What differentiates a powerful PR program from one that’s just OK?
The key is to formulate a robust blueprint for how you’ll achieve your PR goals. Here are seven steps to set a strategy that achieves meaningful results:
1. Start at the end.
What are your goals?
Avoid vague objectives such as “increased visibility” or “enhanced reputation.” Instead, focus on specific benchmarks for visibility, such as increasing awareness within a target audience by 10 percent, or conveying specific product attributes that differentiate it from the competition’s offerings. Strategic PR programs build relationships and convey attributes that lead to measurable business performance and growth.
2. Test it with research.
In public relations, we rely on a blend of experience, storytelling instinct and imagination to inform our programs and our work. However, those elements aren’t enough.
To make the investment worthwhile, your PR strategy should rest on research that defines the value proposition and confirms the customer and media targets. The best plans also start with a thorough brand communication audit that includes insights into target customers, channel partners and employee perceptions of the business or its products.
Most ad and marketing agencies start by talking to customers, as winning ideas often emerge from customer and market research.
3. Prioritize your targets.
Don’t try to target too many audiences; you can’t be everything to everyone.
If you lack the resources to reach different kinds of prospective customers, home in on a narrower target. Be relentlessly disciplined in the messaging and program execution, and prioritize specific people and personas you want to reach.
4. Involve stakeholders.
A strong strategy should also be informed by external insights, whether it’s emerging trends, industry changes or cultural shifts. Other resources might be internal.
Employees who interact with customers are particularly helpful resources. They tend to have deep knowledge of your customers, including common preferences and pet peeves. Employees also serve as ambassadors for your company—for better or worse.
Before settling on a PR strategy, gather feedback and insights from experienced colleagues who understand the motivations and pain points of potential customers.
5. Ensure that PR and marketing are aligned.
Public relations and marketing messaging should reinforce and magnify each other.
Just as a swimmer needs two arms working together, these two departments should collaborate toward messaging unity. If PR and marketing are saying different things or offering mixed messages, you’ll diminish the effectiveness of each.
6. Don’t fall in love with tactics.
Sometimes, even the sexiest events, platforms or pieces might not dovetail with your target customer’s needs. Don’t be afraid to pivot.
Stay flexible, and be willing to scrap outdated tactics.
7. Bulletproof your strategy.
Once your strategy is nailed down, write your PR plan. However, keep in mind that things can quickly change.
A solid strategy is adaptable to market conditions, competitive developments or even changes in the news cycle. Also, robust plans should include a crisis contingency that prepares for potentially damaging scenarios with a defensive strategy for quick action.