7 Step Guide: How to Create & Implement A PR Campaign

A women planning out a strategy on a piece of paper
A women planning out a strategy on a piece of paper

An effective PR campaign can increase brand awareness or sales for your brand for years after the campaign's completion. And that's probably why you're reading this blog, right? You want to know how to execute a PR campaign that captures the attention of your target audience.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to produce a PR campaign with winning results.

Table of Contents

What is a PR Campaign?

Public relations (PR) is a powerful way to connect with your audience and creating the ideal campaign and implementing it properly, has never been more important.

The goal of a public relations campaign is to create a media narrative or control the spread of information about your business to attract customers. It can also be used as a tactic to generate awareness about a specific event or business venture. Oftentimes, marketing and advertising campaigns are focused on driving sales, whereas public relations teams usually have set different campaign KPIs.

Common PR Campaign Objectives

  • Attract media attention
  • Generate awareness
  • Inform the public about the latest company news
  • Enhance your brand reputation
  • Build stakeholder relations

If you want to see an example of a successful PR campaign, we've got five for you. In our blog on the Top 5 PR Campaigns, we provide examples of the brands that stood out with their public relations campaigns.

How to Develop PR Campaign

Now that you know a bit more about what a PR campaign is, let's discuss how to develop a pr campaign.

1. Determine What You Want to Accomplish

Before you start planning your public relations campaign, you need to decide what the desired outcome is. Are you looking to increase sales and leads? To increase brand recognition and brand valuation? Or is partner engagement and recruiting your focus?

Deciding what objective you want to achieve first helps determine the strategy you should take. In the section above, we outlined several objectives that you may want to consider setting as your goal.

Many PR experts choose to use the SMART method as a template

  • Specific: What is the desired outcome?
  • Measurable: How will success be measured?
  • Achievable: How will the campaign achieve its goals considering outside influences?
  • Realistic: Is your campaign goal realistic for the bandwidth of your campaign?
  • Time-based: How long do you have to meet these goals?

When setting your PR goals, remember to thinking about how you will measure success during your campaign planning. Your leadership team doesn’t want a list of links to PR clips and some social media snapshots; they want to understand how the promotion supported the business's objectives.

Wondering how to evaluate a PR campaign? To make sure you are on the right path, we’ve identified 14 proven PR KPIs you’ll want to consider tracking.

2. Select Your Target Audience

If your goal is to increase brand awareness around your new product line of diapers, you probably aren't going to be marketing them to single men in their early twenties. Reaching your goals requires reaching the correct audience. So, when mapping out your media plan and public relations strategy, think about who you want to target. Your PR team will likely have to adjust its tactics based on the audience the team decides to target.

3. Brainstorm

Once you know what you want to accomplish, you can begin thinking about the best way to achieve your set of goals. Brainstorming is an important part of developing a PR campaign. To hold an effective brainstorming session, bring in different people from various backgrounds and relay what you are trying to achieve. Conduct a thorough brainstorm by asking for lots of ideas and seeing how they correlate with each other. Then, give it a day or so to settle before re-approaching with anything you may have missed.

Consider these questions

  • What is the message?
  • Who is the message for?
  • What platforms will share the message?
  • What topic is the message and how will you get it across?

In addition to holding a brainstorming session, you may also want to collect market intelligence about your target audience or competitors. Try using a survey to sample how your audience is feeling or consult a subject matter expert.

4. Gather Market Intelligence

During these early stages of the campaign, it is a good idea to collect industry research. This information can be used to determine how your story fits into broader industry trends, what aspects of the story to embrace or not, and how to counter any potential negative backlash. It is also a good idea to take note of what the media is interested in.

Tip: When crafting a press release, frame the announcement as a story. If you want journalists to pick up your company's news, then help them to understand why it's newsworthy by creating a headline for your press release that read's like a news story that'd be interesting to the public, not just a company news bulletin post.

Conducting research like a social media analysis, competitive analysis, or digital media analysis could be beneficial to the campaign and marketing efforts.

Other things to research

  • Competitors websites
  • Competitor campaigns (SEO, social media, and PPC)
  • Competitor LinkedIn pages
  • Your competitors on Google and set up Google alerts

To collect all of this information, you may have to involve stakeholders from other departments, like Marketing and Sales. These stakeholders could help inform and vet the key messages and campaign plan.

5. Select Your Channels

Will you be sending out a press release or holding a press conference? Do you want to use influencers to help spread your message or only your company's branded social media profiles? The channels that your target audience pays the most attention to, should be a key consideration in the campaign planning process.

Again, if you are marketing your company's new line of diapers, then you could consider leveraging a mix of online and offline tactics to reach people before they go shopping and when they are out shopping. When developing the strategy, your public relations team may want to think about how the campaign relates to the Marketing team's SEO strategy, social media strategy, and other digital marketing channels.

Unsurprisingly, most press releases aren’t SEO-friendly. You don’t have to be technical and a search engine specialist to understand SEO’s impact on your PR campaign. With the help of semantic SEO and research-driven link building, you will be able to increase your brand’s reach, drive more organic traffic, and increase your site’s (and brand’s) authority.

6. Sense Check Your Idea

Before jumping into the public relations campaign execution and launch, present the ideas to people not involved in the project. How many times have you seen an ad and thought "how did someone approve that?" Well, chances are, not many people were involved in the approval process.

To avoid a PR crisis, consider finding out what your journalist friends and influencers think. Influencers have great insight into how the social media world will receive your message.

Most importantly, get early feedback from the client to ensure it matches all their brand preferences. Doing this can help catch something obvious or prevent something tone-death. Be sure every part of the campaign aligns with their brand and company values.

Think about your target audience and ask

  • What is important to them?
  • How will this campaign make them feel?
  • What are their pain points and how can you solve them?

7. PR Campaign Execution

Before your public relations team presses "go", double-check that every detail is correct and all of the assets are perfect and on-brand. Be sure that every piece of data or a set of facts included is accurate. This is the time to make any changes before officially launching.

Now that it is time for tactical execution, give yourself a minimum of 10 days, or even longer for some public relations campaigns. Consider current events, competitor news, and even holidays. Expect that things will be out of control and give yourself some wiggle room. This space to make any last-minute changes is crucial to campaign success.

Be sure to have any additional information ready to go, and the authority to send it. It is imperative to capitalize on every single call, so have communication channels open and be ready to respond to every inquiry.

8. Follow Up

Have a follow-up plan for journalists. If you notice that your story has been bumped or not covered yet, be sure to explain how the content is still news-worthy, and how it will continue to be news-worthy in the days and even weeks to come. It is common for journalists to have their inboxes full of pitches, so be sure that yours stands out.

Plan to send a follow-up email 3-4 days after the initial communication. Include a link to a customer review, or a link to data or research showing its continued value. Or if it was an event, include some photos. No campaign is ever one-and-done, so create a follow-up plan for added coverage.

9. Measurement

Now it is time to package your success and essentially do some PR, for your Public Relations team. Write up a narrative of what happened and take a victory lap with a blog celebrating the coverage. Take your time writing up every detail and outlining the success of the campaign.

Also, be sure to create a mass report with demonstrated KPIs, objectives, and opportunities for improvement. Look for anecdotes that made the campaign important and write an award entry.

Make note of things like

  • Sales numbers
  • Media inquiries
  • Changes in social media
  • Attendance numbers

Public Relations Campaign Steps: Key Takeaways

The key to a successful PR campaign is to not only have a Plan A, and a Plan B, but a C and a D as well. Considering every single possibility will set you apart. Get feedback from outside sources like a journalist, but also consult people that are not in the business. Look for anything that could be considered offensive or tone-death.

Data is also an incredibly important element and should not be only self-serving. Use compelling and interesting data to make the case for your story, and above all else, be sure it is backed up with evidence and accurate.

However, the most important thing is to give yourself the time to fail and to succeed. Many great PR campaigns have failed because of small details and little time for adjustments. Time is the key to an effective public relations campaign.

For more information on strategy and planning, watch our free on-demand webinar about how to launch a successful pr campaign.