While we may all be tempted to attempt the old business adage of throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks, success in public relations requires an extensive discovery and planning phase in order to be both successful and measureable. After all, how can you truly measure your success if you haven’t clearly communicated and agreed with your client (or business partners) on the goals and strategy behind your efforts? A well-crafted public relations plan establishes goals, measureable objectives, strategies and supporting tactics to keep everyone on track. While each agency owner or freelance publicist tends to haver her own unique way to putting a PR plan together, the components are similar. The following series of steps provide an easy-to-use outline to customize your own PR plan.
1. Start with Research/Discovery
Where does your brand fit in the marketplace? Who is your target customer and what does she care about? What are your competitors doing? What publications, blogs and events are a fit with your brand? First up, research. There are two avenues to getting the answers you seek, primary and secondary research. Secondary research consists of collecting data that has already been published. You might find statistics relevant to consumer purchasing behavior or emerging trends in a publication like AdAge or Women’s Wear Daily. Primary research means going out and doing research on your own – a quick survey of previous customers (social media is great for this), friends and family can all be used to help you better your brand positioning. Then, writing up your findings in a brief Executive Summary to kick off your plan.
2. Develop a Target Customer Profile
Don’t make the mistake of choosing a target public that is too broad. One of the biggest mistakes brands make is in their attempt ot be all things to all people. While your client may be convinced that“all women” should fall in love with her handbag line, not establishing a clear target customer actually does a disservice to your brand. In fact, the more niche you can be the better. Perhaps you learn from your research that many of your customers are young moms who love the fashion-forward look of the bags, but actually use them as diaper bags because of the roomy vinyl exterior. This discovery could drive an entire strategy focused on telling the diaper bag story. As you get clear about your target customer, begin to paint a picture of her in your plan. Beyond age, income and location, think about developing a persona to guide your positioning. What is her favorite movie? What kind of a car does she drive? What is her favorite flavor of tea? Is she married? Does she travel often or stay close to home? How does she discover new products? Does she use Pinterest? Twitter? Does she check email on her cell phone, laptop, iPad?
By identifying your target customer and learning as much as you can about her, you can then begin to develop strategies to engage her around what she cares about, using the various media and platforms where she is already spending her time.
3. Establish Key Messages/Positioning
At the end of every media opportunity, what are the key things you want an editor to know about this brand? At your next trunk show, what imformation is most important to share with potential customers. It could be that your bags are made of recycled plastic, or that the convertible strap means the bag can be worn multiple ways. Perhaps the handbag creator used to be a painter in Morocco and that is where this season’s color palette comes from. Whatever it is, get clear about what you want to communicate during your outreach. This can also funciton as a handy cheat sheet of sorts when media training your client to stay on message during interviews. For more tips on media training, check out Give Great Interview with these 10 Haute Media Training Tips.
4. Define the Objectives for the Plan
While goals are general, objectives are specific. Identify the major objectives that you want to accomplish with your PR plan. Make these measurable so they are easy to evaluate at the end of the campaign. For example, if one of your goals is to become an internationally known handbag designer, Objective 1 may be to secure 5 stories in international print media publications within the next 6 months. Objective 2 might be to work with bloggers in the UK or France on a content campaign for Tumblr.
5. Support Your Objectives with Strategies & Tactics
Once you have clear objectives in place, you need to consider what creative strategies you will employ to ensure you successfully meet your objectives. Remember that each strategy should deliver a cohesive message that ties into your objective. For more information on how to write goals, objectives, strategies and tactics (it can get a little confusing,) check out How to Write Fashion PR Goals, Objectives, Strategies & Tactics).
Almost done! The final part of the plan is figuring out how to evaluate the success of the program. This may include media impressions, Facebook page growth or engagement, referral traffic to a website, or even a pre and post survey to determine how levels of awareness or brand affinity have changed as a result of your campaign. One thing that always helps is to remember to benchmark your current numbers before you begin your program.
Bonus: Relationship Tending
Relationships with media, customers and vendors shouldn’t end just because your campaign does. Smart PR practitioners and designers know that PR is a cumulative process. Continue cultivating any new and existing relationships with editors, vendors, publics with regular follow up. Strong relationships establish credibility and will make your job easier the next time around. Keeping in touch has never been so easy in today’s world of technology. A quick email, tweet or mention on a Facebook page can go a long way so stay in touch, even during downtime.