We are rapidly approaching the end of the year and I’m already hearing murmurings about plans for 2013. Here are 10 items that should be on your radar for your 2013 strategic planning.

1. Real-Time Media Strategy

Although the majority of businesses are using social media in one form or another a report from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) says 72 percent of businesses don’t have a clear strategy or goals for their social media activities. Consequently showing ROI is almost impossible.

“Companies need to look at social media from a strategic perspective across the business organization and not relegate it to marketing and communications or let it exist independently within each function or department of a business,” says SHRM Darla Moore School of Business researcher Rob Ployhart. He points out that the silo approach, which is all-too-common, leads to inefficiency, redundancy and mixed messages, both internally and to customers.

If this applies to your company putting an integrated real-time media strategic plan in place is the most important action for 2013. The plan has to be based on solid research that highlights threats and opportunities. (A social audit.) Only once you have this data can you correctly set goals that align with your business objectives.

2. Social Audit

Mapping your brand's social graphA social audit maps your brand’s complete social graph – both internal and external. Delving into the conversations that are taking place online about your brand and your industry is a new way of getting real intel from all stakeholders without a biased setting.

For the first time in history you can take a snapshot of the actual WOM about your brand, as well as what’s being said about competitors and also-rans in your vertical. A good social audit will discover whether your brand has reputation management issues, internal problems, customer service dilemmas and it will highlight any crisis that is developing, or existed in the past.

It will reveal trends, hot topics and gaps you can take advantage of. It could pinpoint new markets and uncover R&D insights. You can tap into what people are saying they need and want right now, so that you can make better business decisions going forward.

Firing off a marketing campaign into a void of the unknown is like shooting a shotgun in the middle of a wide field in the dark, hoping to hit a rabbit. Get intel and get a strategy in place so you can achieve results.

3. Risk Assessment

Every good business plan has a risk assessment component. Yet when it comes to social media this seems to be overlooked. The Burson-Marstellar Digital Crisis Report showed that 79% of the 800 companies surveyed globally said they expect a major crisis within the next year. Most of them believe that the crisis will arise online, but they are totally unprepared to manage and emerge successfully from crises fueled by a digitally powered news cycle. Nearly half of those surveyed said they lack even a basic form of effective online reputation monitoring.

Shareholders or investors expect the image and reputation of the brand to be protected. the corporate image and reputation has long been one of the core functions of PR. They want to see results and more importantly, reports on the results. If you have not taken into account any possible risks you have not done your due diligence and that is putting the company’s future at risk.

A full Social Media audit across all blogs, forums, micro blogs, feeds and channels reveals things that an ivory tower view will not. Tie the new data into your existing efforts and see what matches and what sets off alarm bells.

4. Formulate a Crisis Plan

Once you’ve done the audit and risk assessment it’s time to put a plan in place to deal with any possible crisis. Without a plan you’re effectively standing in the middle of a freeway knowing a huge truck is heading your way and you’re putting your head in the proverbial sand.

If your existing plan was based on a 24 hour news cycle you have to think again. Real-time media is always on and the deadline is right now. Events move at breakneck speed. Everyone has a device in their hands that is able to post images, video and comments in real -time. There is no opportunity to edit or correct. The days of denial are long-gone. What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube. And all the world can see it in every tiny detail. What’s worse, Google can see it and index it and now it is on the Net for everyone to find, forever.

The videos about Kryptonite Bike Locks’ security issues were posted five years ago and they still show up in a Google search for the brand name. If your reputation is tarnished online through negative search results you had better be ready to get those results cleaned up or, at the very least, mostly neutral. If only this were as easy as calling Google and paying money to fix the problem. It’s not. It takes skill and time to move results around in Google and other search engines. It needs a team of very experienced people with a wide range of talents and large networks they can activate.

It takes way more than just populating social profiles and posting content. It requires a thorough understanding of search engine algorithms and staying right on top of any changes. It has to be fully integrated across all social channels, PR and news. Since you are unlikely to have all these skills in-house part of your plan should be to find a team that can help you in times of a crisis. The other part of the plan should be to train your in-house team on how they can and should respond.

5. Expand Your Network of Influencers

Real-time media gives you the opportunity to find, connect and nurture relationships with influencers in the different nodes of your social graph. Look beyond the major mainstream media journalists and editors.

Find niche publications, both online and offline, that write about your industry and your topic. Look for bloggers who have an interest in your brand, your products or the social outreach programs you do. There are people blogging about practically every subject under the sun. And they’re very passionate about their niche. Most of them are eager for good content. If you find the right bloggers and offer them content that will build their influence and their readership, they’ll be open to working with you. Do it right and you gain access to their networks.

Look internally too – it’s very likely that you have some employees with big online networks who could turn out to be your best brand ambassadors.

Every group in your graph has influencers. These are the people who will form and spread the narrative around your brand. Find them and build strong relationships with them.

6. A Converged Media Content Strategy

Content marketing is the current buzzword. It seems all roads lead to content. And indeed, content is king. The Mad Men on Madison Avenue have had to rethink their approach. Ads no longer work. People respond to relevant, informative, interesting content and they are accessing it in many different ways on on a variety of screens. In 2013 you should be looking at a converged landscape of owned, earned and paid media. See this report by Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter Group. Learn how to leverage all three types of content and work them into an integrated whole.

The trick is how to produce and deliver the right content in the right format at the right time. It doesn’t happen without a plan.

Use the information you’ve gleaned in your social audit to formulate your content strategy. Work with the marketing and SEO folk at your firm so you have more information to feed into the strategy. Identify the gaps, hot topics and opportunities and weave them into your content. Work out ways to integrate and enhance the campaign with content that works across all three types – paid, owned and earned.

7. Visual Storytelling: Learn New Skills

Not surprisingly, research and eyetracking studies show that visuals attract views. It holds true for press releases, news stories on media sites and indeed any kind of content online. If you add images, video, charts or infographics your views on that content can increase as much as 77%. The use of video online is growing at a staggering rate and shows no sign of slowing down. Media sites have cottoned on to the increase in views with visuals – particularly video. Almost every media website now uses video. As a result, journalists and bloggers are demanding more visuals with any pitch.

Why? If a picture tells a thousand words, a video writes a whole book. People like visuals. It expands and enhances the story. It makes it more real for them. There is no escaping the impact video is having on our lives. High quality digital cameras are in our hands day and night built in to our smartphones. Video calls on Skype are a daily occurrence. What was once science fiction is now a reality.

The rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets across all age groups means they have the technology in their hands to record and share moments that would otherwise be lost forever. Now they’re viral fodder.

Take control of this shift to visual storytelling. Make sure your team has the skills to tell all your brand stories with original, visually stimulating content.

You don’t need to learn to produce a blockbuster studio quality video. Concentrate on learning how to spot entertaining, interesting and newsworthy ideas. A short video that has a real wow factor will beat out overproduced corporate hype every day of the week. Remember your audience is far easier to reach than ever before, but they also have the power to click off your video if it doesn’t engage them in some way emotionally.

8. Upgrade Your Online Newsroom

Once you are producing content you need a vehicle to display and syndicate it. 2013 is the time to upgrade your newsroom so it supports your content strategy. Make your newsroom your content hub, the center of your content empire, where journalists, bloggers, analysts and the public can find and share your organization’s stories.

It gives new life to earned media placement in a digital world. At last we are able to seed compelling stories that really resonate with people, directly to the audience that would want it. Instead of trying to get a journalist to write a piece and hope for a picture in the editorial, we can give them embed codes for videos, images, slideshows and infographics, so they can use them with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Use this checklist to grade your online newsroom

9. Make Your Content Mobile:

There are now 3x as many cell phones as there are PCs. 86% of smartphone users are active on their phones while watching TV. 91% use their phones to socialize. Facebook’s mobile traffic jumped 23% in the 2nd quarter of 2012. Mobile internet access is predicted to overtake desktop access by 2014. Get ready now – add a mobile content component to your 2013 strategy.

Understanding mobile means understanding to some extent that the audience you want to attract has a device in their hand pretty much all the time. This is the same device that they look to for almost everything. Directions, advice on shopping, food, clothing, hotels, almost anything you can imagine and then probably a whole host of strange things after that.One half of all local searches are already performed on a mobile device.

Mobile is the future in the same way that cellphones changed the way phones worked. The Net and video are going the same way. In the very near future we’ll be completely connected at unprecedented data speeds and you can take advantage of it all.

Take a fresh look at your owned content. Make sure that all of it, including your Facebook apps, are accessible on a mobile device. Again talk to IT or your webmaster. Or find an outside resource who can help you make this happen fast. Your website and your newsroom should be optimized for mobile and mobile search as well, because if your videos don’t play on mobile you are dead in the water.

Get ahead of the game and use mobile to your advantage now.

10. Analytics and Measurement

This is another new skill for many PR folk – but it is absolutely vital. In the digital world you can measure practically everything. You just have to figure out what you should be measuring and how you’re going to track it.

Read K.D. Paine’s book Measure What Matters. Buy SAMS Teach Yourself Google Analytics in 10 minutes. Follow Avinash and read his blog. Learn skills such as how to to use link tagging with Google’s URL builder to be able to track news content and posts. See this post by Kami Huyse.

Google Analytics now has social reporting so you can see which of your social outreach is working. Success with your blogger outreach campaigns and the results of your content strategy depend to a large extent on your ability to use analytics. Learn how to use Facebook Insights and YouTube stats.

Get a demo of the top five monitoring and tracking tools and choose the one that suits your needs best. Then become a ninja at using it. Add Google Analytics to your newsroom and your blog or any other owned media site you have. Check the stats regularly and adjust your content and activities accordingly – and regularly doesn’t mean once a month.

If you add these 10 items to your 2013 strategic plan and implement all of them you should be able to say “It was a very good year.”

By Sally Falkow and Cokey Falkow