No matter how good your product or service, unless you’re top of mind for prospects and clients, reporters, and ultimately the public, if you’re not proactively pursuing PR, you’re letting valuable opportunities pass you by.
Responding to the occasional reporter call is not enough. Success in the public relations arena means you reverse the process: it’s your story, your theme, your time frame in publications you’ve selected. Excellent media coverage is the result of developing and consistently communicating a focused message about you – a message about what your business has to offer and how it impacts the industry and community.
Objectives, Accountability & Time Frames
Sounds simple enough, but what are the components of a sound PR plan? Primarily, your PR plan must be in alignment with the strategic goals and marketing objectives of your company. Key questions that must be addressed by both your marketing efforts and PR tactics are: whom are you trying to reach and what do you want them to do?
Your plan must include a series of related objectives that are specific and actionable. An individual, who certainly can call on team members or outside resources, must be accountable to management for each objective. And, each objective must have a time-frame for completion. Most importantly, your plan can only succeed if you have commitment from top management, sales and marketing.
Before You Start
As you build your plan, start by reviewing the present situation. Consider what did or didn’t work in your media effort last year. Do you already have favorable reporter relationships – who are they, where and why? What story ideas did you pitch that yielded positive results?
When reviewing the past, looking at individual successes allows you to identify what you want to repeat or areas to pay more attention to. Once you’ve reviewed the past, then you can look to the future end goal. Will you need be in front of the public more frequently or overcome any obstacles? Do you know exactly what you want to communicate and to whom? Are you trying to establish a brand, support your sales team, grow your business, introduce new products or services? You need to build your PR plan around the answers to these questions.
Make It Happen
Specific objectives will vary depending on where your company is in its lifecycle and your overall goal. At all times, they must each be tied to a time frame and responsible individual. Specific tactics can be developed to:
- Create and institutionalize a consistent message across management, sales and customer contact personnel.
- Ensure a cohesive fit with marketing materials.
- Gain commitment from your company spokespersons to participate, ensuring an understanding of frequency and expectations. Will they do phone interviews, TV appearances, or press conferences?
- Provide media training for company spokespersons to ensure they understand how to respond in a way that keeps the message focused on your organization.
- Target reporters with credibility, determining how many to target, how frequently to contact them and which media will most effectively reach your audience.
- Develop and retain positive relationships with existing reporters.
- Target media to maximize coverage by identifying specific TV programs, trade or retail magazines, newspapers and online opportunities such as webcasts.
- Manage reprints by developing a budget, providing sales training on how to effectively use reprints, working through compliance issues in advance and posting articles online.
- Position yourself as a thought-leader by pursuing speaking and networking opportunities that fit your goal and schedule.
- Host conference calls consistently, pre-determining frequency and target audience.
- Attend and successfully work industry conferences to gain additional exposure and insight from your peers and competitors. (See “8 Tips to Maximize ROI at Alternative Energy Conferences”)
- Host an event with the primary objective of educating the media, public and local congress members on the importance of renewable energy and what role your business plays in the growth of the industry. Enlist the expertise of a PR firm to help you organize and publicize the event.
- Extend an invitation to key stakeholders and media to tour your facility. For most people, seeing is believing, so providing an inside look at how and why your company is making an impact on the industry and the economy can be an invaluable experience.
- Ramp up your social media efforts by engaging the public through such outlets as Facebook or Twitter.
- Gain local buy-in by keeping your community up-to-date on the happenings of your business and industry by posting updates to your website and submitting press releases to your local media.
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