PR strategy is closely linked to brand positioning and target audiences. All efforts should be targeted to the media that actually reach your target audience.
PR Plan: Table of Contents
- Writing a PR Brief
- Business Objectives
- Research: SWOT analysis
- Communications Objectives
- Target Audiences
- Key Messages
- Expected Outcomes
- Calendar of Activity
1. Writing a PR Brief
Regardless of who is going to implement a PR plan of action, e.g. someone within the company or an external PR consultant, the best place to start is by taking the time to draft a PR brief.
Clear briefs make for clear understanding and measurement.
PR Brief Contents:
- Describe briefly the business you’re in and any relevant background information e.g. competitors, market share, trends etc. Include a short description of any PR related actions undertaken in the past.
- What are your business objectives and communications objectives?
- What are the key messages you want to communicate?
- When does your communications programme need to be up and running? (i.e. deadlines?)
- Is there some specific action you want undertaken or can the PR team respond with an alternative communications solution?
- Who and where is the target audience? Not just media, who are the other stakeholders i.e. those who can influence public opinion positively or negatively for you?
- Do you require a short term burst of activity e.g. over weeks/months, or a more planned and sustained programme of PR support?
- Available budget?
- What would you regard as a measure of success? Publicity, numbers at an event, favourable review from one key opinion leader e.g. a food critic?
2. Business Objectives
What do you need to do to develop or improve your business?
Generate more orders outside current geographical reach
Develop positive relationships with buyers for top 3 multiples
Ensure top 5 buyers attend an ‘open’ day on-site or other event
Attract top young food science graduates when next recruiting
3. Research: SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis (an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) will give you a better understanding of your sector, current trends, your competitors and their marketing style and activities. Carry out a SWOT analysis on your product or service offer.
4. Communications Objectives
Set out the objectives of your PR activity i.e. the measurable destination, the end point, where you want to ‘get to’. You’ll know they are true objectives if the answer to all the following questions is ‘yes’.
- Do they link back to your business objectives?
- Does it have an outcome/end-point?
- Is it achievable?
- Is it measurable?
5. Target Audiences
Identify your target audiences.
Don’t just list them, try to get inside their heads and ask yourself:
- Who provides the best opportunity for you? Don’t make assumptions.
- Focus primarily the main ones - don’t spread your efforts too thinly.
- What makes your product/service relevant to the customer or journalist?
- What do they actually know about the product?
- What do they think /assume about the product?
- What stops them thinking what you WANT them to think about the product/service?
What is your strategy?
- The strategy is the method you propose to get to your objective, your destination.
- It’s a plan of action - not the actions themselves.
- Gives focus to activities/tactics.
- Sets priorities.
- Answers the question: why would we do that?
What informs the strategy?
- Knowledge of your business
- Knowledge of your customers
- Knowledge of the marketplace
Defines best way to:
- Frame agendas
- Communicate messages
- Build relationships
- Generate involvement or participation
- Sell a product, or
- Achieve a legislative objective
7. Key Messages
Key messages should appear repeatedly in all forms of communication.
- A key message is a short, simple, credible and factually based message that you have identified you need to communicate e.g. “Popcorn is a treat or snack, made from corn, that can be enjoyed as part of healthy balanced diet”.
- Serves as a foundation/theme for media materials, websites, speeches, print etc
- Can sometimes help with measurement i.e. you should start to see them cropping up what the media and others say about your products.
Tactics are how you are going to implement the strategy. What you are specifically going to do when, how etc.
A tactic must:
- Map directly back to the programme strategy
- Support and advance an objective
- Reach at least one target audience
- Develop a series of press releases on new product developments/awards etc and issue to targeted media.
- Take a stand at a big regional event and sample product
- Place competitions in local media offering a product related prize e.g. a spa weekend if your in the gourmet trade
- Ensure local councilors and TD’s know your business, how many you employ, what are your concerns
- Consider inviting second level student on a tour of your business.
9. Expected Outcomes/Measurements
In order to effectively assess the success of public relations activity, it is important to agree targets and evaluation measures from the outset. A useful question to think about is: “what would you regard as a success in three months time?”
As you draw up the list of communications objectives, think carefully about the messages you want to communicate and how you will determine if these have been achieved.
Decide before you begin what are your expected outcomes? This is sometimes known as Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) e.g. is it sales figures, increased positive publicity, decreased negative publicity, etc.
10. Measurement Tools
- Market Research
Research is one of the most effective tools in measuring the impact of activity, particularly if the aim is to build awareness or to change perceptions. By using a sample survey at the beginning and end of a campaign, it is possible to track changes in consumer behaviour and attitudes.
- Media Coverage Evaluation
Media Coverage is frequently used to determine the success of a PR campaign. To do this, a company calculates the equivalent advertising cost of the column inches secured by media coverage. Because PR coverage often represents a third party endorsement, it is usually considered more valuable than advertising.
For this reason, the advertising value equivalent is adjusted using a multiplier to get the true value. The multiplier used varies from company to company, but in Ireland the industry standard is a multiplier of three.
This method is most appropriate when evaluating the exposure achieved by your brand in press features. Prominence of the coverage received should also be evaluated, i.e. whether it is in the headline, in the first paragraph or is it just a mention at the bottom of an article. If the exposure is from an advertorial or competition, you will be paying for media space and competition prizes, so the results are not comparable.
A good way to evaluate the success of a competition is to see how many people entered into the draw.
If one of the goals of your PR campaign is to increase sales, it should be possible to establish if this objective has been met. It is wise to monitor the effect on sales during peak times of PR activity to see if it is having the desired result. When you know that your products will be featured in a publication, advise the sales teams as far in advance as possible. This way, they will be well equipped to respond to an increased demand.
11. PR Budgets
The cost of public relations can be divided into two main areas: fees and expenses.
If you work with a consultancy, large or small, they will charge for their time on an hourly or daily rate. The costs will depends on the nature of the brief and the volume of work and this should be agreed in advance.
Some businesses have short term or seasonal requirement for PR support which are referred to as Project Clients, others with ongoing or longer term requirements are called a Retainer Client and billed an agreed amount every month.
All third party costs or expenses incurred by a PR consultancy on behalf of a client such as photography, competition prizes, hotel/exhibition costs are usually charged out at cost plus a handling charge. Alternatively the client can have the supplier invoice them directly. Office administration costs such as phone, photocopying deliveries are charged at costs.
Consultancies will provide detailed costs estimates in advance of a job and these costs shouldn't alter unless the work programme agreed changes.
In some cases the consultancy will ask for a credit check on your company or for progress payments at agreed stages of a work programme. This is just good business practice and not unusual.
12. Calendar of Activity
This is the company’s plan of PR activity spread across the month, year etc. plotting the activity designed to reach each of your target audiences.