Developing an Effective PR Plan: Getting Started

Publicity begets publicity is a principle I learned early in my agency career.

As I’ve found time and time again while working with clients in an array of industries, once a story is done by one news media outlet, others media tend to notice and want in on the action.

Having someone from your agency or business repeatedly quoted in media outlets on a particular topic can go a long ways toward positioning that person as an expert. It’s hard to overstate the value of becoming a trusted source for reporters and the benefits such positioning can garner.

Organizations that make PR a priority through an intentional, ongoing effort to get their names in the marketplace can gain a significant competitive advantage, especially when it comes to new business development.

But in order to manage time, resources and activities in the most productive way possible, it’s vital to have a written PR plan to provide focus, direction, coordination and clear targeting for your efforts.

Without one, PR activities will manage you, and they may lack focus and consistency. Or, they will simply fall off your radar as the tyranny of the urgent takes over.

A good starting point is to nail down as specifically as possible what it is you want your plan to achieve and how you will go about it.

People sometimes use terms such as a goals and objectives interchangeably, so when you’re ready to establish you PR goal, objectives, strategies and tactics, it’s important that everyone is speaking the same language and sharing the same meaning.

I’ve found the following football analogy helpful when thinking through what needs to be accomplished:

Goals are broad and intangible, so the team’s goal could be to become the best high school football team in the world. Because there are no world playoffs at the high school level, the goal couldn’t be measured.

Objective: To win the game. An objective is specific and measurable. In this case, winning is the primary objective.  A secondary objective may be to enable a player to gain enough yards to break a school record or to score a certain number of points.

Strategy: The other team is bigger, but we’re faster.  Therefore, we’ll utilize our superior quickness to achieve the objective (i.e. to win the game).

Tactics: The specific plays we will run throughout the game, especially those that favor quicker players. You also could think of tactics as the action plan.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Developing an Effective PR Plan: Identifying and Understanding Your Audiences

One of the most important aspects of a public relations plan is a clear delineation of who you want to reach, what motivates them, their level of interest/comprehension and the best ways to reach them.

Whether the PR plan is designed to stand alone or be incorporated into a broader marketing plan, identifying and understanding your audiences is critical to success.

Customers have different informational needs than employees, and a regulator will ask much different questions than a supplier. Likewise, a local reporter will be especially interested in the local angle of a story and what it means to the community, while trade and national media will focus on the “big picture” aspect of the same story. Even then, trade media will have different informational needs than national consumer media.

Some audiences are obvious, while others may be more challenging to identify. Depending on a number of factors, a PR plan may address a relatively small, targeted audience or more diverse, fragmented groups.

Whatever audiences end up in your plan, you’ll need specific strategies, tactics and messaging to effectively reach each segment.

When creating a public relations plan, it’s helpful to find a method for categorizing audiences to you make sure you don’t miss one. The following is a method I’ve used to segment audiences based on their links to an organization:

Enabling links – publics that set policies or goals and may control assets.

  • Board of directors
  • Government regulators
  • Congress

Functional links – audiences with a direct link between the services the organization performs and the product(s) it produces.

  • Employees
  • Suppliers
  • Users of products/services

Diffused links – individual members of a public who do not belong to a formal organization but share a common interest.

  • Community residents
  • Minorities
  • News Media
  • Environmentalists
  • Voters

Normative links – publics that share the organization’s goals and values.

  • Religious associations
  • Professional societies
  • Competitors

Always keep in mind that diffused links can quickly fuse by organizing to take action (over a common problem or opportunity) and can cause major headaches for you and your organization.  Unions, coalitions and environmental groups are prime examples.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses.