Every business has a unique story to tell, and a strong PR strategy is one of the best ways to share it.
However, planning, implementing and navigating a PR strategy is complex. Whether it be managing a press office, launching a media campaign or putting crisis plans to use, having a strong and nimble PR infrastructure is no simple task – but it is essential for a business to thrive.
Philip Lynch, Senior Vice President of Insights at Onclusive, has a wealth of experience in supporting PR and communications leaders to implement successful strategies, and he knows just how volatile the media world can be. Here Phil shares some of his top tips.
1. Know your surroundings
Having clear and detailed visibility of the external environment is the first step towards building a strong PR strategy.
Establishing eyes and ears in the media through monitoring and tracking is a key way for businesses to have an up to date view of the world around them. In today’s media environment, adapting to the events and trends that clients, customers and key stakeholder groups are grappling with is crucial to building meaningful engagement. By analysing the media landscape and identifying the authors, commentators and platforms who talk about you, your sector and the issues your audiences face, businesses can more easily identify the opportunities to own – or avoid…
2. Define your objectives
A successful PR strategy must be based on a deep understanding of the needs and goals of the wider organisation. As such, it’s important to liaise with internal stakeholders to understand the common objectives and how these translate into communications goals. For example, are there characteristics of our organisation we want to emphasise? Are there specific issues PR needs to lead on? Or steer clear of? By asking these questions, businesses can ensure their PR strategy is driving in the right direction and contributing to wider success.
Just as PR needs to align with objectives, a successful strategy needs buy in from everyone in the function. Everyone needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet, contributing to a cohesive and consistent narrative. All activity across the department needs to ladder up to the same core objectives.
3. Build a framework and create a plan with the outcome in mind
Now you’ve got your insights, it’s time to build a strategy that is relevant. To do so, map your objectives to your understanding of the media environment you are about to launch into. Get to know your audience, what media they consume, and where they consume it. For example, what outlets are they interested in? Which industry issues are being discussed? By cross comparing your objectives with the media landscape, businesses target audiences with a relevant narrative.
And once you know where to go, plot the course. Think about forthcoming external events, announcements, launches, or news that will impact your comms success – are there dates to avoid or events you can leverage to enhance your impact? Getting your planning right is the key to effective communications, from campaign launches to crisis management – so start planning early and be mindful of the events and campaigns around you, as well as your own activity.
Once the activity starts moving, follow your plan but stay flexible. Real time tracking of the internal and external landscape will allow you to detect new opportunities and to anticipate any obstacles that may not have been anticipated. Track the media reaction, assess the results and course-correct where necessary. With flexibility, a robust framework and a deep understanding in place, your strategy can adapt to needs of your audiences and your own objectives.
Next, it’s important to evaluate – review the results of the campaign and ask ‘why?’. Understanding the outcome of a project against both the objectives set at the outset and the media environment, will allow for a rounded and honest evaluation of the activity, and provide valuable learnings to help optimise future work.
6. Prove and improve your value
The benefits of evaluation stretch far beyond understanding what went right and what went wrong. Having this depth of insight will allow you to measure the impact of any PR activity. For example, what has the impact been on the organisation’s media profile? Where do you stand against competitors? How have your core messages resonated with target audiences? Measuring these results will not only inform the overall impact of the activity, but will also provide the groundwork for your long term planning as your organisation continues to grow.
Integrating these steps into your PR planning will simplify what is ultimately an ever-changing environment. The way in which individuals consume news and information is constantly evolving, and in the modern landscape of 24 hour news and social media, it’s crucial to get it right. So, plan ahead, be flexible, and learn from your experience to grow and evolve with the world around you.