A Mynewsdesk poll showed that an overwhelming majority of marketers and communicators surprisingly need support with how to write a PR plan.
Questioning some 460 people, 66% think that creating a strategy for brand storytelling is the trickiest. Other areas they find challenging are within skills (41%) and tools & technology (34%).
To be honest, sometimes I feel like I need help with my strategy too. Do you?
Question: In what areas do you need support in brand storytelling?
Is working agile making it hard to develop a PR plan?
What I find the hardest is to just find the time to do it.
Also, in this new-age way of working agile, working on a long-term plan is now out of fashion.
When I started my career in 2002, we used to develop annual plans and talk about 5-year strategies. (Boy, that makes me feel like a dinosaur.)
Now, we work in two-week sprints and can’t see beyond a quarter.
I’m wondering, have you had a similar experience?
The focus on quick wins
It’s not surprising, I think, that I tend to neglect to work on developing a strategy or a long-term plan because I’m always being pushed to deliver quick wins.
As a content marketing manager, I get asked:
- What did you do last week?
- What did you do this week?
- And what results did you generate?
Again, I’m always looking for the lowest apples to pick.
Whatever your position on the topic, whether you’re for working agile or not, you must admit that having a roadmap of some sort is necessary.
Well, how can you know what direction you’re heading otherwise?
Create a roadmap
The map doesn’t need to be a complex one, nor does it need to be very detailed.
Said simply, I need to know which direction to take and figure out where and when to arrive at my destination, i.e., what is the goal I want to achieve?
Sometimes, those goals can be micro ambitions. The easier the goals are to achieve, the better.
All those micro goals should, in the end, contribute to achieving a macro goal. And that macro goal should be the larger marketing and business plan.
So, as most of our participants felt concerned about strategy, and I am at times too, I decided I would write a blog post that covers the steps in creating one.
First, don’t overcomplicate your PR plan
For starters, don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of creating a communication strategy.
Start small: it doesn’t need to tackle every possible opportunity. If you make it realistic and manageable, you’re more likely to achieve success, from which you can build and grow your strategy.
Again, create micro-goals that will help contribute to achieving the macro ones.
Also, the process of developing a plan is the same no matter the size of the initiative. Once you’ve done it successfully, you can repeat the process.
However, before you think communication strategy, think about the greater business strategy.
Typically, c-level managers don’t see merit in supporting an initiative unless it positively contributes to what the company as a whole wants to achieve. So, identify your company’s business objectives and goals.
TIP: Pick the highest-priority business goal where you believe your PR and communications can have the most impact in the shortest time.
Now, how do you develop the goals that will contribute to companywide objectives? That’s what your communication plan should address.
Follow these seven steps to creating a comprehensive but navigable roadmap. So, here goes.
1. Define your audience
You need to know who you want to address. In addition to the standard demographic and sociographic factors, you should understand your audience’s digital behavior.
For example, ‘ What are their informational needs?’, ‘Where do they consume information online?’, ‘What formats do they prefer?” and so on.
The more you know about your target audience, the more effective your strategy will be.
Your target audience likely will fall under one of three general categories:
Bear in mind that they are the gatekeepers who communicate with the audiences you are trying to reach and can affect potential consumers either positively or negatively.
Whether they are customers, anonymous website visitors, social media followers, or newsletter subscribers, these are the people with whom you can communicate directly.
A significant difference compared to earned media is that you own the channels and the means to reach and engage this audience. If you do it well, you can over time make your audience grow.
In this group, some people have similar characteristics to your target group but whom you don’t know. Through paid digital promotion or targeting, you can attract them to your site and hopefully make them a member, if your value proposition is strong enough, of your audience.
TIP: Resist the temptation to target multiple audiences. Pick one or two target groups to enable your communications to be more customized and aligned to their needs and wants. If you do this well, your marketing will better resonate with your desired audience.
2. Determine the goals for your PR
Once you have selected your target audience, set a strategic goal.
What does your company want this audience to do as a result of seeing and consuming your content?
Do you want to educate them?
In which case you might want to set a goal around awareness or perception.
Alternatively, 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 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 ten online reviews from our target influencers in the next three months.’
TIP: Don’t forget to include a timeframe for your goal. Without an end date, it’s not a goal but a hope.
3. Detail the key topics and messages your PR should address
Now that you know what you want your communication campaign 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.
TIP: Put yourself in your audience’s heads and ask: ‘Why would I care about [insert your topic/message]?’ If you struggle to find the answer, choose a new topic or message.
4. Create a PR distribution plan
Your target audiences have their communication preferences – email, social media platforms, push notifications and so on. They also have their preferred devices – smartwatch, phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. It would help if you communicate with your target audience where they consume information. If you don’t, no matter how relevant your message 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.
TIP: Technology can be an invaluable asset. It can help identify your audience’s preferences and track how well they respond to your messaging whether you are reaching out to individuals or communicating with a group.
5. Create an editorial calendar
Now that you have the critical 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. It will enable you to understand the effectiveness of each outreach effort. Note that these are not necessarily the same as the overall strategy analytics.
TIP: Be transparent to ensure everybody is reading from the same script. Make sure your editorial calendar is accessible to your team and the key stakeholders in your company.
6. Establish a PR measurement process
One of the best selling points of digital communications, unlike most traditional advertising or marketing efforts, is that it can be more comprehensively measured, making it much easier to know if your efforts have the desired effect.
Start by understanding what media measurement categories are most important to your organization. Could it be one of the following:
- Brand awareness?
- Return on investment?
Now, when it comes to specific metrics to use, the five most frequently used parameters may include:
- Subscribers – the number of people who engage with your content regularly.
- Reach – the amount of organic traffic you receive to your blog.
- Mentions – the amount of buzz your campaign is generating.
- Sales pipeline and lead generation – the number of prospects and the number of new deals generated.
Make sure to be as specific as possible in defining what you’re measuring (category) and how (metrics).
Recognize that some types (e.g., impressions, reach) are more accessible to measure than others (e.g., brand perception, return on investment). But don’t pick categories just because they’re easier to measure. In short, select the KPIs that are aligned best to your goals.
Your chosen measurement methods must be linked intrinsically to your strategic goals. For example, if your strategic goal is about growing your email subscriber base, metrics like the number of likes and comments won’t tell you how successful you are. However, if your goal is related to improving your brand awareness, the number of follower and interactions could be helpful metrics, but so could third-party surveys.
TIP: Create a standard analytics-reporting format. List each strategic goal along with its benchmarks. Then add the live data on a predetermined frequency.
7. Use data to inform your strategy
Don’t just report the numbers – use the data to advance your communication strategy.
Make an appointment on your calendar (at least monthly) to dig into the data on a micro and macro level. It’s critical to see if your communications and marketing is achieving its goals, and what tactics are working better than others. At Mynewsdesk, we have weekly meetings to review our goals and to see if we are on track. Sometimes, these meetings direct a new course of action.
Another imperative action is to not restrict your analysis to internal numbers only. New data and trends will emerge from outside of your team. Remember to talk to other departments to learn about the changes they’re experiencing. Also, review external sources that speak to trends in your industry and about your audiences.
As a result, use a comprehensive analysis to inform and update your strategy, expanding on successes and tackling newly discovered obstacles as they arise.
TIP: Don’t forget to make sure all stakeholders are aware of what was revised in your communications strategy and understand the reasons why.
Working agile isn’t so bad after all
I hope this post has helped you realize that you don’t need a fancy and complex strategy.
I heard Jeff Bullas say that “Done is better than perfect.”
And I would agree that sometimes it’s best to just do it and learn along the way. If anything, your strategy will probably start to form itself without you even knowing. So maybe, working in two-week sprints isn’t such a bad idea after all. Do you work in an agile way?
In conclusion, use the above model but work continuously in this process to ensure you always remain relevant. Good luck!
Get your free PR plan template
Developing a PR plan can seem daunting. Mynewsdesk’s step by step guide makes it simple to get started. Easy to use, it’s packed with tips and inspiration on how to build your plan. Also, you can edit the template by clicking on the example text and saving it. If you need help with your Public Relations plan, feel free to use this free template as a basis.
The post was written by:
Christopher Van Mossevelde
Global content marketing manager