If you’ve been thinking about implementing a PR strategy for your business, the time to get started is now. There is no time like the present, dear friend. As an organization that is doing amazing things and making the world a better place, you should prioritize amplifying your message and sharing your good work.
Implementing a PR strategy may seem daunting. We get it. Does your team have the bandwidth to take on more? Can you do PR on your own without any past experience? Will PR turn the dial in a meaningful way to support your business goals? The answer to the last question is ABSOLUTELY YES. To assuage fears about the other questions we advise you start with a plan and start small. Here’s how to do it.
Set your goals
First, ask yourself, why am I even thinking about implementing a PR strategy? PR should support your business or organizational goals. What goals have you set for 2022 and what metrics will you use to measure your efforts against those goals? Are you hoping to grow your donor base and increase engagement? Is your organization looking to grow the number of constituents served this year? Do you want to reach new audiences and gain new advocates for your cause? Do you want to increase sales of your services by 10% this year?
In order to achieve these business goals, you’ve likely also set up metrics by which to measure your performance. Perhaps you are tracking the number of newsletter signups, web traffic, referral traffic, and time spent on your site, donations, attendees at your events, or number of new clients. Any of these metrics can (and should!) be supported by PR. Your audience is only as big as the number of people who know who you are and what you do. So if you want to grow your audience, and work towards those business goals, you need to amplify your message and share your story.
Do I need to hire an agency to execute?
You do not need to hire an expensive agency to execute a PR strategy. In fact, the best place to start is by building a PR plan – or as we call it, your PR Blueprint – and determining what you can execute on your own.
PR is not rocket science. Sure, there are best practices to follow. Sure, PR takes a bit of finesse. Sure, existing media relationships can be a plus. However, you can learn best practices and begin to build media relationships. The two most important things you need to see PR success are having a story to tell or a message to share and a commitment to consistently get that story or message out there. You probably already have a good story, every purpose-driven organization does! So now you just need a plan and to dedicate a small chunk of time each month to execute.
Create a plan
Creating the PR plan is often the heaviest lift when it comes to doing PR for the first time. But it is the most important step, so invest the time and energy in creating a robust plan as it will help determine your priorities in terms of audiences, outreach, and if you have limited time and resources to put towards PR, where to allocate your precious few minutes and dollars.
PR plans should include the following:
- PR goals: Different from your business goals, define what you want your PR program to achieve. These goals might include increasing visibility amongst target audiences and new audiences, increasing buzz surrounding your cause, building credibility for your service or the thought leaders on your team, etc.
- PR objectives: PR objectives are the actionable items that you want to accomplish to support your PR goals. These might include earning media coverage, sharing your perspective and expertise, or earning awards.
- Marketing SWOT analysis: Take a look at what your peers and competitors are doing from a marketing perspective. Knowing what your competitors are doing well, and where they aren’t taking action, will help you identify opportunities and challenges for both marketing and PR.
- Target audiences: Really define your target audiences. Know your existing audiences and define the audiences you haven’t reached yet. What do these people read? Where do they get their news? What do they do for fun? What do they care about? Once you have a clear understanding of your target, you will be better equipped to tailor your PR strategy to meet these people where they are and in ways that will best resonate.
- Key messages: What are the most important messages you want to communicate about your organization, your work, or your expertise in a certain area? Make sure these key messages are defined in your PR strategy.
- Story angles and media targets: Develop a list of story angles based on your key messages. What stories will be timely over the coming year? What stories can you tell that are evergreen? What media outlets do you want to be in? Make sure to create your media targets based on what your audience targets are reading or where they are tuning in, not based on your ego!
- Strategies and tactics: Determine which strategies you’ll focus on based on your PR goals, defined audiences, and the opportunities you’ve identified in your marketing SWOT analysis. Remember to go back to your business goals. How can your PR strategies help support your business goals? For each strategy include a detailed list of tactics outlining the nitty-gritty specifics required to achieve your goals.
- 12-month calendar: Create a calendar of upcoming business announcements/launches/initiatives, relevant holidays and seasonal trends, upcoming editorial/storytelling opportunities, events/speaking opportunities, and award opportunities. For PR campaigns to be successful, you’ll need to plan them far enough in advance to get ahead of editorial, event organizer, and award deadlines. Remember, long lead publications often finalize content 4-6 months in advance, so if you have a big summer story that you’d like published in a glossy print pub, you’ll want to pitch it in Q1! Likewise, award submissions and nominations typically occur 8-12 weeks in advance of the award announcement, and speakers for events are often selected 6-12 months in advance of the conference. Planning ahead will ensure you are prepared to go after every opportunity!
Start small, with an achievable list of action items
Rarely will anyone achieve every strategy and tactic outlined in their PR plan. If you’ve done it right, you’ll likely have enough work in the PR plan to make it a full-time job. If you are implementing PR for the first time, start small. Pick one or two strategies that you know you can accomplish and can commit to doing consistently. Perhaps your goal for this year is to apply for speaking engagements or perhaps your goal is to spend an hour or two each week pitching stories to the media.
Whatever you select, accept that PR is a long game and results take time. Don’t give up on PR mid-February, make a promise to yourself to see it through the whole year. As your momentum grows, you’ll start to see the results and impact on your business goals. Remember, good things come to those who
wait do things consistently.
Rhiannon Hendrickson is the founder and CEO of Orapin Marketing + Public Relations, which helps purpose-driven organizations share their stories and become a leading voice for their cause. She has worked with organizations of all sizes across myriad industries to develop memorable and effective communications programs that generate awareness, engagement, and, ultimately, support for those that are making a meaningful impact.