The New Year is a time for assessment, goal-setting and strategic planning; this goes for most businesses today. And, when it comes to PR, this is the time to set objectives and develop a clear, defined plan – to help your business achieve optimum results.
As a general rule, when planning your PR activities for the New Year, you can break up the activity. You have the full year ahead, but plan for six months, and then revise every quarter. PR requires flexibility and a recognition that things will change over time. However, there are many factors that will make a measurable difference to your company’s success story, if you take them into account at this early stage.
Review, analyse and plan
First, review the past year in terms of PR activity. If your business received media attention last year, review the coverage and analyse the situation. Take note of the angles and pitches that worked well and resulted in positive coverage; observe those journalists who reported in your favor and those who did not. Take a critical look at the overall amount of positive, negative or neutral coverage received. Also assess the results of your campaigns and, compare your progress against your competition.
Next, consider your overall business objectives; and take these as a basis for developing your key media messages. Make sure that what you say and how you say it – for it reflects what you’re trying to achieve. Your messages will form the crux of your communication activity for the year.
Finally, develop a plan of attack. Review your business plan through the eyes of a journalist – what would be of interest to your customers or investors? Identify potential media opportunities that could occur during the year, such as product launches, expansion activities and new service offerings and develop a calendar that lists the events. Also to create the most buzz – try to organise major news events. For instance, if your company is introducing a new line of drink, time the launch in the summer to coincide with warm days.
Keep your goals and objectives in writing, so you can refer to them and evaluate your success.
Activities and tactics
Once you’ve sketched out your plan for the year, it’s time to consider some activities that’ll enable you to achieve your objectives.
- Establish a news release calendar – for press releases you intend to send out throughout the year. This calendar may need revision, as you move through the year, but it will help you stay focused on generating news.
- Media outreach– for the foundation for any PR program is a strong media database. Pitching to journalists and placing articles is still the essence of PR. But, take the time to carefully research and build a database of key reporters. Your list should contain the contact details of the publications and journalists that pertain to your industry (and also assess how valuable each is in terms of reaching your target audience).
Contact each journalist individually, to discuss the outlook for your company.
- Publications’ editorial calendars – these offer an excellent base for planning media exposure. 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! Once you’ve set your list of targets, contact them. Most editorial outlets have deadlines ahead of their publication dates, so pay careful attention to the closing dates, or you may lose out on the opportunity.
- Contributed or “bylined” articles – these can be an excellent way to generate exposure and establish yourself as an industry expert. Research magazines, newspapers and websites that are open to such articles, then contact the editor to propose a topic. Make sure the focus of the media outlet is in sync with your business objectives and the article contains your key messages.
- Speaking opportunities – offer another way to generate awareness. When planning your PR activities for the year, make sure to identify conferences, trade shows and webinars for opportunities to nominate your CEO/MD or even yourself as a keynote speaker or a member of a panel discussion. The value in securing such engagements can be tremendous. These need planning because most speaking opportunities are finalised well in advance.
- Crisis planning – is also an essential part of your business’s PR plan. Make sure to include all possible negative scenarios and the appropriate responses to them. Ensure that your top team is aware of crisis procedures. Most important, sometimes you may do a rehearsal or a test run to settle any weak links in your plan.
- Blogs and social media – have grown in popularity as communications tools because they offer a channel for active discussions with a motivated audience. When considering PR tactics, don’t forget to research the blogs that relate to your industry and get to know the styles and personalities of their authors. Adding to your company’s perception as a ‘thought leader’ is what a presence in the blogosphere can achieve.
Planning your PR strategy now will definitely help generate new ideas and opportunities for your business. PR plans may be subject to change, but planning ahead will enable you to maintain focus and adhere to your overall goals. So, now you can go full steam ahead in the New Year!