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You’ve changed! Media planning for the golden age of PR

Like nearly every other endeavour in PR, new technologies and social media are transforming media planning. As Hayley Peters, operations director at agency Smoking Gun PR, says: “With more internet-connected devices than ever before, people are turning to new avenues for their media consumption needs. According to a report by Deloitte, 70% of us binge-watch television content, viewing an average of five episodes at a time. The report also revealed that millennials are spending more time streaming video content than watching live TV. These constantly evolving media consumption habits, mean we must always approach campaigns strategically and holistically.”

Below, Peters and other PR experts suggest 10 tactics for creating effective media strategies today.

Media planning guidelines

1. Make a solid media plan
Smoking Gun’s Peters: “Column inches can only get you so far. PROs must develop media strategies fit for a new golden era of PR, mapping out quality press coverage whilst building direct conversations between brands and their customers.

“A solid media plan forms part of the strategic planning process. During the research phase, PROs should consider who the key stakeholders are, what media channels they consume and how best to tell the story within the respective channels in order to maximise engagement.”

2. Constantly monitor results
Peters emphasises the importance to being flexible: “Once a media campaign is launched, ensure you constantly monitor sentiment and dialogue to provide evidence of your impact and reach. If it’s not working, then change it. This is the beauty of PR in a digital era – you can test and refine.”

3. Be dynamic
John Warburton, managing director of PR agency jwc: “The essence of what we are doing remains the same, but a shift of focus from outlet to influencer means we need to be a hell of a lot more dynamic with our media planning, and it’s in the B2C lifestyle sector where it’s most noticeable.

4. Watch TV scheduling
Warburton discusses how reality TV is changing things: “Where we used to just look at long lead, short-lead, broadcast, we are now looking at what reality TV stars we can convince to tweet, YouTube and Instagram about the products, so we need to be looking at TV scheduling – what shows are coming out and when. Then we’re spending as much time working out who needs to be tagged in native social media posts as we used to spend finding out who writes well about a certain subject.”

5. Find the X factor
Jamie Stanley, head of content at agency React Communications: “The core strategy we use when crafting a PR campaign’s media plan is what we call ‘Finding X’. I’m a strong advocate of working backwards. Before you go anywhere near the notepad or the brainstorm wall, just ask: ‘who would it be most useful for the client to speak to?’ – I mean at an individual audience member level, not a publication or station.

“Say it’s a non-alcoholic cocktail brand, who could want such a thing?

  1. People who like highbrow drinks and don’t want to compromise on quality (and will pay for it)
  2. People who have one eye on their health

“Where do these two sectors converge? Middle-aged higher earners (X). From here, take the core message of the campaign and trim off every ounce of fat until the story is no more than eight words long. For example: ‘Baby-boomers (X) are drinking more heavily than students (Y)’.Once you know what X is doing in relation to Y, you can start looking at which publications, stations and channels X engages with and you’re almost halfway there. It saves you making 50 calls when 10 will do.”

6. Use fewer channels
Shaun Ezlati, director of integrated strategies at PR agency TVC: “Don’t just jump on a new channel if this is not right, assess it and see if it’s right for your client and right for the story

“Use fewer channels and use them well – we always think how relevant the channels are to our audience and to our message. If you secure hyper local media coverage or focus on two social media platforms it might be more effective than covering every social media channel and spreading the coverage to every national and regional news outlet.

“Work out which channel can tell your story in either the most creative way or to hit home your message. In most cases, two-way conversations are more powerful and more meaningful that just broadcasting messages on any channels. Nail the tone of voice for each channel and nail the creative (look and feel) that’s inherent to that channel.”

7. Think about your audience’s mindset
Ezlati says that you must not consolidate all your potential audiences in one bracket. “They all have different life stages; use different channels and want different things – segment your story to make this meaningful to the audience.

“It’s not about age, think more about the mindset. You might think what a 40-year-old sees on Instagram is different from an 18-year-old  but they may have similar interests, so think more about why they read a particular paper, watch a specific channel or use a particular social media platform – there might be some synergies that bring audiences together.”

8. Take a more integrated approach
Richard Stone, managing director of PR agency Stone Junction: “The ratio of journalists in comparison to PR practitioners in the UK has decreased radically – which means that both online and print publications now rely even more heavily on contributed copy to meet their deadlines. As a result, our planning has evolved to encompass a more integrated approach to communications, ensuring that our clients achieve traction in their market and drive opinion.”

9. Write, write, write
Stone describes how writing skills are important: “We now produce far more white papers, guides, infographics and e-books. We also write books from scratch, which is something you can only achieve by taking a very journalistic approach to your work.”

10. Maximise SEO
Last, but not least, Stone talks about the importance of search engine optimisation (SEO): “Another service offering we highlight to clients, is the importance of maximising their SEO to generate as much online traffic as possible. This combines with social and other digital channels to deliver a more interesting and multichannel PR and marketing campaign.”

Media planning is evolving in PR, but the basic objective remains the same, to make the most of a client’s investment to generate as much interest, and ultimately sales, as possible. And as media channels, audiences and technologies constantly change, one thing is for sure, media planning is never dull.

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