A Beginners Guide to a PR Plan
By: Johana M. Caba
As a Public Relations student, you might be intimidated by the whole PR plan concept. Even as an entry level PR professional, your first PR plan will be an intimidating task. I know that this has always been an area where I have had so many questions from when I was an undergraduate student to now as a graduate student in Professional Communications. So, I wanted to create an easy beginner’s guide to help other aspiring PR professionals with their PR plans.
1. An Industry Analysis: The first step when writing a PR plan is typically the Executive Summary where you write a paragraph or two about the company, their situation, challenges and goals for your PR campaign. The second step is the industry analysis. For the industry analysis, you will need to research the industry of your client. Questions to ask yourself when researching are: How big is the industry? How much is the annual revenue of the industry? Is it projected to grow within the next few years and by how much? What are some current trends within the industry? These questions will guide your research and help you understand it so that you can create a comprehensive plan that will be beneficial for your client.
2. The Competitive Analysis: This section of your plan can be included under the industry analysis. You should compare two to three other brands with your client, all within the same industry. This should include comparisons of their size, goals, brand messages, previous PR plans, social media accounts, paid media advertisements, earned media and owned media.
3. SWOT: The SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) is the part of your plan where you take an in-depth look at your client. For this section, consider social, political, environmental, technological and legal factors. Depending on the size of the company, you will have more information on these issues. Another thing to consider is how other brands have handled similar issues. TIP: When you read your SWOT analysis to your client make sure to do it clockwise so you present in the following order: strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities.
4. Media Audit: In the media audit, you will take a look at what the media is saying about the company. If this is for a startup or small business, sometimes it's best to do the media audit on the competitors you chose for the competitive analysis. If this is a larger business, then take a look at the paid, earned and owned media of the company. You can also do a Lexis/Nexis search about the company or issues you are trying to address with the PR plan.
5. Objectives: Your objectives should be SMART objectives. This means that they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. For example, a SMART objective would be “to increase sales by 20% within the next six months.” Make sure your objectives align with the mission and goals of the client. Other things to consider include raising awareness of the client, raising awareness of their social responsibility, informing the target audience about the company and changing attitudes towards your client.
6. Target Audience: Your target audience can be divided into your primary, secondary and tertiary audiences. You need to consider the ideal audience to focus on for your campaign. For the target audience, you need to take a look at the demographics of your audience which includes age, gender, income, race and marital status. You should also take a look at psychographics as this will help you understand your audience’s purchasing behaviours. Pyschographics will help you understand their lifestyle habits, purchasing habits, behaviours and their attitudes towards brands and products.
7. Key Messages: Your key messages are the messages you are trying to convey to your target audience. These messages should align with your objectives and your overall company mission. Key messages can be divided into primary and secondary messages. The primary messages are short statements that identify important information and/or communicate to the public what action you want them to take. Secondary messages are statements written in bullet points that support the primary messages with examples, facts, stories and testimonials in order to create credibility with the audience. For example, these can be written in the following format:
Primary Message: JM Integrated Marketing is dedicated and passionate about helping small businesses, individuals, nonprofits and government agencies establish a strong digital footprint.
8. Strategies and Tactics: A strategy is the main plan of action that will help you achieve your objectives. The tactics are the creative actions that will help you achieve your strategy. Although it can be confusing to distinguish between the two, a strategy identifies how the public will achieve the objective and the tactics are the elements and tools used to deliver the messages. Always ensure that the strategies and tactics align with your objectives and key messages. A good format to follow is below with an example:
Strategy One: Raise small business awareness of JM Integrated Marketing and their services.
9. Create your Tactical Elements: The tactical elements are the physical or digital elements that will help you achieve your strategy, objectives and overall purpose of the campaign. These can include social media posts, a content calendar, press release, media kit, blog posts, media alerts, podcast, promotions, press conferences, brochures, etc.
10. Create a Timeline: The timeline for your campaign will consists of your plan of action for the entirety of the campaign. For example, you need to select when and where materials will be created and disseminated. You will also need to plan when and where you will hold any events. The main purpose of the timeline is to have a clear path that you will follow for when, where and how all of the strategies and tactics will be executed in order to achieve the objectives of the campaign.
11. Create a Budget: The budget should include all of the expenses related to the campaign. For example, staff, printing expenses, event expenses, travel expenses, etc. For more information on the basis of a PR budget, take a look at this great article from Inc.
12. Measure and Evaluate: The final step of your PR plan is measuring your success and evaluating the plan. For this part, really take a look at what strategies and tactics worked best and ways of improving the campaign. Also consider things that did not work for future reference. Here, you should also decide what factors you will be measuring aside from meeting objectives.
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