How to Develop a Public Relations Plan

What goes into a media plan and successful PR campaign

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A public relations, or PR, campaign allows you to control the spread of information about you and your business, creating a media narrative that positions you to attract customers without the expense of traditional advertising.

However, public relations doesn't happen all on its own. To create and implement a PR campaign, you need a comprehensive plan that your business can follow, measure, and improve on.

What Goes Into a Media Plan?

To achieve your public relations objectives and reach your customers, you need to develop a media plan. This plan outlines:

  • Who you want to reach
  • What you want to achieve
  • What you are going to do
  • How you will evaluate your success

You can create a successful media plan, and structure your public relations campaign, in six steps.

Step 1: Define Your Objective

Define and write down your objectives. What will your public relations campaign be designed to achieve? Do you want to:

  • Establish your expertise?
  • Build goodwill with your customers, suppliers, or community?
  • Create and reinforce your brand and professional corporate image?
  • Create positive perceptions of your company and services?
  • Introduce a new service or product to your market?
  • Generate sales or leads?
  • Mitigate the impact of negative publicity or a corporate crisis?

Once you know what your public relations are trying to achieve, you can construct a media plan that is built around that objective.

Step 2: Establish Clear Goals

Articulate clear goals for your campaign. Unlike your objective, which is qualitative, your goals should be quantitative. These goals should be in line with your overall business, marketing, and sales objectives.

When establishing these goals, use the SMART method. Your goals should be:

  • Specific. What is the ideal outcome you are trying to create?
  • Measurable. How will you measure the success of the campaign?
  • Achievable. How can you accomplish your goals within the constraints of your resources, such as budget or staff hours?
  • Realistic. Are you setting a goal that makes sense for the scope of your public relations campaign?
  • Time-based. How long do you have to accomplish your goals and objectives?

Step 3: Identify Your Target Market

In marketing, everything is determined by your target customer. Identify who you are trying to reach, what those customers care about, and where they can be found, you can create a blueprint for your entire campaign, including:

  • Who you want to communicate with
  • What key message you will send
  • Which media platforms you will use
  • How you will gain consumer attention and trust
  • What language, images, or topics you should use

Once you know who makes up your target market, you can begin creating a plan for where and when your PR campaign will appear, as well as what it will say. It can be helpful to look at public relations outreach that your competitors have done, which will give you an idea of which media outlets to target, as well as what messages you should and should not send.

Step 4: Research Opportunities

Begin to research and plan opportunities for your media campaign. What communication vehicles will you use to get your message to the public? Examples may include:

  • Press releases and articles
  • Appearing as a source in media stories
  • Customer success stories
  • Letters to the editor
  • Press conferences, interviews, or media tours
  • Radio, television, or podcast appearances
  • Seminars, workshops, or speaking engagements
  • Event sponsorships

As you begin researching opportunities, reach out to contacts you already have in the media or explore opportunities for creating media relationships such as networking events or HARO queries.

Step 5: Create a Schedule

Once you have connected with your media contacts and know what opportunities are available, create a schedule for your public relations campaign that includes:

  • What outlets you will be appearing in
  • What sort of appearance you or your company will make
  • Any follow-up actions you will need to take afterward
  • A social media or email schedule for publicizing each appearance

As you create your schedule, consider what else will be happening with other marketing and sales efforts during or after your campaign. By coordinating your PR appearances with upcoming sales, for example, you create more incentive for those learning about your business to convert into customers. You can even create special landing pages, email onboarding, or discounts for those who learn about your business through your public relations campaign.

Step 6: Measure Your Progress

Finally, put measures in place to track the results of your public relations campaign. These can include:

  • Lead acquisition and conversion
  • Sales numbers
  • Additional media inquiries
  • Changes in social sentiment
  • Preorders for a new product or service
  • Attendance numbers at workshops or events

After each stage of your campaign, sit down and review the results. Did you achieve the defined objectives and goals of this campaign? Should you consider modifying your original plan? If so, how and why? To be successful, you must measure and track not only your media appearances but the details of the campaign's results.

As you track the results of your media campaign, you should also measure how it is integrating with the rest of your marketing. Public relations allows you to reach your target market without the expense of advertising, but it should not be the only tool in your marketing mix. By creating a comprehensive media plan and integrating it with the rest of your marketing strategy, you'll put your business in the best possible position to grow and thrive.