How To Get A Fast Start On Your PR Program

For PR agencies, winning new business is an imperative for growth, but it’s only half the battle. For those of us who work with entrepreneurial businesses, or really any results-oriented company, the next pressure point is a strong start. We never want a client to be asking, “what’s next?” so we need to get a jump on their expectations, and that means moving fast.

A quick start for a PR campaign can raise confidence among external (or internal) clients and lay the groundwork for a successful long-term program.
Here are five things that PR people should know and do to get things moving quickly, without sacrificing quality.

Immersion is key to great PR

Paradoxically, it takes time to go fast. A great deal rests on the quality of the PR team’s immersion. Understanding a client’s business is fundamental, and a good agency will know what makes it tick, setting the pace for the planning and execution. When good recon is traded for a ‘learn as you go’ approach, the entire campaign could falter — especially if a PR team must service multiple business units at once. A recent example here at Crenshaw involved a program where B2C, B2B and B2B2C initiatives were designed to complement each other and generate simultaneous awareness for a security brand. Each segment had different distribution channels and end users, so a working knowledge of their business was needed to create the proper strategies. What that usually means is an in-person visit to the client, or at minimum a half-day skype session where we interact with all key officers. One high-quality discussion is worth a thousand powerpoint decks.

Set a communications cadence early

Whether inside a corporation or at a PR agency, the typical campaign isn’t easily quantified early in the campaign. That makes establishing a clear communications protocol and rhythm with a new client important from the start. Doing so communicates that the PR team is proactive, transparent, and ready to lead. Once a PR program gets going, teams should decide on a weekly day and time for client calls, determine who the daily point-of-contact will be and be sure to interact with a client at least 2 – 3 times per day to make them feel the value of their investment.

Be aggressive in getting all assets

Even after the initial immersion, PR teams must often push for key startup assets from a new client — things like past coverage, executive speeches, marketing calendars, customer stories, and more. Beyond archived and published content and plans, there’s also likely to be “thought capital” in the minds of C-level executives and marketing leadership. It always pays to include leadership in the onboarding process, of course, but one-on-one follow-ups may also be necessary. This isn’t a time to be shy; our fuel is information and insight, and even if it takes a few days to go through historical assets and arrange phone calls, there’s no better way to maximize the first month of outreach.

Get your PR plan together

The PR plan is a principal piece for getting a strong start, naturally. A good plan will marry client assets with a PR team’s story-mining acumen to create a roadmap detailing upcoming client news, proactive pitch angles and plenty of flexibility to respond to trending news for reactive commentary opportunities. Presenting a well-designed PR plan to a client within the first week or two of the campaign demonstrates initiative and gives the client confidence that their agency is eager to drive results on their behalf. See this earlier post for tips on writing a rock-solid PR plan.

Identify quick wins

Earned media often builds upon itself. That’s why it can pay to identify some “quick wins” – media who are predisposed to covering a client’s story; internal data that can be repurposed into a news item; or the nugget of a blog post that can be expanded into a bylined article for timely publication. Most of these opportunities won’t be huge ones, but they’ll inspire confidence and build momentum for bigger wins down the road.

Monitor and know your media

Often, the first month of a new campaign consists of onboarding and finalizing planning collateral before diving into proactive outreach and generating results. During these initial stages, PR teams should be proactive in understanding who their media targets will ultimately be and what sort of stories might include the client to raise thought leadership capital down the line. For example, PR people working with cybersecurity companies will know that the vertical has a finite pool of contacts who have a very in-depth understanding of the space. These media aren’t vulnerable to being fooled or falling for ‘spin’. Knowing the media from the get-go helps PR teams snag the attention of key contacts faster, react to trending news more efficiently and targeting pitches for optimal results.

Preparation, foresight and planning are all vital pieces of the puzzle when it comes to getting a quick start for a new PR campaign. If done well, a new program can run like a well-oiled machine from out of the gate.

10 New Year’s Resolutions For Better PR Campaigns

The beginning of a new year brings a turning-the-page feeling of renewal. While we had a wonderful 2018, now feels like the right time to refresh and refocus our efforts for an even better 2019. In PR, we’re getting ready to clear an ever-rising bar. Sometimes you just need to remember the fundamentals. Other times, it’s good to take things into fresh directions.

10 resolutions for better PR in 2019

Keep it real

When the PR team is deep in brainstorming mode, it’s easy to lose one’s grounding. When conceiving a new PR program, resolve to make sure it’s built on substance. Formulate the program in a way that is not only creative and original, but that can actually move the needle for the most relevant audiences. Build a program that does something real, and the publicity around it will be generated more easily.

Get experiential

A study by event success software provider Bizzabo indicates that 62% of senior marketers plan on investing more in live events in 2019. We also know that Millennials (and all consumers) prioritize experiences over things. But, as noted, an exciting and enlightening business event that’s highly customized to your target audience may work better than a stunt that’s forgotten within a day.

Phone a friend

In 2019, we resolve to leverage our friends in mutually beneficial ways in our PR programs. Flexible, evenly weighted partnerships expand the bounds of so many elements of PR campaigns, and these collaborations tend to have exponential returns on investment. Partner up with a distribution company, key customer or a not-for-profit partner. Be bold in coming up with creative extensions to make the joint effort as big and successful as you can. Make the ideas irresistible and reap the rewards, jointly.

Reuse, recycle, re-tool

When brainstorming that shiny new program, don’t be afraid to look into the nostalgia file for winning tactics from the past. There’s no shame in adapting a proven idea for another purpose.

Do some real good

We resolve to incorporate activities that are designed to better society in 2019. A little thoughtful, sincere socially responsible PR can round out a successful program. But make sure the idea doesn’t come out of left field; it can and should come from a place of authenticity and be relevant to the mission and ethos of the company.

Dig into your data bank

Agencies that do a lot of tech PR have executed plenty of research, so they generally have a lot of data lying around ready to be collated or reinterpreted. When gearing up to craft a new PR program, why not scour your market research data for newsworthy nuggets for the tech press always hungry for data-driven stories?

Bring in fresh perspectives

We resolve to inject fresh voices into our campaigns. It pays to have quarterly brainstorm sessions that involve people unfamiliar with the project. Agencies should call in team members from other clients or other departments to brainstorm ideas. A fresh pair of eyes can offer a unique viewpoint that enlivens a brainstorm session and freshens up a plan.

Amp up the newsjacking

Reactive news opportunities come and go in blinks of an eye, so eyes must remain peeled to catch them. Most PR teams have their heads on swivels for the ever-important newsjacking chances, but may not have any formal processes set up. Perhaps 2019 is the time to set up a rapid-response protocol to avoid losing out on any chances to join a relevant conversation. See this earlier post for tips on reactive media pitching.

Start an executive blog

If your insightful, eloquent founder isn’t blogging on a regular basis, there may be a great PR new year’s resolution worth taking. Executive thought leadership exposure through original content requires some time and thought, but it can return dividends in the form of visibility, credibility, and brand voice. But be sure to blog regularly and consistently, adding real value for audiences. See this earlier post for tips on making a great PR-friendly blog.

Use targeted video

It’s no secret that video is king when it comes to targeted content. We resolve to use the well-documented power of video to drive engagement and provoke emotions. Video enhances SEO, keeps consumers engaged longer, and is more shareable than many other content forms. See this earlier post for 7 best PR uses for video content.

PR Tips To Win The Fourth Quarter

Suddenly, it’s fall! That means the fourth quarter will be here in no time. Is your PR plan ready for the stretch run to the end of 2018? The summer always goes too fast, so it pays to jump in with both feet after Labor Day. The best PR teams take advantage of the calm before the storm to get their Q4 priorities in order.

PR tips for Q4

PR agencies, you’re running for re-election

Yes, we know the congressional midterms are looming, but there’s a different kind of “reelection” in the air when fall comes. Most companies plan budgets for the following year in Q4, which means they’re evaluating the current spend with an eye toward reallocation. So whether the PR is handled in-house or with an agency, it’s a good time to demonstrate its value. The PR team must continue to perform at a high level and generate measurable outcomes for the fourth quarter. That may mean flawless execution and robust reporting, but it can also mean it’s time to get creative with fresh thinking and add-ons for Q4 initiatives.

Get an early client check-in

A PR action plan needs direction, and if there’s been a summer lull, it ends now. Early September is an excellent time for a review to date, as part of a check-in meeting with the client (whether internal or external.) The idea is to compare notes on progress-to-date, Q4 goals, and priorities. It’s time to set the fourth quarter up for success with a strategic plan, because before we know it, the holidays will be here.

Nail down your holiday plans

The Thanksgiving to New Year’s period is make-or-break time for many brands. For some sectors, like consumer technology, Christmas actually starts in July, when media holiday gift guides are planned and retailers are finalizing plans for the giving season. September is the occasion to assess the company’s year-end needs and firm up all-important holiday plans that help make the year a business success. PR pros will be nailing down earned media priorities, creating seasonal story lines, and even end-of-year lists, recaps, and other content that can punctuate a successful PR season. For seasonal advice, check out these holiday pitching tips.

Dust off dormant contacts

When performing that year-to-date review, PR teams can also identify new opportunities in discarded ideas or even dormant media contacts. A visibility activity that failed to gain traction might be worth retooling for another push in fall. A slight tweak or a revamping could make a big difference. Maybe there are journalists or analysts with whom you have worked in the past, but have recently fallen off your radar. These solid contacts are well worth reviving, more likely than others to welcome a good story opportunity from a trusted source. We shouldn’t close the door on ideas and contacts that have potential to yield PR wins in the future.

Use it or lose it.

Are there extra monies on the spreadsheet for Q4? In most companies, managers don’t get credit for returning portions of the marketing or PR budget. Rather, they’re rewarded for blockbuster programs that help make the year. So it’s best to get creative and call on staff and partners to innovate with new initiatives that fill in the blanks among pre-planned tactics for the fourth quarter.

Get thought leaders mulling next year

The end of the year means recaps and 2019 forecasts that reinforce industry expertise or simply take advantage of holiday news holes. Now’s the time to enlist your best thought leaders to ponder the future and offer insights on the trends that will carry business into the next year. See this earlier post on eight tools for thought leadership.

How To Write A Rock-Solid PR Plan


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.

Write a rock-solid PR plan

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.

8 Ways To Bulletproof Your PR Plan

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.