Planning your public relations initiatives for the year ahead is a critical activity for any business. If you are the owner of a small business that is a relative newcomer to the market, developing an effective PR plan assumes even greater importance. Your PR plans may involve the whole of your business or just a specific segment or product line. Either way, the plan needs to be aimed at achieving clear objectives that are outlined right at the outset.
An effective PR plan follows a fairly standard structure:
Every PR plan is developed in order to meet and overcome a problem or gap that is impacting the business adversely. This problem or gap is a marketing ‘loophole’ that is causing you to lose customers to your competitors, fail to capture enough of the market share, limiting you to one specific audience or restricting your ability to canvas a wide audience in some other way. Your Executive Summary is an overview of your PR plan. Its outlines exactly what your objectives are, describing the marketing challenge you are facing and that you hope to overcome with the plan.
One of the critical components of your Executive Summary is the timeframe of the plan, the period within which you hope the plan will yield the benefits you expect.
Next come the goals or objectives that you hope to achieve with this PR plan. Clearly outline what you expect your plan to do and make it unambiguous so that it is easy to measure the actual performance of the plan against your initial expectations.
A good starting point for this segment is the Situation Assessment- a description and evaluation of the current state of affairs or the context of the plan.
This part of the PR plan describes exactly how you will be achieving your objectives. It starts off with an quick overview of the methods you intend to use, the channels you will be employing as well as indicate what kind of opportunities you expect to encounter and take advantage of during the year. Think of the strategizing as your plan of attack, a plan that is created from the perspective of your customers so that you are addressing the right aspects.
Establishing your target audience clearly makes it easy to streamline your PR initiatives to align with them perfectly. This is the segment where you describe who you are targeting so that you have a firm foundation for creating the right kind of PR initiatives that are likely to have the most impact on the right customers.
Target channels and messages
What you want to say and what channels you want to use to communicate these messages to your target audience- this is what falls within this segment of the PR plan. Different channels of communication are effective for different kinds of audiences. For some, a combination of channels may work best while for others just a single method will yield the most benefits.
Every business project needs to have a clear cut budget which ensures there is reasonable relationship between the costs and benefits and your PR plan is no exception. Outline the budget for your PR initiatives here.
To know whether or not your PR plan has been successful and to enhance the success rate of future plans, it is necessary to establish a means to measure the plan. Different parameters can be used for measurement and this depends heavily on the kind of business you run, the nature of your products/services. Among the metrics you may want to look, however, are the numbers of mention in media, visits to a website, foot traffic to a bricks and mortar location, or calls or inquiries related to specific campaigns.