You may ask yourself why does my business need a public relations plan?
A formal public relations plan is usually part of a company's broader marketing plan, or a smaller document that outlines the PR component of the marketing plan. Advertising and promotions are other common inclusions in a full marketing plan. Public relations is unique from advertising in that you don't pay for the media time or space. Promotion comes from news coverage, press releases, press conferences or other public events.
The primary purpose of the PR plan is to outline the company's objectives. Public relations is generally intended to support marketing efforts by promoting goodwill, reinforcing brand and product messages presented in advertising, informing the public and overcoming negative publicity. While companies often include some level of emphasis on each of these objectives, the PR plan states more specific details, such as increased popularity in the marketplace, better market awareness and improved customer retention.
The other side of public relations is damage control. A formal PR plan helps a company avoid being caught off guard by anything that comes up. Top companies usually know their weaknesses and the areas most scrutinized by competitors and customers. Discussing these areas of vulnerability helps company leaders present press releases and get feature coverage that counters them. The more difficult areas of this reactive strategy involve those unforeseen events. Major product issues or employee scandals are hard to predict. However, a good reactive strategy still includes a plan for how to approach these things. Whether to respond immediately or wait a period of time, and what tools to use, are central to a good strategy. It's also great to work with your team and board of directors to have a phenomena crisis plan ready to go. It's not if a crisis will occur but when. It's always better to be prepared.
A compelling public relations plan can go a long way towards helping a business spread its message, reach more customers and strengthen its brand. Here are a few steps to remember when building your public relations plan:
- Define the goals and objectives of your public relations plan. Consider what you want your main objective to be, which varies from business to business. For some the focus is on increasing sales and making money. For my business, my objective has always been a bit different. I am interested in increasing knowledge in a community, educating them how they can be more successful by using different techniques and skills to reach their clients, customers and partners.
- Decide who is your target audience or the community you are interested in reaching. Ask the hard questions, why are you trying to reach them and what are the benefits for them. Also remember to consider the media that you desire to reach and why. Choosing the appropriate media outlets can help you to promote your brand and spread the word about your business and the great work you are doing.
- Develop the strategies and tactics of your public relations plan, understanding that the two are very different although the terms often get used interchangeable. About 2,500 years ago, Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War.” In it, he said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Tactics and strategy are not at odds with one another—they’re on the same team.
- Strategy defines your long-term goals and how you are planning to achieve them. It gives you the path you need toward achieving your organization's mission. Tactics are much more concrete and are often oriented toward smaller steps and shorter timeframes along the way. They involve best practices, specific plans, resources, etc. They are also called initiatives.
- Draft the key messages of your public relations plan.
- Prepare a budget for your public relations plan. Be realistic and side aside funds for potential unforeseen occurrences.
- Develop a detailed timeline to help you to implement your public relations tactics with maximum efficiency. Staying focused on your deadlines will help you to gain success.
- Engage in crisis planning. Consider a contingency plan in case of a potential emergency.
- Always review your timeline and timetable throughout the campaign, making adjustments when necessary. Public relations is fluid. It's not a plan made in concrete but can be changed and improved as needed in order to become even more successful in reaching your audience.
The most important part of creating your public relations plan is to have FUN!