Having worked in public relations and issue communications for more than 20 years now, I tend to forget that my craft is still a mystery-slash-missed opportunity for many people. A prospective client brought that home for me recently as I considered how to answer the question, “So where do we begin?”
Here’s a four-step guide to help bring clarity (love that word!) to your PR efforts. These turn-by-turn directions will help you get where you want to go.
1. Determine your destination. You can’t drive off without knowing where you want to end up, right? So first off, huddle with your PR counsel to identify your goals and objectives – that is, stake out your destination. Then you can consider how PR can help you get there. Skipping this first step is akin to driving aimlessly, at night, without headlights –you’ll have have no chance of getting where you want to go.
(Sidebar: Let’s take a moment to define terms, as goals and objectives are often confused. Goals are general statements about where you want to end up long term; think of them as “whats.” Objectives define the “hows” to achieve those “whats,” establishing specifics that can be measured. For example, your goal may be to be your region’s top purveyor of specialty fruit varieties. A supporting objective may be to gain as customers the Northeast’s top five specialty grocery chains, defined by the good folks at Supermarket News.)
2. Plot your course. Now that you know where you want to go, you and your PR counsel can work together to identify related communications strategies, tactics and activities. These are the many routes and modes of transportation that you’re going to use to reach your destination.
(Another sidebar, to define more terms: Strategies define how you plan to achieve an objective. Tactics add on another level of detail to the strategies. Activities are the step-by-step how-tos to execute the strategy.)
For example, if one of your marketing objectives is to increase visibility with mom consumers then one of your strategies could be build trust with moms by employing social media. Facebook would be a must-have tactic for executing that strategy. Your activity plan will outline how you’ll decide what components to include in your Facebook page, stipulates that you’ll develop a social media policy to guide your Facebook team, and lays out an editorial calendar to ensure you’re posting fresh content regular to keep moms engaged.
3. Draw up your map. By this mile marker, you can now document your goals, objectives, strategies, tactics and activities in a written plan. This will also help you identify the resources you’ll need, and to establish a realistic execution schedule.
Your plan should also identify the communications tools you’ll need to get the defined job done. The first tool I urge my clients to develop is a message platform (aka key messages, talking points, message map, etc.). Writing down and prioritizing the messages you want to convey will bring focus to your work that is worth its weight in gold, as I’ve previously blogged here.
4. Check your progress mid-course. Any journey can be beset by bumps in the road, travel delays or outright road closures; the key is to identify them as soon as possible so you can change course if you need to. You and your PR counsel should conduct periodic course checks to alter the map as needed to ensure you can still reach at your destination.
For example, if you’re foraying into social media for the first time, you’ll want to closely analyze your data. Don’t be satisfied with just tracking Facebook likes or Twitter followers, also delve into the content and tone of posts. If you’re engaging in trade media relations, are traditional press releases in fact generating coverage – better yet, is that coverage catching the attention of your customers? (Hint: Share coverage with your customers, to ensure they saw it.) Or do you need to take a different route, such as pitching exclusive content to a leading media outlet?
Disciplined PR planning and execution helps you focus limited communications resources where you can get the highest ROI – just as preplanning your travel itinerary does. (Hint: You don’t necessarily need or might not be able to afford a Cadillac of a program, sometimes a well-designed Volkwagen will do.) Your PR counsel should work with you to design a program to achieve maximum results for your budget. Think of us as your expert, outsource travel agents, dedicated to helping you reach your destination – and to enjoy the trip.