It’s nearly Christmas, and what better time than to consider your corporate plans for 2014. If you haven’t already thought about it, what PR plans do you have for the New Year?
Every company has a business and marketing plan. Yet it’s surprising how many don’t have a PR plan to support new business acquisition and growth.
However, effective PR can make a real difference, helping to position the company with its buyers and oiling the wheels of commercial success.
Essentially, an effective communications plan is about creating and sustaining relationships between the company and its ‘publics’ – whether those publics are the media, customers, potential customers, employees etc.
Creating a PR plan can be divided into five stages:
1. Situation Analysis
First, a full assessment of the business and the target markets you want to reach – a clear picture of where your business is now, and where you want it to be in five years time, against your business plan.
It should also be based on an analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities
and Threats (SWOT), to give a comprehensive picture of the markets(s) in which you
operate, the particular strengths you have in those markets, and the potential
opportunities, dangers – and points of differentiation.
The PR plan should address all your ambitions and set key objectives, namely:
To raise corporate profile and reputation
To develop relationships with key publics
To build value into the brands(s)
To provide the best environment for achieving commercial objectives.
While many such programmes are open-ended, with a budget set at the end of the
process, it is more sensible to have a rough budget from the start – that way choices can be made and priorities set in developing tactics.
2. Audience Identification and Segmentation
You need to be clear from the outset at whom the programme is aimed – the key stakeholders or publics that you want to reach:
Customers & potential customers
Those in a position to influence
A clear understanding of your business and markets will then illuminate the communications plan, segmented horizontally by target sector and vertically by target audience (age, sex, demographics etc). That, in turn, will determine the range of media and other marketing activity best suited for each of your business requirements.
The programme should have clear messages for each target audience, and which will help to underpin your corporate brand(s) and brand values. Those messages must be appropriate for each target audience and consistent across all online and offline channels.
Branding and messaging are vital to communicating an integrated and cohesive
image of your company and products/services, and must work across PR,
advertising, direct and online marketing etc.
Internal communications should also be part of the mix: at the very least, it gives
staff the knowledge and tools to be active brand ambassadors for the company.
It should perhaps also involve an element of crisis planning to ensure that all
scenarios are considered in the PR process. Reputation can take a long time to
gain, but can be lost very quickly. In any business, it's wise to integrate PR
strategy into any corporate preparedness plan.
4. Creating the PR Plan
Once the above steps have been completed, it becomes easier to look at the different ways in which you can influence key publics:
Media relations (online and offline) (press releases, articles, 1-to-1 briefings etc)
Direct Mail and E-marketing
Advertising (print, radio, TV)
Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) (social participation)
Seminars, conferences, exhibitions, business awards
Website and online strategy (including blogs, social and newsletters)
The plan should also address two other aspects:
Thought Leadership – a clear demonstration that you understand the key issues in each of your markets from the perspective of the customer. This will differentiate the company from its competitors.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – a clear statement and practical demonstration that you understand that you have responsibilities to your communities, employees, and wider society. Putting in place a CSR element within the PR plan is, again, a point of differentiation.
5. KPIs, Budget, Annual Planning
In the same way as every part of a business should be subject to performance measurement, the PR plan should also have Key Performance Indicators to determine how successfully the programme is being delivered.
The plan should be reviewed on a regular basis and, more systematically, on an annual basis - determining whether such aspects as reputation or brand recognition are being raised. Double-guessing what your customers (actual or potential) think is never a good idea. Companies that listen to what their customers say, good and bad, are generally more successful.
Successful companies are ones that pay attention to PR, promoting themselves and their products/services and helping potential customers through the purchasing cycle. It needn’t be hard, and it needn’t be expensive.
So if you make one corporate resolution this New Year, why not embrace PR as part of your sales and marketing armoury.
In future posts we’ll look at how companies and brands can create better commercial contexts from, for example, corporate culture and corporate social responsibility.