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Why good PR planning is the key to generating more coverage

When you’re a small business PR planning is something that’s often forgotten. It’s tempting to simply take advantage of any random PR opportunities that come your way, issue the odd press release and leave it at that. However, larger businesses realise that PR planning isn’t  just about taking better advantage of the obvious PR opportunities you have. It’s also the way to generate more PR opportunities. Here’s an Oxygen guide to developing an effective PR plan.

PR planning step #1 – find out who your publics are

If you don’t know enough about your target audience then it’s best to establish who they are by using demographic or psychographic research. Your publics consist of your target markets plus your investors, stakeholders, customers, suppliers, community members, civic leaders and employees. Next, compile comprehensive lists on a database of contact details for each type of audience for your business, and another of key media contacts who have given your organisation good coverage in the past. Good PR is about media outreach, so contact reporters and meet informally so that you can prime them with information about your organisation and industry.

PR planning step #2 – work out your objectives and key messages for each audience

Whatever stage your business is at, you’ll have certain business objectives. If you’re not clear about these, it’s best to think about them now. You may decide you need to generate brand awareness, develop a more favourable impression of your brand (perhaps after a crisis) or simply to create more customers and sales. Each should be written down as a measurable and time specific goal. So your objective to enhance your brand reputation via social media may mean generating a certain number of ‘likes’ or followers for your page on Facebook, for instance.

“Key messages need to remain consistent.”

Based on your objectives, decide what your key messages for your various audiences are. These will be the essence of your communications for the year. There should be no more than three so that you don’t confuse your prospects. But do remember that while your key messages need to be angled appropriately for each audience, they also need to remain consistent.

PR planning step #3 – Plan strategies, tactics and identify opportunities

Look at your business plan for the year through the eyes of the media. Identify buzz-creation opportunities such as product launches, business expansion, market research and new services. Try to identify and organise associated events – such as a ribbon cutting ceremony on a new headquarters − which will generate press, putting them on a master list. Don’t forget to take footage or photos in order to generate PR materials that you can use later on.

Write a news release calendar

Draw up a news release calendar so that you can ensure that journalists are targeted with a steady stream of releases containing your key messages throughout the year. A calendar will get you looking at ways to fill ‘dead zones’ and for opportunities you might otherwise have missed.

Use editorial calendars to generate press

There are also other ways to generate PR. Do some research on relevant publications’ editorial calendars highlighting the focus of upcoming issues – you’ll find them on their websites, sometimes tucked away in their packs for advertisers. These let you know when you can pitch articles, offer key people as expert sources, or even suggest a feature on your company. However, you do need to pay careful attention to their closing dates/deadlines to take advantage. For monthlies, these are often up to four months ahead of publication dates, and on weeklies, a fortnight beforehand. Keep your pitch to them devoid of hype and present concrete examples of your company’s expertise or success in relevant situations instead. Include case studies where you can as they give reporters an outside source to refer to.

Be a spokesperson

Decide on up to five topics that you’re passionate about. Be prepared to be candid and controversial. Make a list of reporters who follow these topics and make them aware that you’re an expert that’s available to comment. Your aim should be to establish yourself as a credible source so that reporters will keep coming back to you. You can also use these networks to ‘piggyback’. That’s when you hijack a breaking news story to gain PR for yourself. Read our guide to piggybacking here.

Give speeches and presentations

Speaking opportunities generate good PR for your organisation. It’s well worth researching conferences, trade shows and webinars so that you can offer yourself as a keynote speaker or member of a panel. Do remember that these are usually booked well in advance.

Publish survey results

Utilise your market research by publishing the results of surveys. The media loves facts and figures and to predict underlying trends. There are some crucial points to bear in mind however. The subject must be interesting and the results compelling in some way. Sample sizes need to be large enough to provide a credible result. And the findings should suggest some course of action which supports your business strategy.

PR planning step #4 – create a timeline, budget and delegate responsibilities

Decide on what your budget will be and allow a 10% contingency. If you don’t have a lot of money, you’ll need to allocate a compensatory amount of time to PR. Draft a detailed task list and timetable. It can be useful to start a PR audit spreadsheet and to update and review it regularly. Try to involve everyone in the PR plan so that there’s a sense of shared responsibility. It’s also a way to make sure that tasks are allocated fairly.

PR planning step #5 – be flexible

PR opportunities come up all the time, especially if you intend to ‘piggyback’, so your plan needs to be flexible. You should reassess regularly – at least every three months – to make sure you’re making the most of the openings you have.

PR planning step #6 – don’t forget crisis planning

A crisis that might damage your company’s reputation can come out of nowhere and be out of control within hours. It’s essential to have a PR crisis plan. You’ll find our guide to crisis planning here.

PR planning step #7 – review afterwards

It’s important to measure results so that you know whether your efforts have been effective. A clipping service will help you keep tabs on the amount of print coverage you’ve generated so that you can track how well particular press releases were received. If you put out a company newsletter, try to get feedback on it. Gather the whole team so that you can reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and on new opportunities that came up.

 

Good PR planning takes time and effort. If you need help with you organisation’s PR then give Oxygen a call today on 0845 2606 255. We’ll get you talked about.

 

Steve Lodge: Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.