How to construct a PR programme that really delivers
Understanding PR strategy
“Talks about talks” is one of the media’s favourite buzz phrases and it is certainly appropriate when thinking about a new PR programme. We can’t plough into the PR ‘doing’ stage without a very thorough ‘thinking’ stage.
Our starting point must be understanding the possible role for PR and devising a strategy that could really deliver and genuinely add to the work you do or help you achieve your business objectives.
This process starts with understanding the organisation’s brand and wider objectives and then seeing which aspects PR could help with, asking ourselves:
- What would really make a difference to the organisation?
- What problem could PR solve?
- What would great PR look like?
Understanding what PR can do
PR is essentially associated with the reputation of an organisation. Its functions tend to be around:
Driving name awareness – so people know who you are
Driving understanding – so people know what you do
Driving consideration – so people may change their behaviour or use your services
This is based on the principle that it is very hard to do business with an organisation you have never heard of, don’t respect and don’t understand.
Developing specific PR objectives
Once we’ve got this far it should be fairly straightforward to come up with specific and measurable objectives for your PR programme. It could be to try and get coverage in a certain publication every month or it could be to promote certain products or services.
Understanding the media and how it works
This involves working out which media will be interested in your stories and which will work hardest for you in terms of their audience and their way of delivering news. The media tends to pigeonhole organisations, therefore it involves second guessing your place in the story and understanding which problem you solve for the media.
Selecting your media
Think big – if you make yourself big and talk about the big issues that affect millions of people, you will be perceived as being ‘big’. As a result, you will be permitted access to ‘big’ media such as TV, radio and the national press. If you concern yourself with small detail and technicalities you will find yourself working with the trade media.
The PR toolkit
Like any job you need the right tools:
- Credibility – you need to earn the right to comment – become the media’s first choice commentator on the stories most relevant to them.
- Topicality – “news” means something “new”. Everything needs to relate to current or future events. Future events can include anniversaries therefore 12 months on from a major incident is always a topical news hook.
- Issues – issues = hard news in the eyes of the media. However you need to know how to pro-actively ‘work’ an issues based PR agenda
- Spokespeople – you need good, well briefed and trained spokespeople available
- Visuals – photographs and film footage are media staples – if you want coverage you have to think about where the media will be able to get visual content from
- Case studies – real examples, organisations that can talk about their experiences – broadcasters need a case study before they can cover most stories
- ‘Man bites dog’ – you need to be prepared to surprise the media – ‘dog bites man’ stories don’t get a lot of coverage as we’ve all seen them before. Increasingly these days the nature of ‘news’ is for it to be ‘news with a twist’, or the flipside of what we have always understood or known.
- PR Platforms – legislative changes, your own research, events are all things that a PR savvy organisation could use
- Creativity – it is a competitive world but real creativity always wins the day in PR.
- PR packages – the media is very busy and the more you can do to package up the story the better – if you can provide the issue, the figures to back it up, the spokesperson and a case study, you are half way there.
‘Keep the car running’
Good PR is a dripping tap, an engine ticking over, a constant presence. It isn’t a one-off, silver bullet, cure all tablet to be taken once. Your profile has to be fed week in week out and the organisation needs to be prepared to make a commitment to PR over a long term period.
Almost always forgotten but you need techniques to be able to measure the performance of a PR programme against your objectives and implement changes as it runs.