Strategic Planning: A Unified Roadmap to Future Success


By Darcy Schwass, APR

Serving on chapter leadership is exciting. Knowing where your chapter is going, or should go, and how it’s going to get there is reassuring and exciting as well.

The Cincinnati PRSA chapter has a term process that ensures consistency in leadership members from year-to-year, while recruiting new members and providing opportunities for them to rise through the ranks. This means our chapter has leadership pros with a firm grasp of our unique challenges and opportunities, as well as fresh voices and perspectives.

It’s a process that has proven successful. But inherent leadership transitions, especially the election of a new president every year, merited a unified plan that would ensure consistent, measurable objectives and goals even under new leadership each year.

We needed a strategic plan.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to start a strategic plan process for your chapter, then check out these six steps below to find out how we developed our five-year strategic plan for the Cincinnati Chapter.

Recruit several voices.

We convened a strategic planning task force, consisting of leadership and nonleadership team members; longtime members and new members; agency and in-house professionals; seasoned members and new pros. An eclectic and diverse group ensured well-rounded views of long-term chapter goals.

Look inward and ahead.

At a Saturday morning meeting, Erin Rolfes, APR, our then vice president for programming, who is now serving as current president-elect, guided the task force through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis and a discussion about desired goals for one year, three years and five years. Erin captured everything on the whiteboards at the front of the room.

Draft the plan.

As then-president-elect, I reviewed the many notes from our session and drafted our plan. I took a step back and determined what the overall goals were and their measurable objectives. From there, I drafted the associated strategies and tactics. The plan also included a situation analysis and an annual evaluation process.

Edit, edit, edit.

I shared the initial plan with a couple of key leadership team members who served on the task force and incorporated their input before sharing with the larger group. After incorporating their edits, we had a solid strategic plan draft.


Our board needed to vote on the plan to make it effective. It passed unanimously.

Move forward.

It’s imperative for each year’s leadership team to ensure the plan is kept top-of-mind through annual transitions. It’s also incumbent upon each president to use the plan as a roadmap for the year and ensure the appropriate leadership team members assume responsibility for their objectives.

At the beginning of 2018, I was excited that we had a plan in place. We’re already tackling our objectives – especially those that need to be met by year’s end – and we have a good start on those that need to be met in the years ahead.

If you have questions or would like more insights about the Cincinnati chapter’s strategic planning process, feel free to contact me any time at [email protected]. Happy planning!

Darcy Schwass, APR, is president of the Cincinnati Chapter, PRSA, and senior account executive for Vehr Communications.