Public relations can be defined as the techniques and strategies used by an individual or company to get information out to the public, especially the media. The primary goals are to inform the public and media professionals about important company news or events, maintain a brand image, and help with crisis management to minimize fallout.
To do so effectively, though, companies will need to have a solid PR strategy designed to work towards pre-determined goals and objectives. A PR strategy is designed to improve a company’s brand image. Good PR should generate coverage for a brand in relevant media outlets, industry publications, podcasts, blogs, and social media platforms.
PR strategy is similar to a marketing strategy since it is created with the purpose of spreading the word about a brand without traditional sales tactics. It is used to spread the word about a business, services, or products to improve its recognition and maintain positive relationships with its audience and stakeholders.
In PR, organizations use the POEM model to drive brand awareness, distribute content, engage prospects, and guide them through the PR process. The POEM model stands for paid, owned, and earned media. Paid media includes everything that a company pays for to gain exposure. Some examples can consist of PPC, paid advertisements, sponsored posts, and influencers. While consumers generally do not like ads, this is the best way to get them to notice a company because it can increase traffic, sales, and conversions through clicks and, as a result, increase revenue.
As the name suggests, owned media is any media channel that is owned and operated by the business itself. Owned media can include business websites, blogs, emails, and other assets and owned resources. This is the most accessible channel for companies to manage because they have complete control over it. It is also considered the most important because it helps companies establish themselves as thought leaders.
Additionally, when a company gets brand mentions, about 99% of these mentions will link to a company’s owned media channels. Setting up professional-looking owned channels is a chance to impress the public as well as anyone who would be linking to the brand.
Finally, earned media, also known as free media, is the coverage earned by a brand that has an appealing brand image and has won the public’s trust. Building a credible brand that is easily recognized can help with generating earned media. After all, people love to talk about a good thing. As opposed to paid media, earned media is organic publicity that a company gets without paying. It can include press mentions, social media recognition, content contributions by influencers, and search ranking achieved through search engine optimization.
To have a strong PR strategy, a company needs to use all three types of media channels. Companies that only focus on owned media may struggle to gain any traction. At the same time, investing all company resources into paid media may drive people to their site but may not retain attention. Additionally, without quality content, it can be challenging to rank high in search engines or get the attention of media professionals.
In this article, we will look at how to create a PR strategy, but first, let us look at why and when your company might need a PR strategy.
1) To build credibility
According to Nielsen’s 2021 Global Trust in Advertising poll, earned media, including word-of-mouth, customer testimonials, and editorial content, are more trusted than paid or owned media. You can build credibility by earning favorable mentions of your business in the media. A good PR strategy is a good way to earn quality mentions and build credibility. PR content like press releases, guest posts, and other publicity content can help with generating media coverage and shaping public opinion. If you push out quality content, then you can build credibility for your brand in a way the public will value more than traditional advertising.
While you can develop your PR strategy on your own, getting the help of a professional PR team can also be beneficial. Thanks to their expertise, PR professionals can sift through ideas to filter out the topics that aren’t interesting and focus on the ones that will gain the most media coverage.
2) Helps maintain control
You can have more control over your message if you provide your own story to the media. Ideally, publications should run a press release verbatim, but journalists will sometimes create their version of the story based on your press release and their research. Even if you cannot control the media professional’s final version of the story, having a PR strategy provides you with more influence over the narrative.
3) Gives you material for crisis management
Having a good PR plan is not just about generating positive news coverage for your company. It is also about trying to avoid and be prepared to handle bad publicity. Being ready with a plan when a crisis hits can save valuable time in the event of a disaster. Regardless of the situation, a PR strategy can help position your business for a better outcome in the face of bad news.
4) Creates exposure
Whatever industry your company is in, there is always competition to gain the attention of the media and the public. PR offers a unique way to reach audiences so that you can build awareness and create a positive image for your brand. You can also leverage PR to supplement your company’s marketing efforts.
5) Provides staying power
In the digital age, news stories can increase their online visibility on search engines. Rather than disappearing after some time, articles continue to gain exposure over time since they are linked to and by other sources, whether through an article, a blog post, a review, or another platform.
6) Produces SEO benefits
Make sure that positive stories are told about your brand in both earned and owned media and across social media networks, that your brand messaging is consistent and that your content is timely and relevant. All of this will help keep your company rank higher in search engine results, which will bring in more customers and drive more business growth.
7) Offers value
PR can help companies of various sizes gain media coverage. Furthermore, PR can offer a lot more value for small businesses that might not have access to the same financial resources that big companies have at their disposal. Establishing a favorable public image and communicating it through the news media is a very cost-effective way to raise awareness and improve your brand image.
Now that we have looked at why companies should have a PR strategy let’s create a PR plan.
1) Map out brand elements
As mentioned previously, PR plays a crucial role in reputation and brand management. In order to create an effective PR plan, you need to understand your brand as well as what it stands for. The first question you need to answer is what people think about your brand.
This can get complicated because your stakeholders will see your brand differently from you. For this reason, it is essential to map out the different brand elements when creating a PR strategy. Some common brand elements include consumer brand: how customers view your brand; financial or company brand: how investors, shareholders, or any interested in the financial or legal stakeholder of your company views the brand; employer brand: how employees view your brand, and community brand: how your company engages with your local community/charities/campaigns/causes.
Nevertheless, one of the biggest mistakes you can make when writing a PR plan is to try and cover every type of brand element. Instead, you need to choose your preferred brand element based on your business objectives and ensure that your PR priorities align with the company-wide focus.
2) Define the target audience
Once you have decided which brand element you will focus on, you need to define your target audience. A target audience is the group of people that you ideally want to communicate with. You can have one or more target audiences, as long as you identify them and understand who they are.
Some details that you need to consider include demographics, location, and psychographics.
- Demographics include age, gender, income, marital status, occupation/industry, and education level.
- Location would be what country, city, or neighborhood your target audience lives in.
- Psychographics cover their likes and dislikes, attitudes and opinions, and hobbies/interests.
Research has shown that companies can gain increased engagement by sharing stories and content with a target audience. However, they must understand their audience before creating content. The onset of COVID-19 in 2020 helped us realize that our audiences are morally aware. It’s important to understand the values of your audience – especially as you devise PR strategies for 2021 and beyond.
3) Formulate key messages
Key messages are concise and clear sentences that present essential information about a brand. The most effective key messages are short and to the point, because consumers are constantly bombarded with news and advertising. As a result, it is your job to keep your key messages specific and straightforward with a focus on attracting the attention of your target audience.
Messages should be carefully chosen to create the brand image and reputation that your company desires. Be sure to communicate your unique selling points so that you can stand out from the competition.
4) Identify the channels to reach the target audience
The next step in creating a PR plan is to identify the channels you can use to communicate your messages to your target audience. You need to do sufficient research to figure out where an audience consumes their information. Some common channels that brands use include niche media, digital influencers, podcasts, blogs, and owned media. One of the most significant benefits of identifying target channels beforehand is that you will know what type of stories will be most successful on each.
5) Find newsworthy stories in the business
It’s now time to start looking for newsworthy stories about your business. Your company’s stories are the heart of your PR plan. Newsworthy stories are essential if you want to share your key messages with your target audience. When you engage your audience with a compelling and relevant story, you are more likely to retain their attention. You will also be able to build a more informal and conversational dialogue with your customers, which will result in brand loyalty.
6) Plan media pitches
Once content has been created, it is time to focus on pitching it to media professionals. This is not just a one-time task, however. Succesful pitching requires you to send a number of stories to various media outlets while coordinating content, and meeting deadlines.
A good PR plan will help you to run multiple stories over a period of time to consistently earn media coverage and increase engagement for your brand. However, media outlets, whether mainstream media or digital creators, work on their own schedules and are not just sitting around waiting for the next big story to drop.
In order to be successful, you not only need to present a well-written press release but also an email pitch that will entice media professionals to read it. Additionally, you need to work with a journalist’s deadlines rather than your own.
7) Measure the success of the PR plan
Last but not least, the best PR plans should be able to produce both quantitative and qualitative data that can help measure your success in your media relations strategy. Companies can measure “share of voice” and “tone of voice.” Both are useful metrics that can help you to analyze how you compare to your competition. These metrics will help you to gauge how effective your PR has been in raising awareness and influencing conversation around your brand.
Share of Voice is the percentage of all online, print, and broadcast coverage that you have managed to secure compared to your competitors. At the same time, Tone of Voice measures how your company is presented within the media.
Regardless of what news you want to share with media professionals and your target audience, it is essential to plan before diving in. With so much competition out there, you need to do everything to ensure that you stand out and gain the media coverage you desire. While you can craft and implement a PR strategy on your own, sometimes you need the help of PR professionals. After all, the experts might just catch something that you would’ve missed without them.
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