Swapping General Visibility PR Plans for Performance Communications

By Amanda Munroe, SVP, Technology

Each year, as Q4 begins, we kick off the coming year’s planning process in earnest. While the most effective PR plans are developed quarterly or bi-annually, each program should be rooted in annual goals and objectives. Like most communications agencies, this process at SHIFT includes calls with business leaders, spokespeople and the marketing team to hear about company goals, market opportunities, topics of interest and larger campaigns that will support lead generation and awareness.

It’s easy to stop there and create a PR plan that includes the expected (albeit boring) or simply swaps new angles and messages into last year’s framework.

[Side note: every PR plan *should* include messaging, media storylines, events, creative ideas and activations, and other tactical elements that support the goals. Metrics should, of course, prove how the program is improving brand perception, reaching new prospects and driving leads, or breaking into new markets.]

But for a PR partner to actually move a business forward, we can’t just rinse and repeat tactics or insert sales-y marketing messages into our own platforms. Rather, we need to purpose-build brand actions and communications for a specific outcome. And that outcome should be more specific than “awareness.”

PR Plans ➡ Performance Communications

Performance Communications trades out watered-down objectives and general awareness strategies for hyper-targeted PR programming. It uses many of the same tactics — from media relations to buzzy social media campaigns, meaningful thought leadership, executive visibility, valuable content and so much more — but built specifically to support business priorities such as increased valuation, community connection, breaking into a new market, category creation, or lead gen.

This approach not only gets the approval of business executives and boards, but focuses on driving actual business results, like sales, that help a business grow even in the most challenging times. PR then becomes less of a nice to have and more of a strategic business driver.

PR planning is one of the best and most important times to evolve your current PR program into a Performance Communications program. In this sense, the meetings with business leaders, spokespeople and marketing become the input for insights and analysis. The PR team should look at the research (SEO/SEM analysis, search trends, competitive landscape, financial analyst reports, consumer/prospect behavior and other data) to create a targeted program that will meet the business objectives. Some elements might include:

  • Targeted earned media in locations where key prospects are headquartered
  • ABM campaigns that share top-tier earned media articles to prospects
  • Earned media in high domain authority publications that include links to company websites
  • Media-worthy content that will secure coverage with links back to the gated report for lead capture
  • Campaigns that target new vertical markets with content, social media and thought leadership (supported by paid tactics to drive engagement)

Rather than focus on securing earned media in certain publications — say The New York Times — just because they’re credible or the CEO’s request, Performance Communications determines the best channels, content and message(s) to create an effect. It’s rooted in data and insights and is measurable.

When each dollar counts, PR plans need to be highly targeted. This is especially true as we all gear up for a year marked by continued inflation, a recession and overall declining consumer confidence.

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