It may sound like an oxymoron if I were to say, “Planned communication must also be unplanned.” But as PR professionals, this is pretty much a given. Yes, our job is to be laser-focused on strategic planning and preparing for the most optimal communication-related results – as far in advance as possible. At the same time, we’re also in charge of keeping our fingers on the pulse of what’s going on around us, including cultural movements, emerging trends, unanticipated nuances and well, I have to add… pandemics. So, how do you create communication plans that are strategic yet adaptable? Below are a few things to keep in mind as you plan.

 Leave space for the “what ifs.”

Strong communication plans usually include smart goals and a plethora of creative ideas and angles to achieve those goals; however, a strong communication plan should also leave room to insert the unknowns – if the time comes to do so. You may be asking, “How is it possible to plan for an unknown?” Good question. The short answer is that you plan for what you can’t plan. In other words, spell out the best-case scenario for all goals and objectives you hope to achieve, while simultaneously making note (even just a mental note) of what may need to happen if that best-case scenario gets derailed. You want your plan to be structured so that you don’t have to completely ditch it if something unpredictable gets introduced into the equation.

Don’t get caught slipping.

Knowledge is power, right? This line of thinking plays strongly into building a solid communication plan. In our industry, the more you know, the better you can be at advising and guiding clients – especially during times of uncertainty. It’s so important that PR professionals stay plugged into the news – locally, regionally, nationally, globally, client industry-specific and so on – because we have to know what’s going on outside of our comfort zones and carefully crafted plans. Here’s the thing – it’s impossible to adapt your communication plan if you don’t know (for yourself) what you’re adapting to and why. Stay in the know.

Stay true to yourself.

At the end of the day, your communication plan should be reflective of your organization’s vision and values. If the time comes for you to adjust your plan to address an unforeseen “wrinkle,” the very bones of your plan should still be intact. What you don’t want to do is morph into something that you’re not. Or even worse, revise yourself into a completely different organization. The goal is to allow flexibility in your communication plan to stay relevant to the times, while still meeting the needs of your key audiences and making genuine, authentic connections. I think of it this way – you should love the (business) skin you’re in, but always be prepared to add a little lotion to smooth out the rough spots!

Whitney Albert, Director of Client Services at Obsidian Public Relations, a PR firm in Downtown Memphis. Visit for more information.