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The 2024 State of the Media Report

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PR Plan Essentials: 10 Must Do's for Crafting a Winning Strategy in 2024

If you're trying to push a positive image of your business and want to stay in control of your key messages, then you need a PR plan.

Public relations simply doesn't work effectively without the planning stage. Do it well, and your PR strategy will guide you to seamless success and help you prepare for bumps along the road.

Fail to create a PR plan and your efforts will quickly unravel when you try to deliver comms around your brand, product, or service.

This guide will dig deep into 10 public relations strategy musts for 2024. We'll look at how to create a PR plan template, and navigate from setting objectives to delivering your public relations campaign.

We'll then explore ways to monitor your progress and record when you hit your PR goals.

By following these tips, it's possible to create a public relations plan that you can be confident in.

Understanding PR Basics

It's worth understanding the basics of PR before we look at the 10 steps to any plan template. After all, you might be tasked with delivering a PR strategy from scratch and have little knowledge of how to "do" PR effectively.

This is often the case in small companies or self-owned businesses, where the impetus is on individuals to generate positive PR perhaps for the first time.

What is Public Relations?

Public relations is all about managing communication between an organization or brand and its various stakeholders. These could be audiences, media publications, customers, or even shareholders.

PR aims to create, maintain, and improve an organization's image, reputation, and relationships.

Organizations will craft a solid PR strategy to ensure their key messages are effectively communicated. By planning, it's possible to oversee an entire public relations strategy and nail your ROIs. Do this and you've officially achieved a successful PR campaign!

There are various elements that go into this, including developing a PR plan, implementing PR tactics, and evaluating the results. We'll go into more detail later in this article.

But… Can I do Public Relations?

You certainly can! Public relations is for everyone. Whether you're a multi-national corporation or a lone freelancer, you have the ability to create your own PR. That's what social media influencers do all the time, and they often start out with nothing but a phone and a good idea.

This guide will look primarily at how organizations create PR plans but that doesn't mean individuals and small brands can't find useful tips too!

Elements of a PR Plan

There are some basic elements that go into any PR plan template, which you can then use as a base to expand and ultimately personalize your strategy. These elements are:

  1. Goals and Objectives: Establishing clear goals and objectives is the foundation for a solid PR strategy. They should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). This ensures that your PR efforts are focused on achieving desired outcomes.

  2. Target Audience: Identifying the target audience for your PR campaign is critical, as it shapes the message, tone, and channels of communication. Consider demographics, psychographics, and geographic factors to segment your audience and ensure your message resonates with them.

  3. Key Messages: Develop clear, concise, and compelling messages that support your objectives and resonate with your target audience. These messages should be consistent across your PR efforts to create a strong and unified brand image.

  4. PR Tactics: Common PR tactics include press releases, improving media relations, staging events, and creating engaging content.

  5. Analysis and Reporting: Monitor and measure the success of your PR efforts to ensure they are achieving the desired results. You can use a tool like CisionOne to help. Use metrics such as media placements, online engagement, and event attendance to track progress and adjust your strategy as needed.

In this guide

  1. Setting PR Objectives

  2. Identifying Your Target Audience

  3. Crafting Key Messages

  4. Developing a Media Strategy

  5. Creating Compelling Content

  6. Leveraging Digital Platforms

  7. Executing the PR Campaign

  8. Measurement and Analysis

  9. Tools and Resources

  10. Professional Insights

Now it's time to look at the 10 musts for creating a winning public relations strategy in 2024. Of course, it all starts with setting your objectives!

1. Setting PR Objectives

Your objectives help guide the creation of your PR strategy. They also shape its trajectory and, ultimately, its success. They therefore need to align with your overall business goals, otherwise your PR efforts will quickly unravel.

Aligning with Business Goals

Indeed, it's imperative you align your PR strategy with your business goals. Failure to do so creates a lot of wasted time and resources.

For example, if a burger joint in downtown Dallas aims to increase sales among 18-24-year-old diners, then a successful PR strategy could be to boost hype around a new burger on TikTok.

Say the marketing team misses this opportunity and instead simply sends a news story to the local paper. Here, their target audiences will probably miss the hype because the strategy wasn't aligned with the business goals.

There are several key aspects to consider when aligning PR objectives with business goals, such as:

  • Identify target audiences: Understand the demographics, interests, and needs of your target audiences that are most crucial to your success. You can use a tool like CisionOne to better understand your audience.

  • Outline desired outcomes: Clearly define your desired outcomes from your PR activities, such as increased brand awareness, improved reputation, or increased sales, and see how these match your business goals.

  • Establish PR goals: Set measurable, time-bound PR goals that support your business objectives. These can include generating a specific number of media placements, achieving a specific level of social media engagement, or reaching a certain level of event attendance.

2. Identifying Your Target Audience

No strategy can succeed without first knowing who your target audience is. You business plan might have identified a few demographics that make up your core audience.

However, your PR plan might not need to provide universal coverage.

Perhaps you only need to zone in on a specific subset of your audience to achieve your PR aims.

Here are two steps to identifying your ideal audience.

Start With Audience Research

It all begins with audience research. This includes current customers and potential customers who can be reached through the PR efforts.

By using a tool like CisionOne, you can gauge the public's perception of your brand and identify any perception gap that may exist.

Other methods to gather data on the target audience include surveys and focus groups, social media listening, and competitor analysis.

Segmenting the Market

Once you've collected data on your target audience, you can then segment the market into specific groups with distinct characteristics.

Doing this means PR professionals can specialize each piece of marketing material for designated groups.

This ensures that the PR plan effectively addresses the unique needs and preferences of each segment, ultimately leading to more successful outcomes.

Segments should be based on factors such as demographics, geographic location, psychographics, and behavioral patterns.

3. Crafting Key Messages

Now that you understand your objectives and target audience, you can begin to look at how to create effective, relevant messaging that resonates. To do this properly, you'll need to sync it all up.

Message Relevance

Any key messages presented in a PR campaign need to link back to your overall business strategy.

A business selling eco-friendly soap, for example, needs to champion environmentally-friendly products even when talking about a new range of shampoo.

A well-crafted key message should resonate with the target audience while reinforcing the desired media narrative and improving public perception.

You've already identified your audience and set some key objectives.

Now, it's about talking to that audience in a way they'll respond positively to, while connecting your messaging to your brand.

Synchronizing Messages Across Channels

What's more, a PR plan can't work in silo on one platform. Gone are the days where you might make a TV commercial and overlook newspapers and radio.

The internet means you can synchronize your messaging across multiple channels and more easily target your audience.

By using a tool like CisionOne, for example, you can oversee your PR plan across digital and non-digital media outlets.

Weave your content into various social platforms and create a holistic campaign that works across the spectrum.

You may need to train team members and coordinate your content using software to ensure everyone is on the right message.

4. Selecting Your Media Outlets

Once you have your key messages, it's time to figure out where to place your content. You need to find the appropriate channel or channels, and ensure you know them inside out.

This goes beyond choosing between TikTok and Instagram to launch a new product.

It's about understanding what newspapers your audience reads, what radio stations they listen to, and what podcasts they download.

Choosing Media Channels

The problem for many brands is the size of the media landscape. Your target market is unlikely to be found on every platform and medium, so you need to be selective with what you choose.

Some options include:

  1. Mainstream media: Engage with local or major newspapers, magazines, television, and radio stations to gain broad media coverage.

  2. Digital media: Target news sites, shopping sites, and blogs that greatly influence online readers.

  3. Industry publications: Reach out to niche publications and trade journals specific to your industry, ensuring that your message reaches your target audience with higher precision.

  4. Social media: Use platforms such as Facebook, X, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Instagram to directly communicate and engage with your audience.

Your choice of media channels will reflect the desired outcome of your campaign.

If you get stuck at this point, jump back to the 'target audience research' stage and see what forms of media your readers, clients, or customers use.

5. Creating Compelling Content

A PR plan needs amazing content just as much as amazing management. No one reads boring content, watches dull videos, or lingers on bland photos.

Your content needs to captivate your audience but it must also attract your contacts.

After all, if you want an article published in the New York Times then you'd better make sure meets NYT editorial standards and comes with a good image or two.

Content Types

Your PR content is what carries your messaging, and what ultimately makes your campaign a success or a failure. Content can be split into four types:

  1. Text content: Well-written and informative articles, blog posts, whitepapers or case studies.

  2. Image content: Eye-catching images, infographics, and visuals that complement your text content.

  3. Video content: Short videos or live streams that engage and entertain your audience while delivering your message effectively.

  4. Audio content: Captivating soundbites, 30-second commercials, and influencer-voiced reviews help capture the attention of radio and podcast listeners.

The key to creating compelling PR content is to offer valuable information that resonates with your target audience. Use a mix of these content types to maintain your audience's interest and cater to their preferences.

6. Leveraging Digital Platforms

The content you create is likely to be used on digital platforms.

Even if you do nothing more than write a press release for the newspapers, you're probably going to publish your material via social media posts.

It's therefore worth looking at how you can leverage digital platforms to aid your PR plan, starting with social media!

Social Media

To maximize the potential of social media channels, it is crucial to create and share engaging and informative content in line with your brand's values and goals.

But it's not just about regular posting. A successful social campaign tells a narrative.

You might begin with an introductory video that highlights your product or service, and then drip feed more posts over the course of a week.

Doing this means you can monitor engagement statistics, such as likes, shares, and comments. What's more, you can repurpose and republish the same content over the course of the week to share it with as many followers as possible.

Businesses can also utilize owned channels by collaborating with influencers, conducting giveaways, hosting live events, and activating employee advocacy.

These tactics not only boost a brand's credibility but also foster strong relationships with your audience, which leads to greater brand loyalty.

Online publications

Online publications carry plenty of weight when it comes to advocating for your brand, product, or service. Digital newspapers and magazines can echo your messaging and help it reach more people.

Video publishing sites like YouTube can also be incredibly effective for attracting positive attention to your PR activities.

If your PR plan is to focus on online publications then you'll probably need to create engaging social media content too, to share with your contacts.

This means newspaper, magazine, and video editors have ready-made material they can publish straight away.

Website Traffic

Big corporations with plenty of budgets will create entire websites to support their PR plan. For example, a candy maker might launch a website specifically to focus on a new competition based on one of its products.

But creating websites to aid your PR plan isn't unique to big companies.

By using smart SEO techniques, email marketing, and backlinks, it's possible for any business to run a successful PR strategy using their website as a strong foundation.

This is particularly useful for those who are creating PR strategies for shops, who need readers to click through to their site and buy products.

7. Executing the PR Campaign

So, you've done all the groundwork, found your audience, planned your content, and have established your social media presence. Now it's time to execute your PR plan. To do this, you'll need to:

a) Set out a timeline for content creation and activities

b) Distribute and schedule your content

a) Set Your Timeline for Content Creation and Activities

Your PR plan will have a timeline for when you hit certain goals. Now it's time to weave your content into that timeline and determine whether those goals are achievable at the moments you planned.

If they're not, then this is the ideal time to tweak those deadlines and ensure you don't fall short during your PR campaign.

You can use software to help you develop a timeline for both creating content and scheduling/publishing/sharing it.

You'll need to set milestones in order to track progress. This can include things like:

  • Liaising with designers or video editors to create your content to deadline

  • Planning photoshoots or press release writing time

  • Checking with other stakeholders for their approval on your content

  • Conducting research into how audiences will react

Your timeline might span one week or perhaps even a few years, it all depends on the size and scope of your PR plan.

b) Distribute and Schedule Your Content

Your timeline gives you an overview of when content should be published or shared. Now it's time to actually do it.

You can use a tool like CisionOne to schedule the distribution of a press release, or Brandwatch to publish posts across multiple social media channels at once.

Your first post, press release, or statement doesn't have to be the most impactful. Some companies, such as music corporations, tease the release of new albums with engaging social media posts and non-digital advertising.

Other companies – such as McDonald's when they release a new burger – will go big from the start and seek to attract audience attention immediately.

By using a content calendar, you can plan how to distribute all materials of your PR strategy to each media outlet, and control the flow of information.

8. Measurement and Analysis

Measuring the success of a PR plan could be as simple as watching the money roll in from a high-profile product launch. In reality, it's rarely that simple.

If the PR planning process teaches us to be diligent in our preparation, then the analysis stage is what transforms a lone marketing strategy into something that works every time.

Using PR software like CisionOne, it's possible to evaluate in minute detail the success of a campaign and then learn how to replicate the good stuff for next time.

Evaluating Success

Your KPIs will give you a general sense of success. Some core KPIs include:

  • Reach: The number of people who have been exposed to your message;

  • Impressions: The number of times your content is displayed to the target audience;

  • Engagement Rate: The percentage of people who engage with your content (for example, likes, shares, and comments)

  • Sentiment Analysis: Understanding how your audience feels about your PR activity by analyzing their comments and reactions.

  • Income: If your PR campaign was directly related to financial generation then income helps paint a clear picture of success or failure

Comparing your PR strategy template with successful PR plans can provide valuable insights into the KPIs that have the most significant impact on the success of your initiatives.

Adjusting Strategies

A successful PR plan must be adaptable and flexible to the ever-changing market and audience demands.

Regular measurement and analysis of the strategy's performance are essential in ensuring that your objectives are being met.

Monitoring and analyzing data can help identify what works best for your campaign, leading to continuous improvements in your overall PR strategy.

You can then refine your template and go again, or if you're an agency you might be able to sell your strategy to another client.

To adjust and optimize your PR strategies, consider the following methods:

  1. Identify patterns and trends: Analyze the performed KPIs from past campaigns and identify patterns that might indicate what works and what doesn't.

  2. Test different tactics: Experiment with various PR tactics to find out which ones resonate best with your target audience and deliver the best results.

  3. Refine your strategy: Based on the data and insights gathered, refine your PR strategy template to focus on the most effective and impactful methods.

9. Tools and Resources

The best PR campaigns require tools that can keep everything in one place. From content creation and distribution, to analysis and reporting.

If you can go it on one platform and add fellow employees too, then it makes the job of running a solid PR plan much easier.

PR Tools for Effective Management

Indeed, the last 15 years has seen a boom in PR tools designed specifically to help professionals and teams get the most from their public relations strategies.

From media monitoring to press release distribution, there are specialized platforms to help you create and execute your plans effectively.

Here's a list of some popular choices that can greatly enhance your PR management capabilities:

  1. Media Monitoring Tools: These enable you to track your brand's media coverage, monitor specific keywords and topics, and identify potential mentions in real-time.

    Some examples include CisionOne, Meltwater, and Mention.

  2. Press Release Distribution Services: These help to distribute your press releases to relevant media outlets, increasing your reach and potentially securing media coverage.

    Providers like PR Newswire, and GlobeNewswire are among the most popular.

  3. Online PR Management Platforms: These tools combine multiple PR tasks into one comprehensive platform, making it easier to manage campaigns from a centralized location.

    Examples include CisionOne, Prowly, and Prezly.

  4. Industry Research Tools: They provide crucial industry and competitor insights that aid in tailoring your PR efforts to better target your audience.

    Brandwatch and Google Trends are useful options to consider.

  5. PR Template Tools: These tools help you create a free PR plan template and road test an editorial calendar, before deciding whether to adopt a paid plan. You can then use your template again and again.

    Top template prodders include Brandwatch and Prezly.

10. Professional Insights

Finally, our last tip for crafting a winning PR strategy is to seek professional help.

There's no shame in asking others how they achieve success, or employing external workers to help you reach your goals.

Of course, it's also important to keep developing yourself and stay ahead of the PR game.

Consulting and Employing PR Experts

If you feel there is a knowledge gap in your PR program then freelance experts and contractors can help.

These experienced individuals possess a wealth of knowledge and insights which can be beneficial for your PR plan. For instance, they can provide guidance on various strategies, effective methods for conducting research, and identifying the most suitable target channels.

To gain these insights, consider arranging scheduled consultations, attending industry events, or networking with thought leaders via online platforms.

Or look for them on LinkedIn. It's not surprising these pros are experts in calculating the PR needs of potential clients, and selling their own services on the social media platform.

Ongoing Learning and Development

Whether it's your own personal development or improving the knowledge base of your team, it is essential for PR professionals to engage in ongoing learning. This ensures you remain informed about the latest industry trends, tools, and best practices.

It's particularly important when working with PR software that is continually changing to keep up with an evolving industry.

Some areas to focus on for continuous improvement include:

  1. Industry Trends: Keep track of emerging trends, techniques, and technologies in public relations. This will enable you to adapt your PR plan accordingly and ensure its effectiveness.

  2. Target Channels: Stay up to date with the latest developments in various media channels (e.g., the launch of a new viral-focused social media app). This will help you determine which ones are most effective in reaching your target audience.

  3. Research and Analytics: Learn about new research methodologies, data analysis techniques, and tools in the PR field. This will help you better understand your audience's preferences, measure the impact of your PR efforts, and make data-driven decisions in your campaigns.

  4. Communication Skills: Develop your written, verbal, and visual communication skills to create more compelling and engaging PR materials. Workshops are great for this type of development.

  5. Ethics and Compliance: Stay informed about any changes in legal, ethical, and professional standards that might impact the PR industry.

Author Bio
Marcelo Javelly
SEO and Social Listening Specialist

Marcelo is an SEO and Social listening expert with 8+ years of experience across various industries and joined Cision in 2023. Based in Copenhagen, he is our in-house specialist for all things related to social listening.