What makes a good PR strategy?
The best PR campaigns just work. They have a clear mission, a relatable message and an audible voice. They effectively engage the target audience. They excite, anger, or even inspire. Yet, while these campaigns can look as effortless as breathing, if you pull back the curtain, you’ll see a lot more planning than first meets the eye.
Whether you’re the Bellora Hotel in Sweden charging variable room rates dependant on how long guests spend on social media, a huge fast food chain selling gravy-scented candles or a well-known bank putting corporate customers at the heart of its storytelling, there is one common denominator to all successful communications campaigns – a strategy.
Why do you need a strategy? Not having one is akin to driving a car without GPS. Sure, you might have a rough idea of where you want to go, and you may get there, in the end. You may have memorised the route because you’ve travelled it so many times before. But how do you know you’ve picked the best place to go? How do you know you’ve picked the most effective route? Is your car built to muscle its way through dirt tracks in the forest, rather than smooth tarmac?
A strategy in PR is effectively a framework – a plan of action and a foundation for campaign success. It will help you to work out how to cut through the noise of the media to influence your target stakeholders. It can also help you disarm competitors, who may be earning more share of voice than your organisation.
Rather than diving headfirst into tactics and hoping they will stick, you firstly need to build a robust, measurable strategy. To do so, you need to know the answer to five key questions:
- What’s the big goal?
What are you trying to achieve from your communications campaign? What are your core objectives? Are you looking to be bought by a bigger fish? Are you launching a new, never-seen-before service? Do you want to change behaviour amongst your target audience? Whatever your hairy goal is, it should be the backbone and guiding force of everything you do within your wider communications campaign. All roads lead to the big goal.
- Who are you trying to reach?
What’s your typical user base? Is it made up of individual consumers, IT professionals? Perhaps it’s a community with shared interests, or someone/something else? More likely, you’ll have several key audiences you want to reach, so you’ll need to drill down into their personas – who are they? What do they love, like, dislike? What are their behavioural nudges? What motivates them? Where do they get information from? The more you know about your target audiences, the more effectively you can speak to them in a relatable and empathic way.
- Why you?
You have a goal to work towards, and you know who you’re trying to reach. But what are you going to say to those stakeholders you’re looking to influence? What are your core messages and why are you really different? Start with an overarching corporate narrative for your organisation that conveys your tone of voice, personality and vision. Then filter this narrative into key messages – whether written or spoken – that will resonate with each target audience you want to speak to. There will likely be some common themes. Beware the language you use; make sure it’s relevant to the specific target audience you’re speaking to – there’s no point using geek speak with grandmothers!
- What are your tactics?
So, you have your eyes on the objective, you know who you want to target with your campaign, and you know what you want to say. Now, how do you want to say it? Tactics comprise the activities you choose to spread your news/key messages – will you float a heavily-branded item down the Thames? Or will you create a piece of intelligence informing your target audience with solutions to their pain points? Have a look at the media you want to target in the first instance, as that will likely guide and inform the tactics to choose.
- What’s your measure of success?
How will you know if your PR campaign has been a resounding success or an absolute disaster? All PR strategies should be underpinned by a measurement framework that clearly outlines the outputs, expected outcomes and when everything should be delivered. The SMARTER you can be, (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely), the better. Once you’ve measured and ultimately reviewed your success, you can take those key learnings into the strategy you devise for your next big idea.
And there you have a recipe for strategy! Campaign strategy is a key component of all the communications programmes we design for our clients. Without effective messaging and a well-thought out strategy, it doesn’t matter how much energy you expend or money you throw at PR. This is why, at Babel, we put our best brains to the task of working out what you need to say and how you need to say it, before you press go. Get in touch if you’re interested in finding out more about what we can do for your organisation!
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