5 essential elements of an effective PR plan

You don’t simply sign the contract, put a few coins in the slot, and wait for your shiny new campaign to be dispensed. Research, parameters and regular check-ins are crucial for success.

If you’re new to using public relations to build your brand, starting a PR program can seem daunting.

Your public relations firm and your team should use a PR plan as a roadmap to create a successful PR program. Without one, it’s difficult to evaluate the program’s success and ensure that your company and PR partner are on the same page.

Here are five key elements of a PR plan and the questions to ask your partner before finalizing it:

1. Research/situation analysis

You’ll identify your situation and the requisite research in the early weeks of a PR program, often during the meetings prior to signing your business agreement. Once you sign, your PR firm should begin initial research. (If your budget allows, you might hire an outside research firm.)

Include primary and secondary, formal and and informal research. Without exception, your PR firm should read and audit news articles and studies about your company, industry and competition.

  • What is the current situation or issue?
  • What is the current baseline?
  • What are your company’s goals, and how might PR align with them?

2. Objectives

Each PR plan should include one to five objectives, which should emerge from and align with your company’s overall goals. (Goals and objectives are distinct terms in this application.) Consider using S.M.A.R.T. objectives:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable or achievable
R = Results-oriented or relevant
T = Timely

Then ask these questions:

  • How well do the objectives address the stated problem or issues?
  • How clear are the specific objectives?
  • Is each objective S.M.A.R.T?
  • If you accomplish the objectives, will you be satisfied with your PR investment?

3. Implementation

The implementation stage is where strategies, tactics and activities come into play.

  • Do those elements address the objectives?
  • How will each strategy uniquely reach and engage the target audiences?
  • How might you expand and innovate those tactics and activities?

4. Evaluation

Don’t leave the evaluation of a PR plan until year-end or the conclusion of your campaign. Your PR firm should assess it with you on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly, to ensure it’s on track.

You might decide an objective is no longer a priority or that the firm has reached or exceeded it, and then you would shift your focus. Set evaluation rhythms before approving your PR plan.

These questions are key:

  • What does success look like? Did you reach the objective or resolve the issue?
  • How will you know if your PR firm meets objectives?
  • How will the firm document and demonstrate results?

5. Investment

Your investment supports accomplishing the objectives, and it helps you and your PR firm to know what you can and cannot accomplish in a given campaign. Too often, items not included in the investment can sidetrack companies, which muddles the focus and effectiveness of the agreed-upon campaign.

  • Is the budget documented?
  • How, specifically, will you use the money?

Make sure your company’s PR plan is flexible, so you can adjust it for unexpected occurrences, such as reaching an objective earlier than expected, learning that an objective is no longer important, or finding you want to measure something else.

Active participation in drafting your company’s PR plan helps you achieve your business objectives and maximize your company’s performance. Having a PR plan in place—and sticking to it—will help you get the most from your investment.

A version of this post first appeared on the Axia Public Relations blog.

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