We're firm believers that PR for SMEs is a worthwhile activity. If sufficient time is allotted to goal setting and strategy and tasks are carried out in the right way - it can deliver exponentially better returns than many other marketing avenues.
In this guide, we'll set out some of our top tips on creating a PR plan that delivers and how to get the most bang for your buck from a campaign.
"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu
Creating and implementing a PR plan can seem like a daunting prospect for a small business. If outsourcing isn't currently an option for your company - fear not, it is still possible to see success via PR techniques.
As the quote above warns, one of the biggest, most common pitfalls is losing sight of your goals and becoming too embroiled in the methodology. Your PR activity is a means to an end - so be laser focused on your goals and constantly question how what you're doing will contribute to these.
PR isn't a one-size-fits all discipline, and where you opt to deploy your efforts will be influenced by a number of factors. Having said that, there's several areas that often beguile newcomers to the field. So without further ado, here's our top tips on creating an effective PR plan that stands the test of time and goes above and beyond the call of duty in delivering a return on investment.
- Business plan and PR plan - two sides of the same coin
When brainstorming a PR plan, you simply have to tie it in with your overarching business plan if you're to see tangible results. Highlight any news you think will be important (from an objective, editorial viewpoint) and set out time frames for when these milestones are likely to occur.
Some key questions to ask yourself at this stage include:
- What are your objectives for the next three-to-five years?
- What sectors do you see as areas for growth?
- Do you plan on extending your workforce this year?
- What are your financial goals in the short, medium and long term?
All these elements and more should form the bedrock of your PR plan and be translated into objectives and key messages that support these aims.
- Unique Selling Point
Establishing a unique selling point (USP) from the outset is vital. This is the quality that will set you apart from your competitors and from the crux of all your key messages going forward. Too many companies fall foul of trying to be all things to all men and this results in a diluted message that fails to present a coherent picture to your key audiences.
When putting together your plan, be sure to spend time on picking a handful of key differentiators and brainstorm how to communicate these effectively though PR activity.
Renowned industrialist John Wanamaker famously quipped that he wasted half his advertising budget, but wasn't sure which half it was. Fortunately, there's no excuse for such ignorance when it comes to a modern PR campaign.
Some may still claim the return on PR activities are intangible, but by putting in the effort during the planning stages, you'll be able to recognise what's working, how well it's working and what's not worked at all.
Your goals and KPIs (key performance indicators) in this regard might differ wildly, but some common favourites include:
- Where do you want to be seen in terms of both publications and real-word exposure?
- What relationships do you want to build with journalists and publications?
- How will you judge editorial coverage?
- How many proactive opportunities will you aim to source throughout the length of the campaign?
Don't simply pen these and leave them to gather dust, however. Be sure to monitor your KPIs regularly and adjust them appropriately as elements gain or lose importance in the face of market changes and other alterations to your business.
- Knowledge is Power
Know your target audiences and how to reach them. Understanding what format your target audiences prefer when gathering information is key to creating a PR strategy that generates results.
There's an abundance of ways you can reach your audiences, whether they use social media, attend networking events or read their industry publication - all elements should be considered and incorporated into your PR plan.
Spend time understanding your target media and what stories they want to cover. The key to pitching an idea to a journalist is understanding what their readers are interested in. There's no point in trying to sell in an idea that is 100% self-promotional. Ask yourself 'why would a journalist be interested in this story?' and 'what value can my company bring to this publication?'
Don't muddy the water. There are no doubt a host of services that you provide and you'll want to communicate all of this to your potential customers. However, trying to tell them everything in one go can be counterproductive.
Spend a little time thinking about which service areas are likely to most profitable in the next business quarter (this might be due to ripe market conditions, a recent relevant new business win or capacity in a particularly team) and focus your PR efforts on this. That way you will see fruitful results more quickly and present a clearer profile to your target audiences, and once they've bought in to one service - you'll have ample opportunity to tell them about the other services you provide.
5. Time is Money
The issue of time can plague even the most enthusiastic of PR strategist and PR activity can be the first think to take a hit when people get busy. For those without a dedicated resource, this can be a delicate balancing act, but one way to mitigate this impact is to appoint a 'PR champion' with the authority and capacity to manage company-wide activity.
If possible, you can appoint separate people to oversee PR in disparate departments and write this into their professional development plans so that it becomes a measureable responsibility with goals and consequences if targets aren't achieved.
6. Go Digital
The dawn of digital has broadened the remit of PR for the better. It's not entirely focused on press and publications anymore and deploying resources on content and social can lead to great returns.
Not to sugar-coat things, however, SMEs without a dedicated resource or prior knowledge in this regard will face something of an uphill battle. It takes time and effort to get to grips with best practice and ongoing resources will need to be deployed if you're to make a dent in your visibility to search engines and social following.
7. Plan ahead
There's always an element of responding reactively to PR opportunities as they come up, but it's also advisable to plan ahead where possible. Publications often provide schedules for the year, which provide an outline of the topics they plan to cover each month.
Plot these in to your PR plan for the year and discuss potential ways you can contribute in advance, so that you can take your time on producing engaging, relevant commentary and proffer these to journalists well in advance of deadlines.
8. Be Flexible
The best PR strategies adapt to changing circumstances to incorporate opportunities which are unplanned but relevant to the overarching business goals.
Beware though, being too reactionary can lead to mounting costs, so make sure you refer back to you agreed PR objectives and goals when considering new opportunities, so that you are confident that it meets your criteria for business success.
Time and resources are vital considerations for SMEs and while a plan is undeniably crucial - there comes a time when you simply have to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. Don't fall into the trap of spending so much time on strategising that you fail to enact any of your grand plans.
Have you faced any pitfalls or triumphs in your PR activity? Or do you have any tips for SMEs just getting started in this arena? If so, be sure to leave us a comment or give us a shout on social - we love to hear what you have to say.
And if you're an SME looking for further PR and marketing tips, don't miss our new, free beginner's guide to the basics of PR and marketing:
Images used courtesy of geralt, openclips on Pixabay, ICMA on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons