Why PR strategy is more than just channel recommendations
It’s all too easy to fall into the rabbit hole of getting a PR campaign off the ground without really thinking about the strategy. Clients increasingly want quick wins (understandably), but we need to educate them on the benefits of biding our time until we’ve nailed the thinking behind the comms, the reason behind our content and the relevance of it to our audience.
While you could argue that it’s strategic to suggest channels based on audience usage, media consumption and target markets, what’s the overarching vision; why is brand x investing in comms, and what story does it want to tell?
Brand awareness? Fair enough. But what do you want people to associate with your brand? What should their take-away be after engaging with your content? How can you make your brand relevant in such a noisy, fast-paced, social media first, environment?
We have politely declined opportunities to pitch based on challenging the thinking behind briefs and trying to get to the bottom of what the client actually wants to achieve. If they can’t clearly articulate it, how are we ever going to demonstrate success? And by success I don’t mean 50 press cuttings, I mean changing the sentiment around their brand, driving traffic to a specific page on their website or engaging with a niche demographic and having key messaging prevalent in our content. There has to be a marker in the sand to help define and enable us to demonstrate impact.
If PR is just thought of as the icing on the cake, as it so often is, it won’t deliver. It needs to fundamentally be built around a strategy that correlates with business objectives and works hand-in-hand with sales and marketing. An integrated approach is always stronger and more powerful. In fact the opinion of the comms professional can add an interesting and valuable dimension at the start of the campaign planning process. Don’t build a campaign and then bring us in and ask us to amplify it – let us have a voice in the messaging and positioning and make suggestions that will make the campaign scalable and able to run cross-channel.
The more insight you can share with your agency, the better. If we have audience insight, sales data, market trends etc., we can devise a strategy that responds to this and builds on it. That isn’t to say that strategies won’t need adapting – or changing – of course they will. They should be looked at every year as a bare minimum – and immediately if something major happens in your market – or more broadly (i.e. economically).
Think of the number of businesses that had to pivot and change their strategies when Covid struck. Their entire business strategy will have changed, therefore their comms strategy similarly needed to, to communicate to their audience(s).
- Exercise classes going online
- Dine in restaurants offering takeaway
- Commercial airlines switching to cargo-only flights
- Music streaming apps like Spotify starting to offer podcasts
While this will have involved using different channels, ultimately the positioning, messaging and content will have changed too, meaning an entirely new strategy was required. There could even have been opportunity to tap into a new, previously untouched, market.
Unfortunately there’s still an irony around the world of PR; a discipline that’s based around managing reputation doesn’t have the best reputation itself. The only way we’re going to change this as an industry is to demonstrate the power of comms through well defined, clearly articulated strategies that can evidence impact.
About the author: Amy Airey is CreativeRace’s Communications Director. Amy has extensive experience in communications and PR, working on big name brands such as British Military Fitness, Morphy Richards, Landsec, Barratt Developments, Yorkshire Water and Thomas Cook.