PR folks love to talk strategy; which is good because it’s the single most important aspect of what we do for the organizations we represent. As we plan strategy we tend to voice our opinions and instincts, but what else should go into a solid PR strategy? What we should be discussing is how the correct mix of experience-based instinct, research and data will lead to a PR strategy that delivers measurable results. We have the instincts and experience, and if used efficiently today’s PR software will provide the research and data needed to build brilliant PR strategy

“PR, as an industry, often comes under attack for its inability to map results back to tangible business metrics,” comments my friend and peer Kimberly Youngstrom, Group Vice President, MWW Public Relations. “While intuition and experience are essential, PR programs especially need the substantiation and justification that sound research and analysis can provide.”

The goal of a sound PR strategy is universal: deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time. The path to building a successful PR strategy can be boiled down to four steps.

PR Strategy Step 1: Do Your Homework

Building PR strategy should start with research. In my previous post, 5 Ways to Turbocharge PR with Media Monitoring, we explored how monitoring tools enable brand, competitive and industry research – this is a great place to start.

“When developing a PR strategy, I use competitive insights to ensure my team doesn’t replicate a similar idea, creates unique messaging and finds specific audiences that aren’t currently being targeted,” adds Tanya Rynders, PR consultant. “Keeping up with media outlets that typically write about your brand or product will help you stay on top of current discussions and trends in real time.”

As you approach a new PR campaign use your monitoring tools to understand the micro and macro media landscape related to your pitch. On the macro level, monitoring tools will help you to understand your overall brand perception, your competition, industry and customer. On a micro level, you’ll want to use your tools to research press and social media discussions about products or services similar to those you’re pitching. You need to know everything possible about the media environment you’re entering before you pick up a phone or send a single email pitch.

PR Strategy Step 2: Clearly Define Your Campaign Goal

Too often we pitch for the sake of pitching; this is not strategic. Perhaps this is because our boss’ demanded “a press release each week” or perhaps we just tried to keep an active pace, but we all know it’s useless to pitch without a clearly defined goal. All PR campaigns need a clear goal and answering these questions will help you put one together without too much pain:

  • Who is your ultimate customer?
  • What message(s) do you want to deliver to that customer?
  • What are you hoping to achieve?

With the answers to these questions you’ll be able to develop a clear, one sentence campaign goal, which will lead your messaging and outreach strategy. If you know why you’re pitching and what you are trying to achieve, the next steps to completing your PR strategy will be that much easier.

PR Strategy Step 3: Hone Pitch Messaging Based on Research

By now you’ve done your research in order to better understand your customer, competition and industry environment and you’ve set a clear goal. Those two steps set you up for shaping your message.

Using a combination of your research and goal begin writing pitch messaging that will feel newsworthy to your target journalists, resonate with your customer and match your business objectives.

Youngstrom sums up the correlation between research and messaging nicely; “At the end of the day, great insights provide opportunities to tell unique stories that resonate with target audiences.”

A well-crafted pitch should be concise and easily digestible.  It should move your customer towards action and, as Youngstom points out, it should resonate. Once you have a first draft spend time trying to poke holes in it and share it with a colleague or two for feedback. If needed, edit, and edit some more.  By using your research and being thoughtful you’ll move on to step four with solid pitch messaging.

PR Strategy Step 4: Identify and Understand Media Targets

With your pitch messaging completed its time to decide on a distribution channel and find the journalists that will help you to reach your customer.

Determining distribution is largely based on the messaging you’ve developed. The question you need to ask is whether your message is best suited for a broadcast approach (press release) or more personal approach (individual pitching).  Does your message have mass appeal or will it get better pick up if you pitch to a more narrow, targeted list of journalists? For example, if you represent a tech firm announcing a merger with another firm you have a mass-appeal message in which case a press release may be best.  If you are the same firm announcing an upgrade to a current product your message has a more narrow appeal in which case you should focus on select journalists and influencers.

You’ll want to build your media list based on the subjects journalists in your niche are already writing about.  With the right tools it should take minutes to determine which journalists have covered your competition, industry and subject matter regardless of beat. Combine that list with journalists with whom you’ve built relationships and you’re ready to go!

In every definition of PR I have read the word “strategy” holds significant prominence; ultimately PR strategy is the foundation to campaign success. PR professionals bring to the table a strategic way of thinking about the communication between a company and its customer and it’s extremely important that we remember this as we approach every project, both small and large. If you follow the above steps and use the available PR software tools developing good strategy can be quick, painless and effective.

For more insight into how PR strategy fits into a larger PR programs or campaigns, download our e-book, 5 Steps to Smarter PR Campaigns.