PR planning – back to basics

Posted by suzichristie on December 2, 2019

We’re all human. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone forgets things from time to time. In life, this can be a pain, but in business it can be the difference between success and failure. If you have said you are going to do something and then you forget – like a deadline to submit an award entry – this might be the action that defines the outcome of the project.  What really helps is having a plan, and making sure you review it regularly.

When working with a client, we always work from a plan that has been agreed in advance.  It could be a plan to enter and win business awards, such as the one we are currently implementing for The English Soap Company, or it could be a three-month plan like the one we devised with and for Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm.

The key is to be realistic and set out clearly defined goals that are achievable. Here are my top seven tips for a basic public relations plan:

1) Understanding the now. There is no point in starting on a plan without doing some thorough research. It is likely your client will know much more about the industry than you do. So pick their brains, visit their premises and chat to staff and do some research into factors such as the financials, geography, local demographic and competitors.

If one of your objectives is to increase traffic to the website and footfall through the shop, you need to make sure the client is able to cope with the increases.

Before you draft the plan, therefore, you and the client need to know where you are and where you want to get to. Some clients have very high expectations – we had an enquiry the other day from a lady who wanted her new fitness product to be featured on Loose Women.  The chances of this happening are slim and we knew she would only have a very small budget.  So we were honest and said we couldn’t help.

On the other hand one of our new clients, the fantastic musician Tom Doughty, was really keen to appear on Radio 2 on the Cerys Matthews show. We knew because of his credentials this was possible and, indeed, he is appearing on the show in January 2020. He is delighted, as are we!

2) Establish goals. When you know what is possible, you need to establish the goals of the campaign. Public relations doesn’t create sales, that’s the job of the sales team. What is does is create potential customers that can then be converted into buyers. If the goal is increase footfall in the shop by 5%, then PR can help bring the company to people’s attention. If they then visit and find it is more expensive than the shop next door, or the staff are miserable, that will not convert into sales, but that does not mean the PR campaign has failed.

Most plans will have more than one goal, but they should always be minimal in number (I’d say a maximum of three or four) because you want to be able to keep track of them and the implementation plan.

3) Define the audience. You need to know who you are aiming at. For some of our clients, this can be broadly geographical. For example, the award-winning Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm delivers trees and so they ask us to focus on a certain geographical region. It is a very large area they deliver within but does not extend to London. To advertise outside this area would be a wasted of money.

For other clients, the audience is geographically broader and may be more targeted in some campaigns. For example, Croydon-based Cleankill Pest Control now operates across the whole of the south, with offices in Seaford and Bristol. They deal with both residential and commercial clients and so the campaign may be aimed at one of those groups depending on the season. The size of their territory also means there may be a highly specific target at times. For example, homeowners in and around Buckinghamshire who have problems with Glis glis. There would be little point promoting this service in Hastings, because Glis glis are not a problem in East Sussex.

4) Tactics and channels. You next need to define how you are going to reach your audience – traditional media, radio, social media (organic and paid-for), mailshots, etc. Largely this will be defined by the type of audience and the budget being put into the campaign. There is no point in planning a high-profile TV ad campaign if the budget isn’t in place. At the same time, if you are targeting pensioners, exclusively using social media probably isn’t the best option.

5) Measuring success. How are you going to determine if the campaign has been successful? If it’s solely going to be looked at through financials, then the success of the public relations campaign is very much going to be affected by factors that are beyond the control of the PR company. It is important to work out, and agree in advance, what metrics are going to be used to decide success.

6) Budget. Professional public relations support is an investment and isn’t a cheap, quick fix. If someone tells you it is and they can guarantee success then they are stretching the truth. Be prepared to pay for time spent planning and implementation on top of that. Agree the amounts you will be spending on things like social media advertising and how much time will be spent on different aspects of the campaign. Pricing should be transparent – either a set fee or retainer or an agreed hourly rate.

7) Flexibility. Finally, public relations is not an exact science. Therefore, consultant and client both need to be ready to react to negative and positive changes as the PR plan is implemented. One example that comes to mind was, again, associated with Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm. One Saturday they opened their store to find all their AA signs had been stolen. Obviously, the police were involved, and the AA were amazing at getting new signs, but what turned this around was the fact we were able to help with getting news coverage in local papers and TV. This could never have been budgeted or planned but as it was, we had the flexibility within the plan to take full advantage of what could have been a disaster. That success even helped us win a Silver PRide Award.

If you need help with a PR project, contact us on 07590 591140 or click here.