Start Planning for 2019 Before You Buy Candy Corn

As Q4 2018 approaches, you realize this year has gone by at a blistering speed. You may have had several public relations campaigns that you completed, and there might still be plans for another one before the year is out. The thing is, soon you will be getting that email from the CFO asking for your 2019 budgets, and you need to be prepared for that meeting with finance. Did you evaluate your campaigns and programs during the year? If not, take some time to do that now before any Q4 initiatives are launched to determine if adjustments to objectives and budget need to be made. If you have done some evaluations, it is time to get an overview of those results and determine what they mean for the remainder of the year and for your 2019 planning.

But it isn’t even Halloween yet, you say – Can’t this wait until the wee hours of the Friday before Christmas vacation when the office is quiet to figure out where 2019 will go? You could, but it would be a best practice to start your review now.

Evaluate the objectives and results of campaigns, media engagement, community relations and external communications. Did you engage your intended audience with your messaging? What were the measurable impacts on awareness, opinions, behavior or support? What about outputs? Evaluate and measure the effectiveness of tools, tactics or activities which supported a plan or project. As a result of your findings, identify ways to improve and develop recommendations for 2019. Adjust the plan, materials, message and activities on any remaining 2018 campaigns.

Conduct client and/or other needed surveys before the end of the year to provide insight on how well your campaigns may have influenced and changed attitudes, beliefs and behavior. Use the data for summative research for 2018 as a baseline for 2019, so you can start planning for next year.

Review your budgets and ROI. Measure the effectiveness of the campaigns and programs against the outcomes, attainment levels and time frames of each objective and make budgetary and planning adjustments for any remaining campaigns for the year. Do you need to modify your Q4 objectives and budgets, or do you need to adjust that planned Q4 campaign for a 2019 launch? This review will make your budgetary planning for 2019 more realistic.

Whew! Almost made it through a whole year without having to implement your crisis communications plan? Review it now and evaluate what needs to be changed and updated before 2019 starts. Do it before you start buying Halloween candy. C’mon, you know you want to…buy candy corn, that is. So, get your evaluations done early.

By Patricia Vernon, Director, Communications, FPRA Gainesville Chapter

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