Every organisation, no matter how large or small, ultimately depends on its reputation for survival and success.
The perceptions of your key influencers, from customers, suppliers, employees, and investors, to journalists and regulators, will drive their decisions about whether or not they want to work with you.
Diane Wood, PR Director at marketing and PR consultancy V Formation, explains why you need a PR strategy and what it should include.
If you’re communicating with customers, clients and stakeholders, then you’re ‘doing PR’.
PR is about, and looks after, your reputation – namely the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you. And your reputation can be your biggest asset – the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd and gives you a competitive edge.
Effective PR can help you manage your reputation by communicating and building good relationships with all your stakeholders.
To make sure your PR projects maintain the best possible reputation for your organisation, you need a PR strategy that supports and integrates with your overall business objectives and your marketing strategy.
Writing a PR strategy that is relevant to the business and its business plan centres on setting objectives and deciding key messages. These key messages will provide the foundation from which you can reach out to and connect with your audience and stakeholders.
Your first step is to get the building blocks in place – beginning with the objectives and deciding on your key ‘take-home’ messages.
You will also need to profile your audience, understand their needs and what makes them tick. The PR strategy should also include measurement of the impact of the PR campaign and tactics, in terms of awareness, perception and reputation.
Finding your target audience
The process of creating your PR strategy will enable you to identify the right audience for your business, and the influencers and media that enable you to connect with them.
Knowledge of your target audience will allow you to communicate through the right channels so that you know your voice is being heard by the right people, using your key messages most likely to resonate with them, and in the tone of voice with the greatest appeal.
This will build awareness and potentially benefit your new business pipeline, whether through general news, share of voice, negotiated articles, thought leadership blogs or features, or industry or market commentary.
Planning is key
With an eye always on the bigger picture, namely the overall marketing and business strategy, your PR plan will include the tactics and actions that contribute to delivering-on, fulfilling and achieving the PR strategy.
To bring your aims, objectives and aligned messages to life, your PR plan should contain a timeline of specific actions your business needs to take to achieve its goals, and the communities and networks in which to establish awareness, profile, and of course, reputation.
This could cover tactics such as issuing a press release on a business milestone, contract win or senior appointment, entering local business awards, getting involved in media networking events, securing in-depth articles within key influential publications, or share of voice comments for your business’ team to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the market.
You will need to identify your company’s media spokespeople and their areas of specialist knowledge, and ensure they are media trained and prepared for journalist interviews.
Build relationships with the media
Having a PR and media relations strategy in place will help you to build relationships with the key media and, in turn, support your reputation and positioning amongst customers, clients andstakeholders.
Forming good relationships with media journalists by sharing (newsworthy!) press releases may increase the likelihood of future stories featuring on their website or in print, and potentially trigger the request for comment on topical, industry issues as you demonstrate your business’ success, activities and capabilities.
Managing a crisis
Your PR strategy will of course focus on the positive and good news for the business and its reputation, but a comprehensive strategy should also legislate for when things might go wrong.
So, your strategy should incorporate the response to a crisis or issue, so that your staff have a clear idea of what to do, and include guidance on how to communicate with stakeholders, clients, customers, and of course the media.
Taking a proactive approach will give you and your team the tools with which to mitigate the potential negative impact a crisis may have and in turn, preserve your reputation.
In summary, your PR strategy should:
- Link to your overall business objectives and marketing strategy
- Clearly state your objectives and the key messages you want to convey
- Identify and target your audience
- Be supported by tactics set out in a PR plan
- Cover all bases in terms of your reputation