How to pump new life into your PR planning sessions

Though your clients might think they want the status quo, smart PR pros know they have to change things up to stay at the top. Here’s how to expand your game plan.

Every quarter to six months, PR pros work with clients to create a new strategy for the following quarter or remainder of the year.

This should include a review of the company’s goals to ensure the program is supportive, trends/topics the client should continue to own, what worked and what hasn’t during the program and new metrics to measure success.

If you’ve been working in the PR business long enough, the PR planning process can become rather formulaic, especially if you’ve worked with the client over a long period of time. Company goals can often remain the same and a radical change in topics and trends is atypical.

Sometimes a team, conditioned to hear “no” from the client on certain tactics or ideas, leaves out recommendations that truly should be discussed throughout the year.

If you aren’t vigilant, strategy and tactics blend together, and all PR plans start to look alike. It’s crucial that senior team members—vice presidents and directors—push the client (and team) to create a PR plan that is unique.

Client goals might be the same, but once you review company performance against those goals, you can start to see where PR is needed most. Perhaps there has been less traction in a specific vertical, a new competitor is on the scene that has been winning more proofs of concept, a new sales director has been hired to grow a certain region of the company or a particular product has failed to meet sales goals.

Armed with this information, the team should:

1. Dig into data.

Any good PR plan should be data-driven.

It’s ok to have a good “feeling” that a story or tactic will bear fruit (that’s the art and experience we all bring to the table), but it’s essential that PR pros back up gut feelings by looking at data.

2. Analyze new topics.

Use analysis tools to review all the relevant coverage or social media conversations over the past year. Are there topics that are resonating within the industry? Where is the white space—areas where the client can dominate because no one else is talking about it yet)? Are there topics that the client wants to own that are clearly decreasing in popularity?

3. Check on competitors.

Ensure the competition isn’t gaining ground by reviewing their earned, paid and owned results. What publications have driven the most traffic back to competitors’ websites? What topics are competitors dominating (through their own content and earned media)? Have the competitors changed the keywords they are placing ads against? How much are they spending on everything?

4. Take advantage of influencers.

Use influencer engagement and conference content to learn more about the current state of the industry. What are the themes discussed the most during a conference on social media? What influencers are getting the most traction (i.e. the influencers we need to reach)? Are there publications and story themes being shared virally? While you’re at it, analyze and visualize conference agendas using IBM Watson and Tableau to map the topics that the conference thinks attendees care about.

5. Review content .

Learn more about engagement by analyzing client content.

Which pieces of the client’s content has been shared the most on social media? This will help determine the topics that are resonating. Which content and topics are getting the most clicks when marketed through owned and paid channels?

6. Take a step back.

If you were going to pitch this client as a prospect, what would you tell him or her about their current PR program? What would you do differently and what suggestions would you make? This exercise can push teams beyond “the usual” and removes frustrations that can fester after a client continuously declines opportunities.

7. Be ready to convince.

Pushing clients beyond a comfort zone requires a smart strategy, solid arguments and data-driven recommendations. For clients that are used to the status quo during the planning process, it’s paramount that the team is ready to show the data and evidence that backs the new recommendations.

When PR programs enter into the execution phase, there is often less time, ability and tolerance to reset and try new ideas. While any good PR program should be nimble and change with real-time information like breaking news or company fluctuations, the best time to really push the envelope and think differently is during the planning process

How are you pushing for new ideas in your planning sessions, PR Daily readers?

Amanda Munroe is the Vice President for Shift Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on the Shift Communications blog.

This article originally appeared on PR Daily in July of 2018.

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