Let me take a few wild and crazy guesses as to what might be keeping you up at night these days when it comes to your PR strategies.
Have you checked most, if not all, the big boxes when crafting and executing on your PR plans? A steady cadence of press releases, regular outreach to key reporters in your market or region, a targeted social media strategy, trained spokespeople who are willing to be interviewed? Or perhaps you or your agency came up with a killer PR program a year or two ago, and while it initially provided your business with the support it needed, it’s now feeling a little stale? Or maybe you’ve played a bit of “PR roulette” due to budget or staffing constraints – picking and choosing activities you think will have the most impact – but when you look back, they’re just not adding up?
First, rest assured, you are not alone. We see companies face these challenges frequently, and it is a natural part of any company’s PR lifecycle, regardless of the firm’s size or PR budget. Like anything else in life, you can hit a plateau and feel stuck on the path to achieving your communication goals.
If your PR strategies need a bit of life breathed back into them, start by asking yourself these four questions to shake things up.
Are your key messages aligned?
This seems like a simple question, and you probably want to quickly say “of course our key message are aligned!” … but let’s dig deeper. Compare what you are saying to internal audiences with what you are saying to external audiences. The messages shouldn’t be exactly the same, but you should see threads of continuity. Now, how about your customer messages? If you have multiple customer segments, do they complement one another, reinforce one another and tie back to your broader story in a compelling way? Your top 3-5 key messages should be the building blocks for your PR initiatives, so make sure you are giving them an honest and close look.
What is the connection between PR goals and business goals?
If your answer here is, “there is no link,” we have a red flag. Your PR and comms strategy should be an extension of your business strategy, and therefore your PR and comms goals should align with your business goals. It may sound overly simplistic, but we often see PR programs that sit on a virtual island, and this can create the perception of ineffectiveness or irrelevance. PR should not reside in a silo, so consider whether your unease might be tied to a misalignment between your PR and comms activities and your business goals.
When is the last time you reviewed and assessed your PR goals?
If you only review them annually, it might be time for more frequent check-ins. Consider bi-annually or even quarterly. Markets shift, competitors make moves, and you need to be ready to adjust when needed. To be clear, we’re not suggesting you move the goal posts at halftime. But with the real-time data now available, today we can gauge effectiveness much more quickly, giving us the opportunity to tweak PR strategies mid-campaign – adjusting key messages, expanding or contracting a media target list, or “newsjacking” to capitalize on a dynamic market.
Do you have something interesting to say to the market?
When we ask this question, we’re not talking about the latest product or service development, new hire, quarterly results or whitepaper you released. No navel gazing, please. What are you sharing with your key audiences that shows your relevance in the market? Of course, a full thought leadership initiative would be fantastic, but not every company is ready for that type of program, nor needs it. First try commenting on industry happenings, market dynamics, or the future of your category. Be relevant, interesting and timely, and you will quickly see the benefits of that hard work.
After asking and answering (honestly!) the above four questions, and then making necessary adjustments, you should see some signs of life come back into your PR strategies. Despite our hopes and dreams for a quick fix, it won’t happen overnight, so stick with the changes you implement and be sure to revisit these questions if the uneasy feelings arise again.
Still struggling after answering these questions? Let’s talk (firstname.lastname@example.org).