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Planning your public relations initiatives for the year ahead is a critical activity for any business. If you are the owner of a small business that is a relative newcomer to the market, developing an effective PR plan assumes even greater importance. Your PR plans may involve the whole of your business or just a specific segment or product line. Either way, the plan needs to be aimed at achieving clear objectives that are outlined right at the outset.
It is also important to understand that while you will develop your PR plan for a full year, it shouldn't be set in stone. Changes in the business climate, your customer needs, a news event related to what you sell, or some unusual circumstance, are just a few of the things that may require you to make one-time changes or a more sweeping revision of your original plans for the year.
An effective PR plan follows a fairly standard structure:
Every PR plan is developed in order to meet and overcome a problem or gap that is impacting the business adversely. This problem or gap is a marketing ‘loophole’ that is causing you to lose customers to your competitors, fail to capture enough of the market share, limiting you to one specific audience or restricting your ability to canvas a wide audience in some other way. In fact, your PR plan could also be aimed at expanding your market share in an entirely new, untested market space where there is immense potential to maximize conversions quickly.
Your Executive Summary is an overview of your PR plan. Its outlines exactly what your objectives are, describing the marketing challenge you are facing and that you hope to overcome with the plan.
One of the critical components of your Executive Summary is the timeframe of the plan, the period within which you hope the plan will yield the benefits you expect.
Next come the goals or objectives that you hope to achieve with this PR plan. Clearly outline what you expect your plan to do and make it unambiguous so that it is easy to measure the actual performance of the plan against your initial expectations.
A good starting point for this segment is the Situation Assessment- a description and evaluation of the current state of affairs or the context of the plan. This gives you further clarity on what the plan should achieve and what kind of challenges you may face in getting your plan to succeed. For example, you have recently launched a jewelry line for men but you find that there is still a large segment of the public that believes jewelry is only for women. This mindset is what you want to change so that you can expand your customer base for this product line of yours. Once this situation assessment is complete, your goals are clearer and so is your target audience.
Remember that the ‘Goal’ is one single outcome that addresses the problem you have outlined. It needs to be further broken down into three or four objectives that address the critical points of change. These objectives need to be attainable, measurable ones that have a clear time period allocated for completion.
This part of the PR plan describes exactly how you will be achieving your objectives. It starts off with an quick overview of the methods you intend to use, the channels you will be employing as well as indicate what kind of opportunities you expect to encounter and take advantage of during the year. Think of the strategizing as your plan of attack, a plan that is created from the perspective of your customers so that you are addressing the right aspects. The strategizing part also takes various factors into consideration to maximize the impact of your PR plan by timing the product launch or marketing initiatives correctly. For example, advertisements about your new swimwear line should start right before the onset of summer when beach goers are beginning their shopping.
Establishing your target audience clearly makes it easy to streamline your PR initiatives to align with them perfectly. This is the segment where you describe who you are targeting so that you have a firm foundation for creating the right kind of PR initiatives that are likely to have the most impact on the right customers.
Target channels and messages
What you want to say and what channels you want to use to communicate these messages to your target audience- this is what falls within this segment of the PR plan. Different channels of communication are effective for different kinds of audiences. For some, a combination of channels may work best while for others just a single method will yield the most benefits.
Determining the kind of message to put out is also critical and this too depends on the target audience you want to influence. There may be more than one key message you want to communicate and this is the segment where you cover all these aspects of your PR plan.
Every business project needs to have a clear cut budget which ensures there is reasonable relationship between the costs and benefits and your PR plan is no exception. Outline the budget for your PR initiatives here.
To know whether or not your PR plan has been successful and to enhance the success rate of future plans, it is necessary to establish a means to measure the plan. Different parameters can be used for measurement and this depends heavily on the kind of business you run, the nature of your products/services. Among the metrics you may want to look, however, are the numbers of mention in media, visits to a website, foot traffic to a bricks and mortar location, or calls or inquiries related to specific campaigns.
Copyright 2015, Attard Communications, Inc. May not be reprinted or reproduced without permission from the publisher.