Businesses big and small seem to fall somewhere on a wide spectrum when it comes to planning their public relations campaign: either it's all by the seat of their pants, done haphazardly and with zero consistency, or there's so much strategizing and detail that it never really gets off the ground. So how do companies create a plan that is both doable with limited resources yet grounded in enough detail to ensure success? Start with a template.
PR campaign template
The best part about templates is they give you a roadmap to follow into what often can be some scary territory. If you're not a seasoned PR professional, this template can give you a starting point to see more results from your PR campaign.
1. Situational/SWOT analysis
Teams often skip this step, but they do it at their own peril. Knowing your starting location critical to any successful road trip. To get started, use a SWOT analysis:
2. Target audience
Here's where you identify exactly who you're talking to — what they value, where they hang out, what their pain points are (and how you'll help alleviate them), etc. The more clear you can get on who it is you're trying to reach, the better you'll be able to craft a PR campaign that moves people to action. Many organizations create "buyer personas" — imaginary customers with names that represent your ideal targets — to help them get very clear on who it is they're trying to reach.
3. Strategy & objectives
Once you've established your SWOT analysis and target audience, you can then use it to start defining your strategy. It always helps me to think of strategy as a sort of war plan that answers the questions where do we want to go and how do we want to accomplish it? The Harvard Business Review does a really good job of defining strategy as:
"A set of guiding principles that, when communicated and adopted in the organization, generates a desired pattern of decision making... A good strategy provides a clear roadmap, consisting of a set of guiding principles or rules, that defines the actions people in the business should take (and not take) and the things they should prioritize (and not prioritize) to achieve desired goals."
Strategies are NOT tactics. We'll get into those in a moment. But along with strategies you should also have objectives (a word often interchangeable with goals) —and they should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. These are usually associated with a number of media placement, increasing revenue or adding customers by a specific amount within a specific timeframe.
These are all the little (and not so little) activities that you'll do to accomplish your objectives and carry out your strategies. Tactics are press releases, emails, events, partnerships, blog posts and all those other things that you can put on a calendar and spend money on to accomplish your goals. I usually start out with a big list of potential tactics that I might want to use to accomplish my objectives, then narrow it down to a manageable/reasonable amount. Again, every organization's list of tactics is going to look different. Yours will depend on your budget and what you're trying to accomplish.
The most successful PR campaigns live and die by their calendars. Here is where you can lay out in a table all the tactics you will use to accomplish your objectives, with exact timing on when you need them and where you will use them to greatest the effect. Think of your calendar as the 5 W's + H (who, what, when, where, why + how) personified. You might issue a press release in May, hold an open house in June, and publish three different articles relating to an industry trend on your blog in July. The more detailed you can get on your calendar, the easier it will be to execute three months from now.
Begin with the end in mind. If you know what you want to achieve (i.e. your objectives), you need to know whether or not you'll be successful, and the evaluation will be a valuable learning tool for the next PR campaign you launch. Evaluation often involves surveys of your target audience to find out if your strategy and tactics were effective. It also involves thinking about your options if you find that your campaign was not successful — what's Plan B?
Drill sergeants and mothers the world over have said it: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Sometimes it's enough just to go through the exercise of creating a plan in order to get really clear on what it is you need to do to position your organization to make the most of their public relations efforts. If you don't have a plan to get there, you may as well start driving with a blindfold on.
There was a time when SEO and PR would barely knew the other existed. SEO was dark and complicated, sitting alone behind screens in darkened rooms, hammering out code. Meanwhile, public relations was bubbly and personable, making phone calls, sending out press releases and putting herself “out there.” The two had barely even spoken — let alone managed a full-on conversation about exactly how much they had in common.
But it turns out that they have a lot in common —most importantly the goal of influencing key audiences — so it was inevitable that SEO and PR would discover they were pretty much made for each other. After all, if you've got a website, you've got PR and SEO. The only question left is how you get the two of them to form the beginnings of a beautiful relationship.
PR & SEO: A love story
It wasn't so long ago that PR had fallen a bit out of fashion, and all the attention went to SEO. Companies wanted their digital content to rate high in search engine results, and so turned to tactics such as keyword stuffing and amassing hundreds of pages to try and win Google's favor. But as they say, all's fair in love and war, and today many industry experts are saying that PR agencies are outpacing traditional SEO agencies (some are even saying SEO is a "dying breed") as the most effective (and affordable) way to get your content seen — and ranked.
Why? Because PR is one of the best ways to create shareable content and thus the quality links that SEO needs to be successful. Think of PR as the rocket fuel that not only powers your site to the top of the rankings, but also builds brand awareness among your key audiences. Public relations is also in the business of building meaningful relationships and getting noticed by the biggest influencers on the web. So essentially SEO is often powered by public relations. You can do all the keyword research you want, but until the New York Times or Buzzfeed links to your content, you'll find yourself languishing on the third page. PR is garnering shares and creating backlinks that old-school SEO practices can only dream of. It's no wonder that SEO now finds PR so alluring.
Bringing SEO & PR together in your own organization
If your SEO experts aren't talking with your PR agency, get thee to a conference room. With barely an introduction, you can expect that the two disciplines will soon be sharing late-night conversations about editorial calendars, spending hours talking content syndication and bonding over distribution strategies. And both should be reaching out to influencers — bloggers and prominent sites in your niche (and beyond). Online advertising can help drive sales, but they can’t drive SERPs.
Other opportunities where the two disciplines can support each other include:
Happily ever after?
Now that PR and SEO have seen the light, it's time to start the real work of building a long-lasting relationship where both sides work together to get what they want: a well-respected brand that ranks at the top of Google’s search page.
Without sales, there’s no business. All the social media strategy planning, networking and business planning in the world won’t do a lick of good if you don’t have sales. Need help crafting the perfect sales pitch? Here are eight steps that you need to take in order to get to the sale.
1. Target your best prospects.
Here’s where you want to spend the majority of your time: block out several hours to research who could most benefit from your solution and why. Then divide that list into different priority levels, and begin with your lower priority leads first — this will give you some practice time without jeopardizing your best chances at the sale.
INSPIRATION: Look through LinkedIn and local business publications and identify people who have job titles that closely align with what you’re trying to sell. Research their background, their wins and think like a mind-reader in order to try and define what it is they are most likely struggling with.
2. Give them a map to follow
Start your pitch — whether it’s email, snail mail or even a phone call — with something that gets their attention. But don’t just leave it there. The next line should build on that subject line, creating a path for them to follow to whatever action you want them to take. Know exactly what you want them to do when they reach the end of the message, and build towards that. Build curiosity (without being too cutesy or obnoxious).
INSPIRATION: Subject lines like “A quick way to overcome [CHALLENGE]” or “Here’s what I use to overcome [CHALLENGE]” get people to open your email, but don’t stop there! Lead with “There’s something important about [CHALLENGE/INDUSTRY] that you need to know,” which leads into “I’ve done some research and found [SOLUTION].” Finish with a strong call to action (“Let me know if you want more information and I’ll send it along”). Embellish and add as necessary, without going overboard.
3. Focus on value to the client.
To make the sale in today’s fast-paced, online environment, cut to the chase and talk directly to the prospect’s problems and how you can solve them. If the prospect wants more information about you or your company, add a quick link to the product or service, but the majority of your focus should be on the client and how you can provide a quick win for them.
INSPIRATION: Dear [NAME], I saw the recent article in [PUBLICATION] that talked about your [RECENT COMPANY NEWS]. It reminded me of [HELPFUL RESOURCE/ARTLE], which I thought might be useful as you move forward. Hope you find it helpful. Respectfully, [NAME]
4. Communicate warmth
Email and the web has changed the way we talk to each other so much that formality has become a trigger for distance — and that’s the last thing you want your prospect to feel when you're trying to make a sale. Connection means everything when it comes to sales, especially if you’re making a cold call. A good trick is to imagine that you’re writing to an old, dear friend of your parents, so that you exude warmth while avoiding being flippant.
INSPIRATION: [FIRST NAME], I work closely with several companies in the [TARGET] industry, and I noticed you’ve [RECENT COMPANY NEWS]. Often [BUSINESS CHALLENGE] becomes a priority during this stage, so I thought you might be interested in finding out how we helped [CURRENT CLIENT] overcome that challenge — minus the typical roadblocks. If you want to learn more, let’s schedule a quick phone call. Regards, [NAME] P.S. If you’re not the person I should speak to, can you recommend someone who is?
5. Stand out from the crowd
Maintaining your dignity and professionalism while at the same time differentiating yourself can be both an art and a science — which is why you need to put some time and thought into it. One way to do this is to think about “common sense” ideas/concepts in your industry, and how your company/solution turns those ideas on their head. Another way is to so clearly and perfectly define the lead’s problem so that they have no choice but to trust your authority.
INSPIRATION: “As a Chicago lawyer, you have to not only differentiate yourself in a crowded market, but also have to explain complicated concepts in a way your clients can understand. I can help.” Or, “Though it’s hard to grow your CPA practice because of so much online competition, we have a custom solution that can fix your problem.”
6. Nail your call to action (CTA).
Know exactly what you want your lead to do, and clearly communicate that action to them. Call, click, watch this video, sign up for this workshop — whatever the next-step action is, make sure they know exactly what it is you want them to do. Make it small and easy to increase your conversion rate.
INSPIRATION: Other effective CTAs include “Start improving today,” “Learn more for free,” and “Email me back now.”
7. Leverage shared connections.
No connection is too small. Whether you have mutual acquaintances, attended the same workshop, have a mutual love for World of Warcraft — you need to be able to build some common ground as a starting point. Add these commonalities to your notes, and hit them (without being overbearing).
INSPIRATION: With social media reaching into almost every corner of our lives, use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more to find common interests or networks that lend credibility to your pitch before you’ve ever met.
8. Keep it short
Get to the point and you’ll stand out — no more than four sentences. None of us have time to wade through long emails, letters or voicemails to try and figure out what strangers want or need from us. By not wasting the prospect’s time, you’ll be ahead of the game, and he or she will be more open to what you have to say next time you contact them.
INSPIRATION: Hi [NAME], [INDUSTRY] companies increase sales with [SOLUTION]. [MY COMPANY] can put proven tools into your team’s hands. If that sound useful, I can explain how it works.
Crafting the perfect sales pitch is one of the biggest challenges you may face as a small business, but it’s one you can plan and strategize around if you know the right steps, bringing you much closer to making the sale, without wasting precious time and money.
Need help writing your perfect sales pitch? I can help, email me to learn more.