Don’t be overwhelmed at the thought of creating an effective digital PR strategy. Start small: it doesn’t need to tackle every possible opportunity at your company. If you make it realistic and manageable, you’re more likely to achieve success on which to build and grow the strategy. Besides, the process for developing a strategy is the same no matter the size of the initiative. Once you’ve done it successfully, you can simply repeat the process.
But before you think PR strategy, think about business strategy. Identify your company’s business objectives and goals. Executives usually don’t see merit in supporting a programme unless it positively contributes to what the company seeks to achieve. Here are our 7 steps to help get yours underway...
1. Define your audience
You need to know who you want to talk with. In addition to the standard demographic and socio-graphic factors, you should understand your audience’s digital behaviour – where do they consume information online, what formats do they prefer, etc. The more you know about your target audience, the more effective your strategy will be.
2. Determine goals
Once you select your target audience, set a strategic goal. What does your company want this audience to do as a result of seeing and consuming your PR efforts? Do you want to educate them? In which case you might want to set a goal around awareness or perception. Or do you want to inspire them? If so, your goal could be around acceptance or belief. Or would you like your audience to take a specific action?
In setting a goal, you must also identify how it will be measured so you know if your efforts are working. For example, you can’t state that you want your digital PR outreach to ‘raise awareness of the company’s new product’. You must be specific and attach numbers, such as ‘to create buzz for our new product, we will secure 25 online mentions from our target media and 10 online reviews from our target influencers in the next three months’.
3. Detail key topics and messaging
Now that you know what you want your digital PR programme to accomplish, it’s time to think again about your audience. How will your efforts involve (not interrupt) the audience? What content can your company offer to help or entertain your audience that relates to their daily lives and connects to your strategic PR goal? Compile the list of topics and craft relevant messaging.
4. Make a distribution plan
Your target audiences have their communication preferences – email, social media platforms, push notifications and so on. They also have their preferred devices – smart watch, phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. You must communicate with your target audience where they consume digital information. If you don’t, no matter how relevant your messaging is, your audience won’t see it.
Don’t forget to ensure your message reflects the preferred format, length and tone of the selected digital platform.
5. Create an editorial calendar
Now that you have the key components of your strategy, it’s time put together a comprehensive schedule – your day-to-day operating script. With each piece of content scheduled, list the audience, format and distribution method.
Make the editorial calendar even more efficient by providing space for analytics for each piece of content. This will enable you to understand the effectiveness of each outreach effort. These are not necessarily the same as the overall strategy analytics.
6. Establish a measurement process
One of the biggest selling points of a digital PR strategy, unlike most traditional advertising or marketing efforts, is that it can be more comprehensively measured, which makes it much easier to know if your digital PR efforts are having the desired effect. Start by understanding what media measurement categories are most important to your organisation.
Make sure to be as specific as possible in defining what you’re measuring (category) and how (metrics). Recognise that some categories (e.g., total impressions, total reach) are easier to measure than others (e.g., brand perception, return on investment). But don’t pick categories just because they’re easier to measure.
Your chosen measurement methods must be linked intrinsically to your strategic goals. For example, if your digital PR strategic goal is about growing your email subscriber base, metrics like the number of interactions and followers won’t tell you how successful your programme is. However, if your goal is related to improving your brand perception, follower and interaction numbers could be helpful metrics but so could third-party surveys.
7. Use data to evolve your digital PR strategy
Don’t just report the numbers – use the data to advance your digital PR strategy. Make an appointment on your calendar (at least quarterly) to dig into the data on a micro and macro level. It’s critical to see how well the programme is achieving its goals, and what tactics are working better than others.
Don’t restrict your analysis to internal numbers. New data and trends will emerge from outside the PR team. Talk to other departments in your organisation to learn about the changes they’re experiencing. Review external sources that speak to trends in your industry and about your audiences.
Use that comprehensive analysis to inform the update of your strategy, expanding on successes and tackling newly discovered obstacles.