PR planning. Perhaps one of most dreaded but also most essential parts of the communications game. Without a solid plan in place your team and program can feel like a chicken with its head cut off. (For vegetarians I’m not sure what ‘Chik’n’ is like with any head removed but I imagine it is equally as disjointed).
As my colleague Amanda Munroe pointed out recently, the B2B tech space has many challenges. So many in fact that we often overthink our plan of attack to overcome them. “Strategy, strategy, strategy..but what is the strategy?” I can hear the conversations now… Well, let’s cut it off so we can get down to business. According to Merrian-Websters, a strategy involves a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time. Great, now let’s get back to creating the plan.
In order to produce an effective and impactful plan for B2B PR program you need the following five things:
Alignment with Audience
Before you put a single word on paper you should have a conversation with your client (or if internal your boss). Why? Because if the recipient of this plan is not consulted at the start you may have a very unpleasant answer when you ask: “So, what do you think of this plan?” Take the 10-15 minutes to have a conversation and drive through the following questions:
-What is this plan for?
-Why is this plan needed?
-Who is the audience for this plan?
-What format should this plan be in?
-Is there additional budget for ideas outside of scope?
-What does success look like?
Define the Goal
This can often get lost in the shuffle of overall plan creation. When you first get the opportunity to create a plan it is easy to mistake strategies, goals and tactics. Let’s not forget the definition of the word goal: something that you are trying to do or achieve. What is the point of this plan? What do we want to actually accomplish? Keep this short and sweet. If you have too many goals your plan will be stretched into too many directions and have a smaller chance of being successful.
- –Immediately introduce Company X to media, raising company visibility and credibility with key industry influencers.
- –Garner positive editorial coverage to serve as reference material for sales personnel and lead generation.
- –Generate attention for successful company and product launch.
- –Successfully position the company as the premier industry voice on XX; highlighting the Executive Team leading the charge.
- –Increase company visibility and credibility within the industry to strengthen the position of the Company with key industry influencers, partners and customers for selling support.
- –Begin PR momentum for company X; setting the stage for continued editorial and market success throughout the remainder of TBD (next quarter, year, etc).
Don’t Bury Creativity with Tactics
Every good plan will be chock-full of tactics. You’ll be expected to come up with that news release pipeline, the tradeshow cadence, the list of corporate and product awards and the now dwindling list of existing editorial calendars. But how are you going to stand out among the hundreds of other vendors in your space clamoring for media and sales attention?
Tap into Current events. What else is happening around the globe in non-direct spaces that could make this story more compelling to the average reporter? Some support for a rapid-response opportunity today could lead to that larger feature you want down the road.
Tie to current news trends. As much as your product may excite you, it is one of thousands being pitched out. How does its value props tie into larger trends media are already covering and would be willing to hear you speak to?
Don’t be Afraid to Connect to Movies/TV programs. You want to know a dirty little secret? We all watch ‘em, you may as well try to have some fun connecting the dots to your client/product. You can only speak in acronyms so long, but a good Game of Thrones reference can take you from potentially-deleted email to response.
Think Holistically. When you think of ideas, think in terms of the full Paid-Earned-Owned spectrum. Can this pitch be a Q&A, a contributed article, a speaking abstract, a focus for an award, or the basis of a full social media campaign?
Be sure to get a few team members together to brainstorm before you write your plan. You don’t want your ideas just sitting in a one person silo. If you are having trouble on the brainstorming front, check out this blog post that may help you.
Identify your Metrics/What Measurement Matters
Success can vary by audience, but you’ll always be accountable to prove it. Some areas for consideration:
Editorial/Coverage: Total number of pieces, quality of coverage (feature, quote, mention), contributed content, etc
Influencer engagement: A top 10/20 media targets (outlets or individuals); track interactions (interviews, coverage or social shares)
Interviews: Number of interviews, types of interviews (phone, email, broadcast)
Speaking Submissions: Number drafted, number accepted
Award Submissions: Number drafted, number accepted
Event attendance: Number of media attending or full attendee number (how many butts in seats)
Share of Voice: This one can be tricky as it can be so easily “gamed”, but seems to be the new “go-to” metric for the executive level. We recommend Tracking metrics in five key areas of your business – search, social media, paid advertising, owned content and earned media. If that sounds interesting to you, I suggest checking out SHIFT reflex.
Social Media: If you are managing channels you should be tracking growth (both quality and quantity). Don’t be suggestive with random % increases. Think about what will impact the overall comms program. If you are not thinking about referral traffic, read this post.
Web traffic: Knowing what areas are driving traffic to your site is invaluable and can help further prove the worth of your efforts. If you are not using Google Analytics as one of your baseline measurements learn how to with this post.
Define the Timeline
All good things come to an end, so must your plan. What is the timeframe of the plan. In some cases it may be easy to identify (if event or launch date specific). When you are left with more general PR planning, I always recommend 90 day increments. Most companies move quickly and if you are waiting for 6 mos or 12 mos to review your initiatives you may find that your “wins” no longer align with the company.
I always recommend creating a tactical timeline of events in your plan so your team knows what activity is planned for when, how long it will take and where the ownership lays along the way.
If you include these five areas into your plan, you should be golden. Remember, as Iron Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Matt Trocchio’s final tip “don’t get punched in the mouth.”