If you’re anything like me, the following exercise might be a bit of a challenge. Just try to remember life before your “do-it-all” smart phone. Imagine way back then, you wanted to take a road trip, long before the advent of Waze and even Google Maps. You wouldn’t dare start the ignition on your car without printing directions to your destination, would you? You obviously couldn’t get where you wanted to go unless you had a way to get there. Even today, when we have information at our fingertips and can find the answer to anything on the fly, you still need to search or input a destination into your navigation to know where you’ll end up. Where am I going with all this? A successful PR campaign is the same thing. How can you achieve great results without knowing what that would look like for your brand and creating a strategy to help you get there? Creating a roadmap for your campaign can be the first and most important step you take on your company’s PR journey.
Do some strategic planning before you embark on a time-consuming, (and often expensive) public relations campaign, and you will absolutely get more out of your efforts, securing results that will actually convert to sales. Here are 10 essentials you should consider as you’re developing a PR blueprint for your business:
1. Set Reasonable PR Goals –
Seems obvious, right? But it can be quite easy to get carried away when dreaming up your PR strategy. Aim high but start with smaller, accomplishable steps to build the bridge to success. Really think about what you hope & expect to get out of your PR campaign, but within the context of your larger business goals. Are you launching a new brand, a new product, trying to reach a new segment of consumers, hoping to increase sales, or trying to manage your public image? All of these goals would affect your approach about how you are pitching the media. If you’re working with an agency, always discuss your expectations, and beware of a firm that over-promises and under-delivers. When we start working with a new brand, we always ask them for their “Top 10 Wish List” to help serve as a roadmap for our success. You can learn more about that here.
2. SWOT Analysis –
Maybe this has already been done independent of your press outreach strategy, but you must analyze your brand’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats to help determine brand messaging & your target consumer.
What is your brand’s competitive edge? Is there negative press or bad customer feedback that must be overcome? Does your product fall under a growing trend or have a money-saving element? Are you entering a crowded marketplace or are your competitors more established?
Once you have outlined your SWOT, you can think about your unique selling propositions and formulate relevant pitch angles.
3. Pitch Perfect –
What story angles will you pitch? How do you plan to set your products apart from the competition? Will you position yourself as an expert in your field? What seasonal trends & stories can you focus on? What specific messages should be aimed at each group of target customers? How can you align your business, product, brand or service with a trending topic?
4. Timing is Everything –
Are you trying to secure local press, national magazines, or online features? Each type of outlet has a different lead-time, which means you need to be strategic about when you are sending your pitches. This is particularly important if you want to time your press to coincide with a new product launch, or focus on a seasonal trend. Are Holiday Gift Guides on your target list? Give yourself 6 months to secure those placements. “Long-lead” monthly magazines will take you at least 90 days lead-time, plus pitching and sample facilitation. “Short-Lead” weekly magazines take about 3-4 weeks to secure, and some online features could be posted as quickly as the same day! How far in advance can you plan for your pitches so your results will be timed with when they can have the biggest impact for your brand? (See #3)
5. Target Media Contacts –
Which publications do you plan to target? Which specific editors at each Consumer, Trade, blog, online magazine, television producer or analyst is the correct contact? Have you verified your media list is up to date? Have you made a list of social influencers that would be interested in your products? If not, start researching, and connecting with the right people and building your network. This will be invaluable to you and your PR strategy.
6. Social Media Strategy –
As part of your brand’s promotional strategy, you should absolutely be focused on creating and maintaining a social media presence on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, at a minimum. To get the most out of your efforts, consider the purpose of your presence in these arenas. Are you facilitating discussions, growing your following, capturing customer information, offering promotions, insider information, product news and giveaways? Don’t just post content, but actively monitor engagement on your page and see what tactics are resonating with your fans. Once you identify what works, build more content around that approach. You might also consider spending a small budget each month to boost posts that are particularly important to your brand, such as promotions you are running or giveaways you are hosting. Even a modest $100 can have a significant ROI and actually get your content in front of the right, targeted fans.
7. Celebrity Gifting & Seeding –
As much as I dislike this part of PR, it’s part of the game and you have to play it. If you have a product or service that is used and loved by celebrities, that’s another powerful tool in your arsenal to help get your brand press placements. I represent a luxury baby brand that happens to be a favorite of a lot of celebrities and their kids (Suri Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, and many more!), and have been able to secure hundreds of media placements as a result. Create a target list of relevant stars that are a good fit for your product and work with their representatives to dress that star in your brand, or pass along your product as a gift. These influential people can aid in starting the conversation about your brand and create a buzz that can serve as the foundation for the rest of your efforts.
8. Events –
What events are you interested in hosting or participating in? Conferences, gift lounges (another way to reach celebrities), philanthropic events, launch parties, trunk shows, trade shows, personal appearances, fashion shows, etc. What is your budget, and who can you partner with to get the biggest impact? What media outreach efforts or support will you need to get the most out of your event involvement?
9. CoBranding Opportunities & Strategic Partnerships –
This is a big tactic to consider, and one that is quite a hot area right now. Are there any like-minded companies you can create an alliance with to help gain new customers, media exposure and credibility for your brand? Is there something newsworthy about your partnership? Maybe there is an opportunity for a joint press release or launch event to spotlight the partnership? Even a simple social media cross-promotional giveaway can help secure new fans and followers for your brand at relatively no cost to you.
10. Gather Your Assets –
Do you have everything you need to hit the ground running? Some things to have in place are product samples (that you would be OK if they aren’t returned) to share with media and influencers to test your product, “hi res” product images on a white background (print resolution, at least 300 dpi), lifestyle shots of your products (i.e. with a model or in a staged image, if budget allows), a press kit (even an electronic press kit “EPK” will do) containing all of the vital information about your products, pricing, ingredients/materials, how to use your product etc. Can you offer a discount to their readers, or a set of products for a giveaway? Your goal is to make it as easy for an editor to consider your brand and products for a feature they may be working on.
Take into consideration the audience you are trying to reach as well as the impact a placement could have. Use that information to create custom “packages” you can offer potential outlets, that will give them something exclusive to pass on to or invite the participation of their readers or audience. Editors will be eager to work with you when it’s evident you’ve done your research and have something of value to offer them to make their job (of saying yes to you!) easier.
Taking some time to consider your approach and map your path to success is a no-fail first step to any sound PR strategy. There really is a method to our madness, and it helps to lay it all out so you can understand and have a clear approach to meet your public relations & social media objectives. Also, once you implement your strategy, you can adjust as you learn which tactics are working, and which efforts aren’t yielding great results.
So tell me, what else are you including in your public relations & social media campaign strategies for the remainder of the year? (Yes, we’re exactly halfway through already—but that doesn’t mean you can’t still make huge progress!) Follow me on Twitter, Instagram &Facebook for more tips, and comment below to let me know what is working for you—I’d love to celebrate your success with you!