their specific goals are and make sure they are addressed and included in the plan. In other words, make sure the leadership team is ready and willing to go along for the ride. 

3. Execute the plan. 
We set a time to leave on our trip; the time came, and we got started. Starting a public relations campaign is much the same. Once the plan has been finalized, start working. Don’t wait until conditions change and the plan no longer applies.

4. Stick to the plan. 
Despite the rain, we continued to ride. Despite mechanical breakdowns, we continued to ride. And despite other challenges, we continued to ride. We had to trust our plan and keep the goal in sight: making our destination within 24 hours. While there often are several goals in public relations campaigns, they all point back to improving/creating positive visibility and getting more attention from potential members or business partners. It’s important to keep those campaign goals in mind when you encounter bumps in the road.

5. Review the plan. 
We started riding into a thunderstorm. This forced us to stop and take stock of where we were, how much further we had to go and assess the conditions. The weather was deteriorating; it was getting dark and cold. These are not optimal conditions when you are not familiar with the road, but we persevered. For credit unions to also persevere, conduct quarterly reviews of your plan. This will give you the opportunity to review successes, determine what part of the plan is working and what part might need an adjustment. At some point, factors affecting the plan may change and this could require modifying the plan—but only if completely necessary and not just for the sake of making changes. Even then, it is important to keep the goal in mind.

We accomplished our goal, and we were proud of our accomplishment. In the end, good things come with hard work and planning. While an Iron Butt might not be in your future, having a strong public relations plan come to fruition can be. 

Charlyne H. McWilliams is an account supervisor at at William Mills Agency, the nation's largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or its blog.

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