For most companies and organizations, the new year is a time for assessment, goal setting, and strategic planning. The same goes for public relations. This is the time to set objectives and formulate a clear, well-defined plan that will help increase brand awareness and grow your bottom line.
When planning your public relations activities, as a general rule, consider the full year ahead, plan for six months, and expect to revise after three months. Like most business activities, public relations requires flexibility and a recognition that things will change over time. However, a number of factors will make a measurable difference to your company’s success if you account for them at this early stage.
Assess & Plan
First, review the past year in terms of public relations activity. If your company received media attention last year, review the resulting coverage with an analytical eye. Determine the angles and pitches that worked well and resulted in positive coverage. Take note of which journalists reported favorably and which did not. Look at the overall amount of positive, negative or neutral coverage you received. If you subscribe to a media measurement service, like Meltwater or TrendKite, assess the results of your campaigns and compare your progress against your competitors.
Next, consider your overall business objectives for this year, and use these as a basis for developing your public relations objectives and key communications messages. With regard to messaging, make sure that what you say and how you say it reflects what you are trying to achieve. Your messages will form the backbone of your communication activity for the year.
Finally, develop a plan of attack that includes a comprehensive media, digital and thought leadership strategy. Identify potential public relations opportunities that could occur during the year, such as product launches, expansion activities, new investment, added service offerings and develop a calendar that lists these events.
Tools & Tactics
Once you have sketched out your plans for the year, it is time to consider the activities that will enable you to achieve your objectives.
- Create a solid media list—before engaging in any media activities, take the time to carefully research and build a database of key reporters.
- Develop a news release calendar—plan out the news releases you intend to issue throughout the year. You may need to revise this calendar as you move through the year, but it will give you some initial structure to adhere to and help you stay focused on generating news.
- Reach out to key reporters—schedule time on your calendar for media outreach and contact each reporter individually to introduce yourself and to arrange informal meetings.
- Contribute “bylined” articles—contributed articles can be an excellent way to generate exposure and establish yourself as an industry expert.
- Develop case studies—tangible, real-world examples of the benefits of your product or service are very attractive to the media and potential customers.
- Organize speaking opportunities—research conferences, trade shows, and webinars for opportunities to nominate yourself or other leaders in your company as a keynote speaker or a member of a panel discussion.
- Develop blogs and social media content—both of these digital tools have grown in popularity because they offer a way to have an active discussion with a motivated audience.
- Prepare for a crisis—crisis planning should be an essential part of your public relations plan. This should include all possible negative scenarios and the appropriate responses to them. Ensure that employees are aware of crisis procedures and do a test run to iron out any inconsistencies or holes in your plan.
Planning your public relations strategy now will not only help generate new ideas and opportunities for you and your business to shine, it will also give you peace of mind in your day-to-day operations and contribute to sales success. While public relations plans are always subject to change, planning ahead will enable you to stick to your overall objectives and maintain your focus.
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