A successful PR campaign is usually only as good as its plan. But we’re often operating in a dynamic news media environment, so stuff happens. How can a PR plan be “bulletproofed” to the extent that it’s even possible?
The key is to vet it before you start. Begin with overall business goals in mind, as well as obstacles and opportunities unique to PR and communications. Here’s a checklist based on aspects of a robust PR plan that can be overlooked or underwritten.
Does the PR function have a defined role? In other words, is it designed to do something that marketing or advertising does not? Sometimes it’s to educate about a new category or product – something hard for paid media to do in great depth. It may be to add credibility to a marketing positioning or product claim, or to convey messages that showcase competitive superiority. Whatever the case, it should go beyond vague or redundant goals like “positive visibility” or “leadership positioning.”
Does the PR plan define success? Lead generation? Brand messages that resonate with prospects? Web traffic? Whatever the desired outcomes, they should be more clearly defined than just reach, as measured in impressions.
Does the plan include internal audiences? Many plans don’t address employees and stakeholders, or they may give lip service to them. But internal audiences can be important ambassadors for the PR strategy or for a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. And if employees and partners aren’t fully informed of a program’s goals and strategies, it can mean lost opportunities.
Is it research-based? In our haste to generate social or publicity impact, we can underestimate the time and research required for a bulletproof PR approach and for multiple media storylines. One of the advantages to earned media over traditional paid media is that PR can often shift tactics or tweak messaging with minimal cost, but the earned media approach lacks the test-and-tweak flexibility of digital advertising.
Is PR programming in sync with other marketing elements? Maybe full integration isn’t a goal, but simple coordination adds add value and help prevent mishaps. Sometimes the PR team will spot mediaworthy pieces in the marketing plan, but too late to offer input or realize the news potential.
Is the plan reasonably flexible? The most bulletproof plans are adaptable to market conditions, competitive developments, or changes in the news cycle. Some degree of change is the rule, not the exception. PR can take advantage of that with monthly plan reviews and adjustments.
Does it include a contingency or crisis plan? Similarly, it pays to think through potentially damaging scenarios and be prepared with a defensive strategy in the event of unexpected developments. The key here is often quick access to decision makers and a clear chain of communication.
Does it budget for measurement tools and services? New tools make measuring outcomes far easier and more precise than in the past (see below), but they can must be in place in advance of program execution and included in the program budget.