Did your public relations plan for 2020 include a global pandemic that would force everyone into their homes? What about on-going national protests for racial equality? If it did, you should probably start playing the stock market.

For most of us, 2020 has brought an onslaught of unplanned challenges and we’re only half way through the year. It’s hard to imagine trying to plan for 2021, but a plan provides direction. Think of it as an opportunity to prepare for the unexpected.

We’ve outlined four tips for how to tackle 2021 planning:

  1. Objectives Light the Way

The first step is setting your objectives. Objective should be reflective of big pictures goals. Examples include, introduce a new prooduct, elevate a spokesperson’s profile and build brand awareness. Especially when it feels difficult to plan, don’t get bogged down trying to capture every small detail of the year to come. It’s impossible. Always come back to the objectives. Objectives are the guiding lights as you start shaping a PR plan. Programs and tactics may shift and change, but your objectives remain.

  1. Plans are Fluid

At Double Forte, we say plans are written in the sand, but objectives are written in ink. This means plans are fluid and will evolve and change, while the objectives remain consistent. Using the pandemic as an example, if the objective is to build consumer awareness of a new flavor, the plan may have been to host a New York media tour to introduce writers to this new flavor. Shelter-in-place orders forced the plan to adjust, but the objective of introducing media to the new flavor can still be achieve with a shift in your plan. This pivot may include additional pitching, creative sample mailings or virtual tastings — they all work towards the constant objective. Approach your planning with the mind-set that it’s going to change throughout the year and that’s ok.

  1. Build in Flexibility

With the knowledge that your plan is going to change, build flexibility into the programs. This will make it easier to pivot when the unexpected arises throughout the year. For example, at this point, it’s impossible to know if media will be back in offices taking desk-side meetings next year. For 2021, consider programs that can be executed with both in-person and virtual elements. Then as the activation dates approach, the team is not scrambling to reimagine the program to fit the current environment, but rather prepared with options already developed and client-approved. With flexible programs, adjustments can be made swiftly while still achieving promised results.

  1. Think Outside the Box

While it may seem daunting to think creatively while the world is swirling around us. It is actually the perfect time to try something new and different. In changing environments, your ideas need to be similarly evolving. Consumers have become accustomed to change and will be more accepting of new thinking. The same programs from last year may no longer be effective in achieving this year’s objectives. Look for new perspectives. Push the boundaries. Now is the time to shake things up!

Even in the midst of the chaos around us, we recommend planning early for the year to come. Plans provide direction, even if that direction needs to change throughout the coming year.