PR strategy planning taking place around a table
Public Relations

10 Tips for Running an Effective PR Strategy

By Victoria Perlak

July 1, 2020

“How can an effective PR Strategy help get meaningful PR results, right now and over-time?”

This is one of the first questions you should ask when talking to a PR firm or public relations partner. More often than not though, companies ask, “Which outlets can you get us into?” “Who do you have relationships with?” And, “Can you get me into the Wall Street Journal?”

Any established PR firm can answer yes to any of these questions, but all of them grossly miss the point. They are a nod to a bygone era where there were only a handful of print and broadcast outlets that everyone was trying to get into. At this time, you absolutely had to know someone to rise to the top of their attention. 

While relationships will always be a part of PR, narrative and strategy are the keys to breaking through in a market saturated with media outlets and companies trying to get into them. 

That in mind, what companies should instead focus on is how their PR firm structures their accounts. The PR strategy is more important. Companies should be more interested in how the firm creates an ongoing pipeline of opportunity. It is the development of an evolving narrative over time that will keep the business consistently relevant in the market.

What is a PR program anyway? 

PR programs and PR campaigns are often used interchangeably — but they shouldn’t be. A PR program is long-term and ongoing, while a PR campaign is based on a specific piece of news over a timeframe that requires extra planning and attention. Many companies look to hire a PR firm for a specific campaign, when they should really be looking to hire them for a PR program. Why? You want a firm that knows the ins and outs of your business and can ultimately tell your story better than you can. That can’t happen overnight – which is why taking the time to build out a PR program is key.

Here are 10 tips for running an effective PR strategy that will support a long-term PR program and offer the meaningful results your company wants:

PR and Business Goals Have to Coexist:

When setting goals for a PR program, it’s crucial that those program goals are in direct support of your business goals. For instance, securing a number of press hits isn’t necessarily flowing towards business goals, but securing placements in specific trade outlets may be if a company is targeting specific verticals for new business. Not only does this ensure that PR is a revenue driver, but these goals hold teams (both internal and PR) accountable and allow them to manage up. When people know the why behind something, they can better understand their part in the larger picture and are frankly more excited to be a part of it.

Create Anecdotal Goals:

While there is a place for qualitative PR goals, perhaps even more important are the anecdotal goals. You need to answer some fundamental questions – how does your company want to be seen or recognized? What does your company want to build? How does it want to differentiate itself? What’s the goal revenue or profit? While these bigger, anecdotal goals are nearly impossible to track, they can easily be broken into smaller, more trackable goals that will guide an effective PR strategy and tactics and activities. And these types of goals apply not only for bigger PR programs, but can help to guide those smaller PR campaigns and news within those programs such as a product launch or a company expansion. 

Align PR Strategy and Tactics with the End Goal:

You have your end goals – now how will you achieve them? Let’s say a company’s goal is to educate the market, a useful PR tactic would be thought leadership from company executives. But if the goal is to sell more of a consumer-based product, the right tactic would be to get product reviews in consumer publications. We’ve included more examples in the table below. There is no strict recipe for PR, every company wants something different and effective PR strategies and tactics should follow suit. This is why a standard PR contract with 3 press releases and 10 press hits does not create meaningful results. Every company needs an extremely personalized strategy that will help reach your company’s business goals – and no one else’s.

Type of Company End Goals Tactics
B2B Educate the Market Thought leadership from company executives
B2B Be Seen as A Player in a Specific Category Connect with industry analysts that write the annual reports on that category
B2C Sell More Products to Consumers Secure product reviews in top consumer publications
B2C Build Recognition on Social Create partnerships with social media influencers

An effective PR strategy Works Directly with Internal Teams:

The more PR firms are seen as an extension of a company, rather than simply a vendor or an external partner, the better the results will be.

PR should be working directly with the marketing team and have knowledge into what other teams are doing across the company. Marketing especially will have a direct impact on what PR focuses on. Marketing teams need to be  producing content PR can use, speaking with customers that can be used for a case study or executing campaigns that PR can promote.? Having insight into the yearly marketing calendar will help align marketing activities with PR. It’s also important to have the PR team talk to various internal teams, because many times they can be sitting on PR gold — and not even know it! Maybe it’s a big cultural story PR can tap into or even just the initial talks around a new product – even if you’re unsure bring it to PR and let them make the decision as to whether it’s media-worthy or not.

Take Advantage of Holidays and Buying Seasons:

Between holidays, buying seasons and industry events, there’s a lot to keep track of that can play a role in your overall PR strategy. Map out these dates before the start of each year to ensure nothing is forgotten, and everything can be used to your advantage. All the big holidays, global days and history months should be included in this calendar, but so should some of the smaller, more specific ones. For example, all ice cream companies should be doing a push around National Ice Cream Day while certain tech companies might want to take advantage of National Internet of Things (IoT) Day. Beyond holidays, make PR a priority during the seasons when customers are looking to buy. This will vary throughout industries, but you want to make sure you are top of mind for customers – whether B2B or B2C – especially during these times. Included in this calendar should also be important industry events and any awards that coincide with them.

The good thing about doing this at the start of a PR program is that it lasts in the years following as holiday dates are the same and industry event dates usually fall around the same time every year.

Let your PR Firm Create the Narrative:

You know your company and your products/services better than anyone else. But your PR agency is in charge of telling your company’s story to the world; allow them to create the narrative to do it. It’s not enough to know the right reporter for a story, PR has to create a narrative that tells your brand’s story, even better than you do, to a variety of audiences. This is why it’s important to bring PR into anything you’re doing as early as possible. They can help to create that narrative and offer suggestions upfront that secure the highest quality (and quantity) of press. This also stresses the importance of a PR program, rather than hiring a firm just for a specific campaign. Spending more time with your company, its products/services and your messaging will allow a PR firm to create a narrative that digs to the roots of the company. Your PR firmshould be experts on telling your story — take advantage of that.

An Effective PR Strategy Needs a Messaging Map:

Before moving forward with any type of announcement, take inventory of every ingredient you have to use. This will help to guide what stories you can tell, to whom, and with what assets. Every audience will be interested in different assets, which will be crucial in forming a narrative and pitching targeted media. Let’s use a technology public relations strategy as an example. Take a funding announcement for a tech company. A tech publication, for instance, will be more interested in how the tech company will use the money it raised to build out its technology. However, a venture capital (VC) publication would be more interested in the VCs behind the fundraise and why they chose to invest in it. They will also likely want to speak with the backing VC firm in addition to the company CEO. Know every single piece of information you have, and match it with the media that will be most interested. The table below includes some more examples of what this looks like for a funding announcement for a tech firm.

Target Audience Messaging/Assets to Use
Tech
Publication
  • How Will The Funding Be Used to Improve Tech?
  • What Are The Numbers?
  • Product Pics/Demo.
  • Interview with the CEO.
Business
Publication
  • What Are The Numbers?
  • Share Previous Funding Rounds and what they looked Like?
  • What is The Money Going Towards?
  • Who Are the VCs?
  • Interview with the CEO.
Venture
Capital
Publication 
  • Who are The VCs Backing This?
  • Have They Invested in This Before?
  • If So, Why Are They Investing Again?
  • Interview with the VC Firm and the CEO.
Industry
Trade
Publication 
  • How Will This Affect Its Customers in This Industry?
  • How Will The Funding Further Differentiate The Product?
  • Current Customer Names.

Trust the Process — and Don’t Try to Speed It Up:

Everything in PR has an order – and forgoing that order will lead to lesser results. You wouldn’t want to put a press release out on a new product launch without pitching it to the media first, otherwise it will turn into old news and the product won’t get the publicity it deserves. And you can’t expect a company business profile on a company that no one knows. For example, if you’re launching a new clothing line that no one has heard of, first get some product reviews and influencers rocking the product. Then, that can turn into an influencer trend story with 5 top influencers rocking your line. It has a snowball effect, and soon enough the company profile will come. Trust the process, have patience and you’ll see the results you want.

Be Flexible with Your PR Program:

There should be various plans already in place for your PR program ahead of upcoming product launches and news, fixed dates, etc. (frankly, we’d be concerned if there weren’t). But these plans should be flexible enough to account for anything unexpected. Take COVID-19 and all the PR, marketing and ad campaigns that were supposed to launch in its first few months. If the plans around these were not flexible, they would have gone out as-is and been extremely tone deaf to what was happening in the world. Not only do plans have to be flexible, but teams and leadership have to be flexible too. While you might want to hold onto an idea because you put so much work into it already – it doesn’t mean it’s right in the current environment.

Stay Accountable for Hitting Goals:

PR teams and clients should always discuss the best way to share results and hold each other accountable. This, like the goals themselves, will vary from company to company. Perhaps a bi-monthly meeting with company executives to go through results and track towards goals is the best way. Or maybe it’s reporting on goals at the end of each PR campaign within a program. Whatever it is, make sure it works for both parties and it’s delivered timely and in a consistent manner. Regular check-ins with executives will also ensure PR goals are always aligned with business goals. And while these goals set at the beginning of a program each year likely won’t be updated, they may have to be as business goals change or due to changes in the industry or even the world (i.e. COVID-19).

In summary…

An effective PR strategy that supports a PR program can drive revenue for your company, help your company hit business goals and offer many other meaningful results. But it has to be done in the right way and requires much more than a few quick wins. The first step, of course, is hiring the right firm. What follows is setting goals that are more meaningful for your business beyond hitting a certain number of press hits or translating them into ad equivalents. You have to trust your PR partner and the process. Planning and goal setting takes, which may not provide instant gratification, but the long-term gratification is worth it.

About Channel V Media

We are an award-winning New York City PR firm with more than 12 years of experience in communications. Our team of PR experts work in partnership with business to curate an effective PR strategy that supports business goals.

We partner with companies to advance their business goals through strategic planning, positioning, and creating heightened awareness in crowded or emerging markets.

To discuss a PR campaign or create a PR strategy contact us.`

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