September 01, 2014
/ by Jim Dougherty
When I mention a PR plan, a basic concept probably comes to mind.
It may start with an executive summary and follow with some combination of analysis, goals, identification of target audience, actions, tactics, messages and metrics. However you prepare your PR plans, there is always opportunity to make them better.
What I want to share in this piece are nine best practice considerations from successful PR pros that you can use to improve your PR plan. You don’t have to do these, but these best practices may help to clarify and vet some aspects of your plan that you otherwise may have ignored.
A SWOT analysis is a planning method that takes a critical look at the internal strengths and weaknesses, and the external opportunities and threats of particular venture (SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). It is a commonly used methodology in business planning.
Communications expert Alex Honeycutt says that one of the key reasons to do a through SWOT analysis while preparing your PR plan is that “they make you face your weaknesses and threats from the outset. “
But this is easier said than done. Academic Adam Koch writes that SWOT analyses are oftentimes prepared without a valid understanding of the internal and external environments of what they’re attempting to assess, and this leads to some ill-conceived conclusions.
Bottom line: if you decide to use a SWOT analysis, be prepared to assess everything in-depth, warts and all.
YOU have an editorial calendar, objectives and deadlines that are largely geared towards the behavior of publishers. Your PR plan should consider those same aspects from the publisher’s point of view.
PR expert Rachel Meranus says that discovering the publisher’s editorial deadlines and objectives is a way to create more opportunity for impressions. She says, “Researching them will enable you to identify opportunities to offer yourself as an expert source, contribute an article or even suggest a feature on your company.”
Bottom line: Learn more about key publishers and journalists to improve the effectiveness of your PR plan.
As the NFL season begins, coaches of each of the 32 teams enter the year quite optimistic. Of these teams only 1/3 will make the playoffs and 1/32 will win the championship. A coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars may perhaps adjust their behavior based upon what happens 1/3 of the way through the year or 1/2 way through the year. PR Plans should be equally (if not more) fluid.
PR expert Rachel Meranus suggests that you “consider the full year ahead, plan for six months, and expect to revise after three months…. (PR requires) and a recognition that things will change over time.”
Bottom line: plan for the long term, but expect to revisit and revise your PR Plan often.
If you’ve ever tried to respond to a posting on HARO, you know the value of speed. Minutes may separate the pitches that are accepted and those that are ignored. Communications expert Heather Whaling gives some perspective about why speed is important: “Frequently, journalists work on tight deadlines, so they can’t wait days for you to respond.”
Bottom line: Your PR plan should address how you intend to listen and respond to PR opportunities as quickly as possible. Whether planning for crisis management or awareness, speed is a huge competitive advantage.
You have a website, email list, social channels and other in-house resources that are relatively low-cost compared to other tactics that you may chose to implement. PR expert Helen Ashley suggests that you should consider whether you are maximizing the impact of those channels whenever you create or revise a PR plan.
When you consider the question “Are you targeting the right media with the right messages?” it is important to consider whether you are “making the most of your website and social networking sites,” she says.
Bottom line: In-house is less expensive and more efficient than external resource. Make sure you are maximizing the capabilities of your organic assets.
You’re learning how to plan. But what about measuring? Attend Kami Huyse’s free webinar to learn the keys to PR measurement.
Some of the worst professional experiences that we ever have involve rigidity. Even if something makes great intuitive sense, rules or guidelines may prohibit it, or we choose to “stick to the plan.” For PR plans, rigidity can limit your capability to effectively share your message.
“PR is a highly flexible business function – it is much easier to change a message or subject during a PR plan than it is throughout a marketing plan,” says PR expert Lucy Robinson.
Bottom line: PR is a flexible discipline, a rigidly drafted PR plan can compromise you adaptability, so you should consider how to build flexibility into your execution.
If there are no known obstacles to communicating your point of view, you probably need to revisit your PR plan. For the obstacles that we can predict, PR expert Robin Schell suggests that you plan to “engineer” around those obstacles.
It’s actually a quite novel way to consider potential problems. Instead of identifying and haphazardly addressing obstacles to your success, identify a mechanism and metrics to overcome those issues.
Bottom line: Consider whether there are opportunities to engineer around the known obstacles in your PR plan.
Dancing With the Stars recently announced that they were including a blogger noted for her YouTube following on the upcoming season of the program. This is a pretty important concession that social media influencers and bloggers can create interest in their channels.
PR expert Dorothy Crenshaw notes that bloggers and social media influencers have an increasing amount of influence, which for PR can be a double-edged sword. Rather than “renting a celebrity” as PR pros have done in the past, she posits that it may be strategic to build relationships with key bloggers and social media super-users with less overall name recognition but with demonstrated influence in their channel.
PR expert Susan Payton notes that even as early as 2009, consumers trusted digital advertisers more than they trusted advertisers.
Bottom line: Consider strategic relationship-building with key digital influencers as an alternative to broader-stroke tactics such as celebrity advocacy.
A pretty common experience is to prepare a PR plan (or any plan in general) and in the final stages of approval find that some aspects of the plan must be redone.
Communications expert Sandra Coyle emphasizes the importance of gaining executive buy-in when developing a PR Plan, crucially when identifying the target audience. “It’s important to also have consensus among leadership and your Board as to who these audiences are and how they are defined,” she says.
Bottom line: without executive buy-in and consensus during the PR planning process, you imperil all of the resources that you’ve devoted to research and development of the plan.
What I wanted to describe in this piece were nine considerations that PR pros sometimes overlook while crafting a PR plan. Hopefully some of these best practices spurred some thoughts, and if you have any more please share them in the comments.
Jim Dougherty is an expert on social media and technology who blogs at Leaders West. For more marketing advice from Jim, click here.
Images from Pixabay.
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