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Your PR planning guide

Planning is often as important as execution, especially in PR. It can be easy to forget that missteps in the earlier stages of planning a PR campaign can ripple throughout the results.

To help you get started off on the right foot, we’ve reached out to eight professional PRs to get their best tips for planning more successful PR campaigns.

Focus on the narrative and audience

Dalal Nageh, director of training and communications at London School of Public Relations: “When planning PR campaigns in 2024, it's crucial to prioritise authenticity and purpose-driven narratives. Consumers are increasingly wary of empty promises and greenwashing, so align your campaigns with your brand's genuine values and commitments to social and environmental responsibility.

“Additionally, leverage the power of influencer marketing strategically. Micro-influencers with niche, highly engaged audiences can often be more effective than mega-influencers with broad reach. Ensure influencer partnerships are authentic and disclose paid collaborations transparently.

“Prioritise inclusive representation and diverse perspectives in your campaigns. Consumers expect brands to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion meaningfully, not just superficially.

“Tips that have stood the test of time: Know your target audience and craft messaging that resonates with their specific needs and interests. Set clear, measurable objectives from the outset so you can evaluate success."

Use the seven Ps

Sophie Baillie, associate director at PR agency Conscious Comms: “While I was at sixth form, my step dad taught me about the military adage of the seven Ps (Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance) and I can guarantee you that it was met with a significant number of eye rolls from my teenage self. However, fast forward over 15 years and I now find myself falling back to the seven Ps when planning PR campaigns for clients.

“Before starting the campaign planning process, it’s crucial to define clear objectives and establish milestones along the way. Who is your target audience? What are your desired outcomes? This will ensure that you will use the right channels, at the right times, to reach the desired audience and encourage them to take action.”

Don’t forget the data

David Beesley, managing director of ITPR: “Data is the foundation of modern PR and should be non-negotiable in 2024. Ensure you have robust analytics tools set up primed and ready to gather and interpret customer data, website traffic, and campaign performance. If you're unsure what to track - then use the AMEC Interactive Evaluation Framework as your starting point.

“This will help you identify trends, track KPIs relevant to your business and then make informed decisions. The more you understand your audience's behaviour and preferences, the more effectively you can tailor your digital PR campaigns.”

Understand what success looks like

Damon Culbert, digital PR manager at Add People: “The value of PR has long been difficult to prove whether you’re in-house or agency-side. One of the fundamental steps of planning a campaign has to be clarity on what success looks like to your relevant stakeholders.

“Working with small businesses, we’re often the first experience businesses have with formalised PR so helping them understand their expectations and matching our goals with their overall business goals have been really effective at demonstrating the value of our work.

“Our PR goals for clients can include total links, coverage from target publications, links to specific pages, etc. We choose these goals to reflect how our clients think to make sure at the end of the campaign, we’re confident that our results are going to bring value.”

Don’t lose sight of the purpose

Lottie West, global head of PR at PFR agency Fox Agency: “Hands up who has been in a PR brainstorm where an idea has come out which is really cool and creative, and would likely get coverage, but has no relevance to the client or what they are trying to achieve? Or had to find a PR hook for an ATL campaign rooted in brand advantage?

“While the days of floating things down the Thames might be behind us, many campaigns fall down because they are so focused on the execution, they lose sight of the purpose. Strategy is often perceived as a dark art, but it actually comes down to one simple question: who are we trying to reach, and what do we want them to think, feel, or do as a result of this campaign. If we can’t answer this, and the idea doesn’t address this basic audience need, then we probably need to reroute."

Everything should point towards your objectives

Abi Spencer, founder and head of PR at PR agency ASPR: "Let's start with the basics - know your audience inside out. For B2B campaigns, and when it comes to engaging business leaders, it's super important to delve into their psyche - grasp their unique challenges, aspirations, and the precise language that they use.

"Look at the assets you have available, specifically data. It's more than just numbers; it's the bedrock of credibility and attention-grabbing prowess. Leveraging data effectively can transform your campaign from ordinary to outstanding.

"Timing is another crucial factor to consider. Synchronise your pitches with real-world events to ensure maximum impact and relevance.

"And of course, never stray from your overarching objectives. Whether you're aiming to enhance brand recognition, drive sales, or cement your position as an industry authority, crystal-clear goals provide the roadmap to success."

Always make time for reactive campaigns

Gareth Hoyle, digital marketing strategist at Coveragely: “My favourite type of digital PR campaign? Newsjacking. These campaigns are created in reaction to a topical event or breaking news story and allow you (or your client) to position yourself as a voice of authority within the news cycle by providing reactive analysis or opinion.

“Compared to proactive campaigns, which may be planned months in advance, you can’t plan ahead when it comes to reactive campaigns. You’ve got to be ready and waiting to go whenever a relevant story pops up. Once it does, time is of the essence, and to get those links, you need to get in there before your competitors.

“The result? For a couple of hours of work, you can land tens – or even hundreds – of links, if you’re lucky. Plus, if you provide great, quotable, commentary at pace, journalists will come back to you repeatedly, making it a great way to build relationships.”

Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees

Alicia Solanki, SVP EMEA at PR agency Team Lewis: “Start back to front when you start planning a successful PR campaign. That might sound counterintuitive but if you obsess to the point of distraction on the ‘big idea’ you will quickly lose sight of the people you are trying to influence.

“Spend time crafting that pen portrait and then match your hypotheses against several other data points to be certain your bullseye is spot on. Key to this is pushing past lazy demographics and digging deep to find the real passions and characteristics of your target audience.

“Secondly make sure your PR plans are in tune with the cultural zeitgeist. Brands will always have their own messages to purvey, but it is our job to recast their stories against the backdrop of social reality. I often ask myself, is this what people on the street are naturally talking about over the dinner table? If the answer is ‘no’ or if we’re trying to shoehorn it in, it’s probably not right. In which case don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board, even if someone’s ego must take a hit.”

No matter what type of PR campaign you are planning, it’s clear that starting by considering the top and bottom, i.e. the audience and the objectives first. As the PRs above have mentioned, as much as this is often said it’s crucial to consider these aspects deeply, and not just as superficial starting points.

Consider how you approach truly understanding your audience and creating realistic, measurable goals for your campaign’s impact on the audience, before you rush into the finer details.

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