It’s a well-known fact amongst PRs that many consumer lifestyle publications start writing their Christmas editions in mid-summer. Come October, it’s too late to pitch those Christmas stories, even though they might seem more relevant once summer has faded away.
PR campaigns – and budgets – are similar. Organisations which run to a calendar year will usually begin thinking about their next financial planning period in August and September, so that budgets can be confirmed, details firmed up and plans set in stone for kick-offs in January. Whilst many agencies will pitch for new business in December for a January kick-off, those budgets have often been set for many months!
So if you’re in the midst of planning a new marketing campaign right now, wishing you were outside sipping on a cool margarita, you have our sympathies, but it’s a good time to revisit PR planning methodologies. Our Planning in HD guide is a good place to start, looking in-depth at how to create a strategy which will appeal to your target audience, then manage and oversee a marketing campaign which has real impact.
Of course, as a regular reader of this newsletter, the chances are high that you’re already familiar with our methodology, so I want to focus this particular blog on one element of planning which I can’t place enough stress on.
Know thy Customer
Marketers (and sales staff) should have this written on their hearts, tattooed on their bodies or at least on a super-sticky post-it note on their PC screens. Not having a sound understanding of the person – or organisation – that you are selling to is an absolute criminal offence in marketing, but far more common than you would think. Sadly, it results in content and campaigns which are poorly created, badly targeted and received worse.
There’s no substitute for getting out and spending time with customers and prospects. This always helps you to understand the people that your organisation markets and sells to, but it’s not always easy. Whilst we’re all familiar with reading the press and social channels that our customers spend time consuming, as well as attending events and webinars to help us understand them better, there are a few new tools and approaches which have recently caught our attention and I wanted to share with you.
- Device Graphs: Technically a tool for advertising professionals, device graphs track users throughout the day / month and highlight when adverts are seen on which devices. For example, are mobile ads more effective with your audience in the mornings during commuting hours? Or are users seeing your ads on laptops during working hours? Either way, this kind of information can feed the marketing team valuable information about your target audience – how mobile are they? Are they Apple or Android users? How late do they work?
- Audience Cloning: If you’re already marketing effectively via social media, many platforms – notably Facebook - offer audience cloning tools. Previously, this allowed marketers to find a domestic audience similar to the one they had already built up through their pages, but Facebook recently expanded this to include cloning to another country entirely. This enables marketers to avoid wasting time building up followers when expanding to a new territory and simply advertise to audiences based on existing information from another country. This essentially skips the audience planning process and re-uses data you already have, simplifying life enormously.
- Pre-Mortems: Like a friendly ghost, this one is nicer and less ghoulish than it sounds. When we do planning at Firefly, we often brainstorm what could go wrong as well as what could go right. When applied to the planning process, this turns into a question of ‘why would our audience hate this campaign? Why wouldn’t they download / read our content?’ These limitations give campaigns boundaries and often eliminate ideas which could have taken projects off on tangents.
So if you’re in planning right now and your wellspring of ideas is drier than a cactus in an airing cupboard, these three suggestions should breathe new life into your creative process. And of course, once you’re finished with the plan, you can find your way to that beer garden much quicker!