How to Create a Successful PR Strategy: A Guide for Dummies

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Today, in a globalized world, our choices are shaped by values, opportunities, and, last but not least, awareness. When we choose a product or service, we identify it with a company, brand, or personality. And it is only logical that we prefer love marks – products with an excellent reputation that have gained a multimillion-dollar credit of trust.

A PR strategy is one of the business tools that helps manage the perception of a company or personal brand in the market. Clear and carefully considered, it helps to understand the vision, communicate values to the target audience, increase presence in social media, reach the target audience to the maximum extent possible, prevent misinformation, and respond to critical situations promptly. And the success of any communication strategy is reaching the top of mind. After all, where there is awareness and trust, there is love and loyalty of consumers.

I. Do your research

Work on any PR strategy (both short-term and long-term) should always start with two questions:

  1. “What do we have now?”
  2. “What do we want to achieve as a result?”

The answers to both are interrelated.

  • The first provides an understanding of the current market situation, reputation, positioning, communication, competitive environment, partnerships, etc.
  • The second helps you to identify priority goals and objectives, which you will implement through a consistent plan using the right tools and resources.

A good old-fashioned SWOT analysis will help you get the data you need to develop an effective communication strategy.

At this stage, you should also carefully monitor mentions of the company or business owner on the Internet. Analyze all negative messages and pay attention to media publications and opinion leaders/influencers who shared/commented on posts/articles/messages. Evaluate the brand’s tone of voice in communication with customers, contractors, and clients, its image as an employer and past reputational crises.

Another tool in developing an effective PR strategy is a brief. Develop a list of questions, structuring them by topic, priority, or chronology. No one will tell you more about the company’s formation and achievements or business features, highlight “painful moments,” or outline a general vision of the result of cooperation with public relations specialists than the company’s CEO or business owner.

II. Define the goals

After a thorough analysis, we move on to defining the goal or goals.

After almost two years of full-scale war, we have become accustomed to sprints instead of marathons: strategic planning can now be reduced to six months at most. This, in particular, leads to the fact that clients are also trying to squeeze all their ambitions and expectations into a shorter time frame. But despite all this, a successful PR campaign is still not about quick and easy.

In addition to immediate gains, another common mistake is multi-vectoring – the desire to take into account several diverse customer requests in one strategy. A vague goal, or even worse, 4-5 goals that require the use of different tools, significant resources, time and budgets, and most importantly, often not about PR at all (e.g., increasing sales or retaining customers, for example), will only lead to your burnout, losses for the customer and reputational crises.

One goal = one plan for its realization.

A tool like SMART analysis can help make the goal more specific, achievable and effective at this stage of developing a successful PR strategy.

  1. Specific – define a specific goal, taking into account what the customer wants to see as a result.
  2. Measurable – set specific criteria to use to measure progress.
  3. Achievable – be realistic. If, after analyzing the goal and the expected result, you realize that the goal is unrealistic, adjust it.
  4. Relevant – Here, we discuss the goal’s alignment with your values and their significance. Answer the question: “Why is this important?” “What impact will it have on your life?”
  5. Time-bound – planning always means deadlines and a clear time frame. Setting a goal at this stage depends on both your capabilities and the customer’s needs.

III. Research your target audience

One of the most critical steps in developing a PR strategy is to portray the target audience of a company or personal brand. If the client has a rather vague idea of precisely whom their communication will be aimed at, they will have to determine the target audience’s parameters. Alternatively, you can conduct qualitative (hypothesis) and quantitative (hypothesis testing) research or use open data from surveys and analytics (Google Analytics, Ads Manager). As a result, the desired (hypothetical) audience will crystallize into a reliable (existing) one. The generalized portrait of the target audience can be segmented by:

  • demographic characteristics (gender, age, marital status),
  • geographical factors (country, region, city),
  • socioeconomic characteristics (education, occupation, income level),
  • psychological factors (interests and values),
  • consumer behavior (consumption intensity, loyalty).

Create 3-4 additional audiences, allowing you to develop more appropriate positioning, communicate relevant messages, and monitor trends. In addition, try to analyze the selection criteria, pains, and doubts that the target audience has.

IV. Choose your tactics

Find the most appropriate communication channels to spread your key messages. One classification divides them into classic (media, banner ads, events, etc.) and digital (social media, websites, video platforms, mobile apps). Let’s learn more about the five most effective ones:

  • Social media. Focus on platforms where a significant part of your target audience is concentrated. Pay attention to the leading platforms for posting video content: YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram – they are not only at the top of the list for buzzers. However, quality is more important than quantity. For regular and effective communication, choosing 2-3 social networks is optimal. This way, even with limited resources, you can keep your finger on the pulse, create high-quality content, interact, and respond to crises promptly.
  • Content marketing. Posting information on third-party resources (if it is a one-time action) works well if the goal is to increase trust, recognizability, and improve reputation. The main thing to remember here is that content is king, and its content should meet the target audience’s interests.
  • Opinion leaders and stakeholders. To collaborate with bloggers, you should seek everyone’s support promptly. List the top 5 most suitable for your goals and objectives. Check whether the content on their pages matches the client’s interests and positioning, vision, and values. Look for information about the selected opinion leaders on various resources, read/watch reviews about cooperation with them, and check if they have a questionable background. Remember, the price of a mistake here is the customer’s reputation and your competence.
  • SEO promotion. It’s no secret: users trust websites that appear on the first page of search results more. To achieve this result, you should fill your resource with valuable and unique information and optimize its search engine, i.e., better visibility on the Internet. It has a direct impact not only on trust but also on recognition. Backlinks will help to enhance the brand image.
  • It’s just anatomy. If you are not talking about a business that exists only online, feel free to go into the field and experiment. It is known that people perceive and memorize information better if the five primary senses are involved. Today, in the age of visual noise, attracting attention with a billboard on the roadside or a city light, a leaflet in a store, or a banner at the checkout is increasingly challenging. The formula works best: see + hear + taste and smell + touch.

V. Develop a detailed plan

When all the information you have collected is processed and organized into a presentation that the client has approved on the thirteenth attempt, and after five dozen revisions, congratulations, it’s just the beginning. Now, based on your PR strategy, you need to develop a detailed plan that will guide you for a month, three months, or six months, and measure the results, adjust them, and report back to the client. I won’t dwell on this in detail. In addition to priority topics, communication channels, mechanics of interaction with the target audience, timing, and type of content, a PR plan may also contain a ton of voice, tools, insights, events, etc.

VI. Measure the result

More than professional instincts and closed deadlines are needed to understand whether everything is going according to plan. It is essential to measure the success of your PR strategy. You can create measurement tools or set up key performance indicators (KPIs) according to your goals and objectives. At this stage, it is essential to:

  • Analyze the effectiveness of the communication strategy by monitoring the media and social networks.
  • Define “your” metrics.
  • Use real-time statistics to implement and measure success, gaining valuable feedback to align strategies with business goals.
  • Identify templates to optimize messaging and strengthen PR efforts.

In addition, success can be measured by whether the declared goals are achieved within the set timeframe.

Only by constantly monitoring progress can you understand whether your PR strategy is working, whether it aligns with your business goals and whether it does not impose reputational risks. Adjust, optimize, and change if things don’t go according to plan (which happens very often). The world is changing, and so is consumer sentiment. Today, to succeed, you need to be consistent and convincing and have great flexibility – the ability to adapt to the changing media landscape.

To summarize, a well-planned and implemented PR strategy is essential for growing brand awareness, influencing consumer sentiment, and achieving business goals.

Using the power of media outreach, SEO optimization monitoring-based decision-making, and other tools, you can strengthen your PR efforts and maximize the visibility and impact of the brand you work with.

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