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PR Strategy: Why You Need It And How To Build A Strong One

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In today’s digital landscape, there’s no question that a strategic multichannel approach is necessary for a successful marketing campaign. While public relations has historically been considered a separate entity outside of the overall marketing umbrella, both consumer demand and a saturated marketplace have created a clear need for the two channels to work more closely together.

The Disconnect Between PR + Marketing

The reason marketing and public relations have traditionally been looked at as unrelated channels lies within the goals and results of each. Loosely speaking, where a brand’s marketing efforts are focused on guiding customers directly to a purchase, their public relations efforts hinge on exposing customers to messaging about the brand or product that marketing is serving them. Marketing can, at times, focus on immediate results. Public relations tends to be a longer play – it takes time to build relationships, trust, and brand credibility, but will pay off with more positive results for your brand in the long run.

With this simple explanation, it becomes clear that public relations can act as a perfect complement to any marketing campaign, but a further barrier for uniting the channels lies in the way each is measured. In terms of results, marketing looks at hard numbers – e-mail CTRs, website traffic, social engagement, etc. – to gauge success, whereas public relations looks at media mentions, article tone (positive/negative), potential audience reach, and other more “variable” metrics. While PR efforts may be harder to directly measure, its impact does in fact come through in metrics such as referral traffic, organic traffic, social mentions, and others. If you’re looking for your brand to succeed over the long term, public relations is not a channel to be ignored.

Crafting a Blueprint for your Brand

While fundamentally different, public relations and marketing are complementary channels. Any strong marketing campaign can and should be supported with a well thought out public relations component. So what does that look like? A PR strategy contains nearly the same elements a marketing strategy does, but tailored slightly differently. In crafting a successful PR strategy, you’ll want to include research, objectives, programming, and evaluation, or ROPE for short. We’ll explore each of these more in depth below.

First Pillar: Research

Every good marketing strategy is based in solid and expansive research – your public relations strategy is no different. In order to proceed further with any ideas, a solid understanding of the brand, consumer outlook, media landscape, brand sentiment, and competitor outlook are necessary.

Key pieces to include in your public relations research include brand sentiment, (What is currently being said about my brand? Is there anything being said at all? Is it positive or negative?), media landscape (What outlets are talking about my brand? What outlets are talking about competitors?), and competitor success (What are they doing that works? What doesn’t? What areas are they missing that my brand can jump on?), among others.

Don’t skimp on the research – this pillar will effectively guide the rest of your strategy.

Second Pillar: Objectives

Goals and objectives are arguably the most important piece of any strategy. What are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to drive traffic to the website? Positively impact brand recognition through a number of media placements or social mentions? Whatever the goal here may be, make sure it is based in research and is clearly measurable. While three goals is standard, more or less may be included depending on your research and the breadth of your campaign.

Third Pillar: Programming

Programming is an expansive category. This includes, on a high level, specific tactics for your strategy, but also goes further and outlines audience and key messaging both on a high level and for each individual tactic.

Tactics included in a strategy should be tailored directly to the objectives defined earlier. This can include specific pitches, events, larger campaigns, influencer or brand partnerships, and more. The tactics should be grounded in research, support your objectives, and lend easily to clear and defined measurement.

Keep in mind when defining a target audience for public relations that this audience is likely to differ slightly from the audience defined by marketing – and that’s okay. While marketing may have a clearly defined target for paid efforts, public relations may have a wider audience for exposing the brand to through media placements. Again, this is okay! The audience may also differ for different tactics, be it media relations or events planning. A clearly defined research section will support this as well.

Key messaging is a piece that can and should be crafted with help from your content team, as these are the people who often define your brand. However, this pillar goes beyond brand taglines and website copy and rather clearly illustrates the message you hope to communicate to the public. It’s messaging you hope to get across in pitches to reporters and in interviews featuring your brand’s key stakeholders – it’s the messaging you want to communicate clearly in your tactics.

Fourth Pillar: Evaluation

We talked earlier about public relations efforts being measure differently from marketing efforts. This is why it’s so key to ground your objectives in a way that is measurable. Track media placements, traffic from links, social media mentions, event attendance etc. This evaluation is key for assessing your strategy’s success as well as defining how to move forward.

The above defines the basics of a good public relations strategy. When combined with other marketing channels, any brand is poised for greater and more sustained long term success

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