AMEC is passionate about planning, because work that is planned is easier to measure and most importantly, garners better results!
But what is planning, really?
Planning is ultimately a creative endeavour. It’s one that is grounded by research and fuelled by insight – both spaces AMEC members are very familiar with. And it’s crucial to creating more successful work because done correctly, it defines the bullseye for great work.
But how do you make that leap – from what you know from research to what you need to do?
In this piece, we’re going to outline how the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework – our flagship measurement strategy tool – can help you to plan your campaigns, plans and programmes too.
Starting at the end: Defining the ‘why’
You need to start by answering two questions:
- What is the business impact you’re trying to achieve, and how can communications realistically contribute towards it ?
- What is the human problem you’re trying to solve?
Let’s start with understanding business impact. It’s common to get a brief asking you to increase share of voice (SOV) by a particular percentage, or (more generically) to raise awareness. But to create a meaningful plan you need to understand the business imperative – for example, perhaps a service is actually looking to increase their subscribers.
The Integrated Evaluation Framework can help you to do this, by starting at the end and using Out-takes, Outcomes and Impact boxes to prompt your thinking. For example, some questions you might ask:
- What do you want people to think differently as a result of what are planning to do?
- What will your audiences do with and take out of your communications?
- What do you want people to feel differently as a result of what you are planning to do?
- What effects will your communications have on your target audiences?
- What do you want people to do differently as a result of what you are planning to do?
- What results will be caused, in full or in part, by your communications?
It’s tempting to stop here, and base a response solely on the brand or organisation’s objective. And the objective is important, because it will tie back to how you think about measuring your success in latter boxes of the framework.
But for planning, you also need to understand the human problem you’re trying to solve.
To get there, you’ll need to do research. Look at how people search, what they talk about on social, how the subject area is covered in the media. Then go a step deeper: what do academics have to say on the matter? (Google Scholar is a great free resource for accessing papers across the social sciences.) Summarise the problem you’re trying to solve in a sentence or two. This is the beginning of your plan.
So you need to start at the END of the Integrated Evaluation Framework and ask yourself: What is the human problem we’re trying to solve? Or phrased another way, why is this communication plan needed?
Research, audience targeting and planning
Defining your audience
In addition to understanding the human problem, you need to understand better the people you’re looking to impact. The more specific you can be, the more impactful your plan and creative execution (or behavioural intervention) will be.
Think about who your plan needs to target to achieve the “why” – a solution to your human problem – that you’ve now identified.
So push beyond simple descriptions like “women in the UK” or “Gen Z.” Beyond demographics, think about their pain and passion points, and about what you know of their behaviours. This will help you in activation as well as in planning.
Finding the creative insights that will spark your idea
Insights are at the heart of all planning exercises. And there are lots of models for planning that break insights out into different categories. Most critically, however, there are two tasks for you to address here:
- first, understanding the insight(s) which are likely to unlock the ‘why’ for your audience, and
- second, understanding the unique position the brand or organisation plays.
Let’s start with the target audience insights. There is an old adage that an insight is like a fridge: the moment you look into it, a light comes on.
Much like defining your problem, the insight is going to be a product of research and is ultimately a creative act. Often it comes from the juxtaposition of two things which come from that research which seem at odds.
Or perhaps you’ll discover a simple, unspoken human truth. But it should be something you can phrase clearly, in one or two sentences, and which feels inherently true and revelatory. Once you’ve got that, you know you have your insight.
You also, of course, need to understand the role the brand or organisation is going to play in all of this. And to do that you need to ask: what is your unique selling point? What’s the one thing you offer to the world that no one else does? How can you help the customer/stakeholder overcome the human problem you’ve laid out?
Writing your strategy
Now you’re nearly there!
It’s time to summarise the strategy. How will you use the information and insights you’ve gathered thus far to solve the problem in the first step? There are a few common ways to phase these statements, but perhaps the most common is GET/WHO/TO/BY.
Get [target audience] / Who [consumer problem] / To [desired response] / By [one message/action]
You already know the first pieces. The final two need to articulate how you are going to solve the human problem by something the brand will do or provide. The “By” should solve the “Who”. Note that the “By” shouldn’t be an articulation of what you’ll do from a comms or media perspective – eg. don’t use this as a space to outline that you’ll get mentions in media or run advertising. These are activities, not strategies, and you’ll come to them in the next step.
If you’re looking for examples of what this looks like, we recommend a handful of strategists in our “Resources – Further Reading” section. Below you can see one example written by Julian Cole in his piece, “How to use the creative brief GET/WHO/TO/BY”:
GET: Gen Xers music lovers
WHO: think Spotify is a music streaming platform designed for the youth
TO: Reconsider Spotify as a song library for all music listeners, including them
BY: Showing that Spotify allows them to reconnect with good times no matter how much the world may have changed
Aligning objectives + activities
Think about WHAT measurable objectives will guide your success. Often a brand or organisation will have gone in with objectives already defined; in that case, your task here is to double-check that the strategy you’ve developed and the activities you’ll outline next will help to achieve that objective.
If you haven’t been given an objective – or more likely, the objective you have isn’t quite sharp enough – use the Integrated Evaluation Framework as an opportunity to refine your objective and make sure it is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely or even SMARTER (Evaluated/Ethical and Reviewed/Recognised). One helpful tool to do so, the Smart Objective Builder for communication and PR professionals, is available here.
Then it’s time to bring your idea to life. Across paid, earned, shared and owned – how will your strategy take shape on these channels? Be as detailed as you can. Think about HOW you can achieve your objectives with the right activities. Then, think about WHAT measures you will need to make sure these activities are effective.
We hope this short guide helps you to improve your planning process, through the Integrated Evaluation Framework.
Begin by starting at the end of the framework – understanding the human problem you’re trying to solve – and working your way through your target audiences, your insights, your strategy and lastly, your activation . And of course, we would be remiss if throughout this process you shouldn’t also be developing a plan using the framework for what you are going to measure and how you are going to measure it! Take the time to do research and be as specific as possible as you fill in the sections of the Integrated Evaluation Framework planning tool.
Follow this process and we look forward to seeing even more award-winning entries by next year’s AMEC Summit!