As with many things in life, a successful public relations campaign starts with a plan. But where do you start? Here are my recommendations to get you off on the right track.
Firstly, don’t try and plan for every eventuality - you will end up with an unwieldy document which you have slaved over for hours but is so daunting that you stick it in a drawer never to be looked again. Try to create a plan which gives an overview of the entire year, but only actually plan your activity in detail on a quarterly basis. This way you won’t miss any key events or opportunities but can concentrate your efforts on the tasks that are most important and valuable to your business at any particular time.
Be clear about your goals and set out your aims and objectives. These could be quite straight-forward such as raising awareness of your services or driving traffic to your website or very specific and focus upon the launch of a new product or establishing a new division within the company.
Know who your audience is. Even if your product or service is something which will broadly appeal to everyone, you need to try and categorise your targets and be quite specific in how you are going to reach these people and what messages you want to communicate. Now is a good time to work out what media titles you would like to target; your list could include local media, national media, broadcast, specialist trade titles, consumer titles and online platforms. All will want something a little bit different so do your research to understand what type of stories each title covers, which journalists write about what and the deadlines they work to – some publications come out once a week or once a month so you will need to make sure your material reaches them in good time.
If you haven’t already done so, develop a set of key messages. These are short statements which capture exactly what it is your company does or has to offer. It might along the lines of “Company X is the North East’s leading independent estate agency chain”. Back any claims up with supporting evidence such as number of outlets, any accreditations or industry recognitions.
Now let’s look at what tactics you are going to adopt. There are many different techniques that can be used so think about what you want to say to whom and select the most appropriate method. You will more than likely want to use a combination of tactics, but don’t try to do too many things – choose a few things that will give you the best return and do them well rather than try lots of things but not have the budget or the resource to do any of them justice. Some of the most common tactics include media relations (press releases, interviews, photo calls), exhibitions and events, social media platforms such as Twitter and Pinterest, blogs and podcasts, competitions, newsletters and surveys. Think about how your PR campaigns sits with other marketing activity such as any advertising, direct mail or sponsorship arrangements.
Then comes the fun part and you can start to execute your campaign. Not everything will work out how you have planned it so have a back up should you need to change direction.
Decide how you are going to measure the effectiveness of your PR campaign. You can look at things such as number of press cuttings generated, key message delivery, number of hits to your website, bookings to an event for example. Evaluate your activity on a quarterly basis so if something isn’t quite working out then you can change tack. Similarly if you are getting great results you can look to build upon this over the coming months.