Summer is in full swing! The sun is out; the days are long and there is no better time to get a jump start gearing up for the fall. Whether summer means basking in the sun or making the most of an internship, developing strong project management skills are fundamental to success for both public relations students and professionals.
Marketing plans and public relations campaigns often span one year. As the page turns on the fiscal year, specialists lay out the broad strokes of upcoming initiatives. The initial proposals may not include fine details, but well-developed plans can increase engagement and sharpen the focus of the organization.
The task of developing plans that are timely, appropriate, adaptable and interesting can be overwhelming. Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, compiled a list of 27 online tools for communicators. The list provides helpful sites and plugins to help make email, teleconferencing and project management easier.
Dietrich’s recommendations for simplifying project management:
Project Management Software: This is a must for anyone looking to simplify group communication, such as an executive board. There are numerous options. Look for a project manager that offers easy-to-use message boards, scheduling tools, to-do lists and document storage. Although some services charge a monthly fee, there are free options.
File Storage: Relying on the cloud for file storage is much more convenient than the traditional method of filling up hard drive space and sending emails with multiple attachments. A file hosting site will sync files, making them available on any device. Sharing and editing have never been easier. Dropbox is especially useful because documents are available even when offline.
Condense Communication: A cloud-based communication system can provide optimum efficiency. Look for a collaboration tool that organizes discussions and provides direct messaging. Convenience comes in the form of searchable content, and best of all, it will reduce email!
Spreadsheets: Don’t underestimate the power of spreadsheets. “Some things don’t require fancy software such as cash flow projections, communications dashboards and metrics tracking,” says Dietrich. The simple yet powerful ability to create charts, identify trends and condense data can make any project easier. Knowledge of spreadsheet software not only makes project management easier but also improves marketability to future employers.
Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM): Building relationships and maintaining a trusted following is now integrated and automated. Implementing innovative ways to connect with target audiences combined with in-depth demographics makes CRM a must for any organization.
While spontaneity and improvisation are a must in the public relations field, the best work is thought out and well planned. As the media landscape changes, pitches and media plans should evolve to stay abreast of opportunities, obstacles and trends. Early planning lays the foundation on which lasting success is built. The planning process is more than an exercise in professionalism; it is a validation of the initial idea.
David Gallaher is a senior studying corporate and institutional media and public relations at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Follow him on Twitter @dsg25 or connect on LinkedIn.