When it comes to PR and building your strategy, there isn’t a one-size fits all approach. The world of ‘media’ is an ever-changing landscape. In this very moment, we’re witnessing sweeping changes taking place right before our eyes. What worked yesterday may no longer work today. And tomorrow – it might all change again. Of course, digital innovation plays a leading role in this disruption. Hello tools like Flaunter 😉
It’s really important to remember that now, more than ever it will be crucial to build both short-term and long-term strategies. You might think of this as shorter, project-based strategies – maybe 1 week in length, up to 3 months – linking back to a ‘bigger picture view’.
- Keep your team agile;
- Test, measure and iterate. Don’t get ‘stuck’ in a project that isn’t serving your brand, don’t be afraid to make well-informed changes as you go;
- Always have a long-term vision to map your small steps back to.
In a world where so much has already been ‘seen, done or written about’ it’s essential to find your brand’s unique voice and positioning when approaching any PR or brand-building activities. Today, you’ll also need to work hard to align that voice with some out of the box thinking. And while the current climate feels pretty wild and woolly, there’s actually no better time to review, plan, execute, review and re-organise.
We recently interviewed PR & Marketing consultant Dolli Taylor and asked her share how she builds PR strategies for clients including IMG, Fashion Week, NAC Media Group and Spear Agency.
To develop your PR strategy, you should always start with a deep understanding of your broader business objectives. PR does not work in isolation; it is heavily integrated in marketing, branding and advertising activity and is a key driver of business sales growth. A good publicist, or business owner if you’re still scaling, should always be thinking about every opportunity to connect with audiences from a 360-degree view. Before you start a campaign, project, collection, or launch always ask yourself: how is my PR activity integrated within the wider business plan? What am I doing that will support the wider business and generate ROI? If you can’t immediately answer that question, then take the time to get really clear before starting any activity.
Be prepared to be successful.
What you need to know before you begin;
- What does the brand stand for?
- What is the brand aesthetic?
- What is the focus?
- What is the core message?
- What unique talking points/angles can I create to ensure I have noteworthy elements that people will want to write about?
- Who am I trying to target? Which press outlets and what type of audience do I want to reach
- What type of talent/influencers are a good brand fit?
- Is there another brand or person that my brand can collaborate with that could assist with generating PR?
- What assets will the press be interested in and how can I create/leverage these?
- What are the ideal launch timings and what else in the industry/media landscape is happening at this time? Will there be anything that overshadows my news, impacts my ability to generate PR or is there something that has great synergy with my launch that I can leverage/dovetail into and generate ROI?
- Competitor analysis. Check out what your competition is doing and learn from it. What has worked? What hasn’t worked for similar brands?
- PR considerations. Is there anything you need to be specifically mindful of as you develop this strategy? i.e changing media landscape, budget considerations, growing trends.
Once you’ve thought through the above, your next step is crafting your strategy.
Defining your strategy.
These are the key elements you need to consider and craft detail for within your strategy.
1. PR OBJECTIVES
What do you want to achieve from a PR perspective – press or social reach, brand awareness, positioning and so on.
In what timeframe do you need to execute the strategy? It’s important to plan enough in advance that you are working towards an end goal whilst giving yourself enough time to feasibly achieve the KPI’s. However, you don’t want to forward plan too much that you then can’t be flexible and adapt to a changing media landscape, trends, or business needs.
For international luxury brands, we typically plan 6 months at a time and break the year into half one: Jan – June and half two: July – December. During this time we also participate in ad-hoc activity to ensure we can be reactive and timely in the current landscape. For faster-paced fashion brands, we work in 3-month increments. You can decide your timeline based on your brand’s needs.
What targets do you want to meet? Set KPI’s to ensure you are striving to achieve goals. Ensure they are achievable whilst still being challenging.
Set a budget to achieve the desired activity. When looking at the budget, ask yourself: can you achieve the same ROI with less investment? BUT never underinvest. So many times we see brands trying to achieve big things on a shoestring budget and it ends up reflecting in the final product, and not delivering the desired ROI.
At the end of a campaign always go back and compare the budget spend with the results to ensure the ROI generated makes sense and delivered. If it didn’t achieve the ROI you desired, ask yourself why? What were the key learnings? If it delivered or exceeded expectations, also ask yourself why? You may find that repeating a similar formula next time could bring great results again.
5. BUILD THE MEDIA MATRIX / PRESS PUSH
Your strategy should always include PR 101. By PR 101, I mean, your basic press push. Regardless of your wider strategic activity, always have a base matrix in place that identifies what titles you will pitch to and the corresponding angles as a foundation. You can then build on this with any other unique hooks that come out of your paid strategic activity. When developing this always think about what each media outlet would genuinely be interested in and look at the stories they cover to ensure your matrix is realistic. See the example below.
Click here to access and download this template in google sheets.
6. PAID ACTIVITY
This is where you look at paid activations to generate ROI in addition to your basic press push. This could be anything from celebrity endorsement, digital content creation with talent/influencers, product seeding, strategic media partnerships, a launch event or collaboration, to name a few. Here think about what your brand stands for plus where you want to be seen and where you want to generate ROI.
To event, or not to event, that is the question.
Well – right now… this is almost a mute point. But it’s well worth pausing and taking in the information below so that you’re on the front foot once the world starts opening up again and we witness a mad rush to reinvest in physical events…
Securing strong event attendance and generating ROI out of an event was already becoming increasingly challenging prior to COVID 19. Journalists and industry stakeholders were finding it more and more difficult to take time out of the office, even for events it was likely they would likely cover in some format.
So, think really long and hard about whether you’ll get what you need in terms of a return on investment. Events are enormously time-consuming – and generally very expensive!
Before deciding on an event ask yourself;
- Does an event make sense here?
- What is the desired ROI: Is it press coverage, social media or brand experience?
- What does an event achieve that other activity wouldn’t?
- Can you achieve the same ROI via different activities?
- Do you have the budget for a well-executed event?
Instead of a launch, could you get the journalist’s attention via an out of the box press send out, or could you put on an incredible consumer experiential activation that will provide a talking point for the press without them needing to attend?
A word on virtual events.
Virtual events – 100% a mainstream thing now! And while these feel seemingly ‘simpler’ and more affordable to organise, with slightly less moving parts, you’ll still face many of the same challenges as an IRL event. So just be prepared and have your strategy ready 😉
- Do you do try to do something ‘big’ and inclusive, community-driven?
- Or is it something more personal and bespoke that you need?
- What content can you create from your online event? How will you amplify it? Can it happen cross-channel?
- How will you keep your audience engaged?
- How can you make sure they’ll attend?
- How will you stay on-brand?
So you’ve decided to do an event, what’s next?
SOCIAL MEDIA ROI
To generate social media ROI ensure you have a robust guest list of micro and macro influencers, these should be on-brand and make sense for the type of event. It isn’t always a numbers game.
When looking at talent invitations, try to think about which people might then appeal to press i.e what names will help secure coverage in the social pages of a newspaper. Newspapers generally have little interest in digital influencers. They are interested in socialites, celebrity and well recognised industry folk.
To generate press ROI, ensure you invite the right journalists to the event. If it’s a food/cooking event, you will not get your ROI from the fashion team. They may come to the event and enjoy themselves but the likelihood of you seeing any coverage out of that is slim to none!
Only execute an event if you have the budget to do it well. When you host an event you are inviting people to come and have a brand experience. If you are not able to execute the event to the standard fitting for your brand, it can be brand damaging rather than brand enhancing.
Ask yourself, what does the event look like and what will create buzz? What can you create that will make for a great guest experience and offer talkability/“instagrammable” moments? Leverage the event in every way possible including capturing assets at the event – make sure you have at least a photographer there to capture your brief. Cover off atmospheric, guest (social pages focused), candid moments, product-focused shots and so on. Think about what assets you will need to leverage for further event generated ROI.
Assets and access.
When you look at what you need to have ready for a launch it varies depending on what you are launching and how. Below are key elements to think about having available for particular PR executions:
WRITTEN PRESS COMMUNICATIONS
This can be in the form of a press release or key talking points you craft to form your pitch. They should be well thought through, clear, consistent with the brand and also include all the key information required.
IMAGERY AND VIDEO
This can be anything from BTS, product flat lay, campaign, lifestyle imagery created by a content creator. This is a must-have set of assets. Press want to get a ‘feel’ for your brand or product immediately – and short of stopping by every journalist’s desk for one-on-one time [highly unlikely to happen!] images are the next best thing. Think of them as a gateway… and put lots of effort into making them as high quality as you possibly can.
Who will you be speaking to about your brand? This is everything from your journalist contacts you will pitch to, right through to talent agents and or directly with talent who you may wish to build friend of the brand relationships and seed product to at launch. When it comes to your media list, know that creating relationships takes time.
Also, press are usually swamped with work. Make their life easy with great information, and be patient when waiting to hear back. Remember – a ‘no thanks not right for now’ can be just as valuable as a ‘yes’ if you’re in it for the long game.
If you are pushing a product, you need to have ample physical product samples available for press needs. Depending on your strategy this could be anything from press shoots, gifting/seeding to press and influencers, product required at an event or as a take-home gift.
SPOKESPERSON / TALENT
Access to someone who can speak on behalf of the brand or speak about their involvement and experience with the brand. Preferable someone with a newsworthy profile.
What exclusive assets will you have to work with? It’s important to invest in creating enough content that press will not only be interested in but you can also divvy up and offer to different outlets as exclusive.
Always think through timelines when working out your assets. There is no point investing in assets you wish to pitch to a long lead publication but not having them available by the magazine’s deadline.
Short lead titles typically work 4 weeks in advance. Long-lead press requires assets approximately 3-4 months in advance. This is how far in advance they are working on their issues.
Online used to always be instantaneous however due to demand we find now it’s best to pitch a week in advance to give them enough time to get around the story.
What if I am not launching something new?
If you are not launching something new you can still follow many of the above principals. Here are some additional ideas to get you thinking creatively around potential talking points:
WHAT IS TOPICAL IN THE WORLD?
Poke your head up and take a look at what some of the broader topical issues of the moment are. Is there anything you can dovetail into and leverage from a reactive PR perspective?
For example, when Pantone announces their pantone colour of the year, do you have a product(s) in this colour? If so, do a Pantone themed eDM with hi-res flat lay [Flaunter mood boards are EXCELLENT for this] or do a Pantone themed gifting program to try to generate social media ROI.
You could take it a step further and create a product specifically for something that you know will be on the agenda in six months’ time.
ENGAGE A CONTENT CREATOR
You could engage a unique content creator that aligns well with a particular press outlet to capture your product in a different way, giving you new fresh assets. You can then pitch these as an exclusive to the media outlet in mind.
PARTNER WITH A DIGITAL INFLUENCER OR TALENT
Engage with influencers to create content featuring your product to promote across their channels and for you to share across yours.
PARTNER WITH A MEDIA OUTLET
You can collaborate in a paid capacity with a media outlet for a native content package. This was often called ‘advertorial’ but has gotten a lot more sophisticated in the last few years. It means you invest in a media outlet to create content with the benefits of guaranteed press outcome, social media amplification plus the outlet, with their editorial lens, can create unique aspiration editorial style content featuring your brand.
For some publications, we do find that the brands that invest (even if it is small) in paid partnerships will often receive stronger editorial support throughout the rest of the season.
Given there is no one set formula to achieve earned ROI, you will find more often than not that you will need to rely on your experience and gut instinct when creating and executing your strategy in the early days – or when you feel like it’s time to freshen things up. You may not always get it right. When you do it will be a great feeling, when you don’t it will be a great learning! Remember it’s PR not ER. It’s ok to experiment and make mistakes.
Just remember that being agile and flexible doesn’t = ‘no plan’! Success comes from being prepared, knowing your end goals and having the right assets in place that will help drive you there.