What goes into a business’ PR strategy? It’s more than just sending out a few press releases every year and hoping for some press. And while it can have some crossover with an overall marketing plan, a truly effective PR strategy requires a different train of thought and expertise to really move the needle. Here is an overview of what’s involved:
The first step is always research, which starts with a deep look at what your company does and why. It involves discussions about your core purpose, values and vision with the leaders in your company, and making sure everyone is aligned. It should include talking to different people in the company about why they work there, how they see the company and where they think it’s going. This discovery time also means looking at competitors – their messaging, their keywords, what kind of press they get, how active and engaging their social media is, etc.
Once all that information is gathered, use it to outline your company’s strengths and weaknesses, which are internal, and opportunities and threats, which are external. And a good SWOT analysis doesn’t pull any punches. It should include all the good and the bad, and it’s okay to be vulnerable – this is the time. This assessment is the basis for the strategy.
Summarize the challenges that the PR campaign should address. Then set clear goals of what you want the campaign to do. It might be to raise a company’s profile in a certain community or to promote a product or service to a specific target audience. They may not all be “SMART” goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) at this point, and in this case, that’s okay. We can set up the measurable stuff later.
Public relations gives credibility and builds a foundation that marketing alone can’t do.
Define your audience. That means describing your current customers, as well as who you see as prospects (they are different than current customers), if different product lines reach different demographics, who industry influencers are, etc. Once you have a broad idea of who you want to reach, get more narrow by creating detailed buyer personas that outline your targets’ wants, pain points and more. That informs how you will speak to them and through what media (email or social media or magazine article or other), as well as what topics they are interested in.
Establish your company’s key messaging. And work with an expert both in wordsmithing and in talking to the media to make sure it’s on point. Determine the key things that you want to get across, what the tone of voice should be, specific words that should be used, etc. This also might include creating a positioning line that works with your logo, writing talking points for people who may speak to the media and other pieces.
Once all of the background, analysis, goals and messaging are determined, it’s time to outline the specific tactics. This is the blueprint of how the PR team will proceed, and should involve both public relations and digital marketing approaches. Each tactic should include a description of what’s involved, what the objectives are, how it aligns with the overall goals and the metrics used to measure the results. This PR blueprint could include such things as:
- Media relations, which means figuring out what specific publications your target(s) read and working to place articles there
- Social media marketing, creating a strategy for which channels to use, when and how often. It may also involve creating a list of social media influencers to engage with, being involved with a Twitter chat or holding an online contest.
- Video creation
- Holding an event – a party, a seminar or another gathering
- Taking on speaking engagements
- Starting an advisory board
- Creating downloadable, thought leadership content, like white papers, infographics or checklists
- Submitting nominations for awards
- Defining a keyword strategy and optimizing content
- Facilitating beneficial partnerships
- Coordinating sponsorships
- Setting up inbound marketing on your company’s site to generate and track leads
- Designing a grand spectacle that will instantly become a conversation topic
- And more
The possibilities here are endless and limited only by the creativity of your team.
Every good PR strategy includes time for analyzing how things are going and determining what needs to change. PR is not static, which means your PR team has to be fluid, adaptable and ready to pivot. Regularly assess the goals and confirm they are still the top priorities. See if the tactics are hitting the target metrics and why or why not. Listen to feedback from customers, prospects and others who will benefit from your PR strategy – learn what is working and what is not. Don’t be afraid to try new things or modify what you’re doing.
Public relations gives credibility and builds a foundation that marketing alone can’t do. Yes, advertising, websites or point-of-purchase displays are important. But customers are used to researching before purchasing – and they are looking for companies who know what they’re doing. That means getting your business’ name in front of them in other ways than just a funny TV commercial. And that’s why companies need a sound, functional and productive PR strategy.