If you’ve been charged with developing the PR approach and plan for your company, get ready; you’re taking the first step toward a substantive achievement. Creating a high-profile PR plan can be daunting if you haven’t done it before. But a sound, carefully conceived program is a road map to success. Here are some fundamentals that will guide you in crafting a winning PR program.
Define your objectives
Consider and prioritize your goals. Are you trying to attract investors? Supporting a product launch? If so, what are the sales goals, and where can PR make an impact? Is there a need to build or improve reputation? We ask a thousand questions when onboarding a new client, and the answers inform our plan. It helps to have a handle on your company’s current standing in the marketplace, its differentiators, and key competitive challenges or threats. The objectives should be clear as well as measurable.
Define and prioritize your audiences
Prioritize your audiences, from customers to stakeholder groups that may include employees, funders, distribution partners, and others. It’s rare for a program, particularly a B2B PR plan, to simply target potential customers. We typically include those who can influence potential customers, from industry experts to current clients and end users, and even vendors who might pass the word to prospects. The PR team will then research the behavior of these well-defined target audiences to fine-tune messages and tactics for reaching them. It will design different tactics to communicate to the various stakeholders — all in aid of the program’s objectives.
Get on the same page as marketing
The communications goals should align with or complement those of marketing, advertising, and sales – but they don’t have to be the same. For example, direct-marketing will nearly always have an impact on demand generation, while PR affects brand visibility and reputation. It’s helpful to use the company’s marketing calendar as a guiding star when crafting the PR plan. PR and marketing content are increasingly intertwined, as well. To determine which marketing assets could become useful for the PR plan, see this earlier post on how PR and content marketing work together.
Identify key campaign themes
The practice of public relations is about telling stories, and all good stories have compelling themes. They’re informed by consideration not only of the PR goals, but the marketing calendar, client feedback, and current industry conversations. The themes will guide pitch angles, content development, and thought leadership strategy. But realize that your messages won’t go out in a vacuum. Before designing the materials and tactics that will tell your story, consider what’s being talked about in and around the industry. What trends or challenges will affect your customers? When GDPR was approaching, tech PR teams were sure to pitch their data privacy experts for bylines and expert commentary. Additionally, always make room in the plan for reactive pitching.
Make an action plan
A good PR plan includes a variety of pitch angles and story ideas to drive media interest under each theme or message. While a startup may elect to limit its scope to core media outreach activities, most comprehensive programs will use all the best implements in the PR tool box to support thought leadership, analyst relations, research, and other tactics. Of course, any PR plan is dependent on budget, manpower – and time.
PR is all in the timing
Rock-solid PR plans have a strong sense of timing. Big company announcements should be carefully timed for maximum impact, keeping in mind other associated PR activities and seasonal news on the calendar. Visibility activities should be crafted to create a steady drumbeat of coverage. The PR plan will have set timetables both for activities and for assessment. It’s good practice to evaluate results at planned checkpoints every quarter and build in content flexibility to respond to category changes, take advantage of opportunities, and adapt to business moves. The best PR plans are fluid so they can be adapted to these changing conditions.
Ideally your initial 3-6-month program should be just the beginning; it’s the initial stage of a long-range program with broader goals. A stellar PR program can give a young tech company competitive advantage in a crowded, unstable marketplace. At some point, that young firm may grow out of its PR team. See this earlier post for tips on knowing when to bring in an agency.