We see a lot of blog posts around this time of year looking at how to plan PR campaigns and set objectives. I wanted to spend a little time on the latter, because badly set objectives are one sure-fire way to make sure 2017 continually beats you with a (metaphorical) stick.
Measuring the effectiveness of PR is always a tricky topic, but pointing your campaign in the right direction is crucial. By this, I mean that any PR campaign must support and align with wider business objectives. For example, is the business targeting new sectors? Pave the way for lead generation by doing a media relations campaign and target your prospects with paid social and content marketing campaigns. Is your business focusing on selling a particular high-margin product? Focus media relations, social and other content on this topic and the issues that the product solves.
It’s my firm belief that modern PR is becoming less about insisting on the same, tired media relations campaigns, and more about media planning – knowing what you want to achieve, who the main audience is, where they are and how to reach them. Sometimes, that won’t include traditional press relations at all, because media consumption (in the truest sense of the word) is broader and more fragmented than it has ever been.
Let’s break down those steps, one by one:
What do you want to achieve?
If we never receive another ‘increase brand awareness’ brief, it’ll be too soon. Increasing brand awareness is a valid goal, but with who? Which sectors? Which people / job levels? At which stage of the purchasing cycle do you want to reach them – and with what goal in mind?
You should always talk to the executive team before kicking off your yearly marketing plan so that your campaigns are pointing in the right direction. However, we’d also recommend validating it with the sales team, because things on the ground might not necessarily reflect the vision of the C-Suite – and a well-executed marketing campaign can sometimes help to bridge the gap.
Who do you want to reach?
Hopefully, the previous section will answer this question to some extent, but you should always understand your prospects or audience in depth. This can be easier said than done, but this is where relationships with the sales teams are crucial. Attending a sales meeting and getting to know how a prospect thinks, what is important to them and how they choose a new supplier, is invaluable knowledge – but you’ll need to do it more than once to build up your audience personas and avoid clumsy stereotyping.
How do you reach your audience?
Once you understand your audience, you should have a reasonable understanding of how they consume media and which channels will be influential in reaching them. After this, it’s just tactics – how do you balance your company messaging with topics and materials which are interesting to your audience and relevant to your company offering? You might need some support from colleagues on this front, especially when thinking about how to match these ideas to channels which are influential to the aforementioned groups, but don’t despair – you’ve done the hard bits!
Once you’ve done this, a good plan should flow like a well-written book. It may take a while, but this process ensures that marketing and communications campaigns are well-planned and there won’t be awkward conversations with the C-suite about business support later in the year. That said, priorities do change, so it’s important to keep lines of communication open with senior leadership, ensuring that your plans are as agile as they need to be.
It’s tough, but well worth the time investment: a mis-aimed campaign is a waste of everyone’s time and resources. In contrast, a campaign which engages prospects, builds brand awareness in the right sectors and provides clear, quantitative goals for the marketing team: that’s priceless.