Use Vanguard’s PICKLE Planning Process to Avoid Being Caught in a Pickle

February 18, 2019

Planning is essential to the success of any public relations campaign. At Vanguard, we utilize a number of strategic processes to achieve results. Vanguardians are never caught in a pickle or a difficult situation they can’t handle thanks in part to better planning.

 

If planning isn’t your strong suit, maybe our PICKLE Planning Process will help you stay one step ahead in the future. The following six easy steps compose the acronym PICKLE:

 

Plan backward from your deadline

Include timelines

Communicate with your client and team

Keep track of milestones

Leave a cushion

Expect obstacles

 

 

Plan backward from your deadlines

 

Deadlines are an essential component of proper planning. There is no room for procrastination, but by planning backward from your deadline, you will know exactly how much time you need to reach your goal. Deadlines have to be realistic. If every project has a critical and short-term timeline, the value of the deadline weakens. Never promise to meet unrealistic deadlines. By planning backward from your deadline, you can set the clock on realistic goals and ensure success.

 

Include timelines

 

One of the best ways to stay on track is to include timelines in your planning process. Take every component of the plan (research, situational analysis, project management, tasks, goals, objectives, evaluative processes, etc.) and create a timeline with correlating dates for every step of the process. Remember to monitor, review and adjust your timelines at least once a week. It is essential to clearly define everyone’s role and expectations for their part in completing tasks in the timeline.

 

Communicate with your client and team

 

Good communication with your client and team seems like a no-brainer but it is a critical step that is often undefined in the planning process. The following tips will improve project communication:

  • Schedule regular meetings, either by phone or in person, to review your timelines, goals and objectives.

  • Send meeting invitations through programs like Google calendar with alert reminders built in.

  • Stick to the meeting schedule and have an agenda to help your team stay on track.

  • Don't forget to share your notes and next steps with your client and team after the meeting.

 

Unnecessary effort and duplication of tasks can be avoided with the help of good communication and effective planning. Monitor news stories and trends and be prepared to update your client and your team about any negative news or social media sentiment that could impact the project. Keep an eye on your budget and always work toward getting the best price for deliverables. Coming in under budget is always appreciated.

 

Keep track of milestones

 

At the beginning of the process, right after you have determined your deadlines, create a short list of milestones to track along the way. Add these milestones to your timelines. Milestones can mark key decision points, the completion of major project tasks and the ends of various project phases. Often completing an important deliverable is a milestone. Ultimately this is just another tool to help you stay on track and avoid missing deadlines.

 

Leave a cushion

 

When you first determine your final project deadline and the deadlines for deliverables along the way, evaluate when and where you might add a cushion of extra time. There are some projects that are dependent on outside sources so inserting a cushion provides a bit of a safety net. The insertion of time cushions as buffers between tasks is a good practice. Buffers remain precise time cushions separate from individual tasks and disappear when the task following the buffer starts. Make sure you monitor and adjust your timelines accordingly. If you don’t need the cushion, you may get a little breathing room or finish the project early.

 

Expect obstacles

 

The most successful plans are flexible. If you have planned ahead for contingencies, then you won’t suffer a huge setback. Never go into a planning process without contingencies and alternative sources in place. Whether we can blame Murphy or some other law of fate, it is inevitable that obstacles will arise somewhere along the way in the planning process. Being prepared for emergencies or a crisis is something you have to prepare before you even start a project. Vanguardians are ready for any situation that might arise. Years of building relationships with quality vendors allow us to have layers of resources to rely on as alternative sources. Our contact lists are current, and we have pre-prepared social media posts, remarks and messaging ready for a variety of scenarios. We always have a Plan B.

 

Preparation is key to avoiding obstacles. When planning for an event, the chance of an obstacle arising is even greater. We ALWAYS do advance work before any event and plan in advance for anything that may impact the function or overall guest experience. We arrive at least two hours early on the day of the event and have scouted the venue well in advance. We know weather can change in an instant, so if the event is outdoors and a storm comes in, we have tents or a sheltered venue ready to continue with the program. We have a portable podium, sound system, signage and supplies to section off areas for VIPs or the media.

 

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