How to do a PR campaign
Whether it’s a new and growing business looking to kick-start awareness of its offering in the hope of scoping out potential customers or investors, or a veteran behemoth looking to flex its PR muscles and reinvigorate consciousness of what it delivers; at some point down the line, most businesses are going to do a PR campaign.
But before we explore how to do a PR campaign, let’s go back to the basics. What is a PR campaign? Well, in short, a PR campaign can be described as ‘a series of activities that are planned in advance and relate to a specific goal’.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations provides a more thorough definition of PR:
“PR is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. It is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is also the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
PR is essentially reputation management, while a PR campaign is the method by which businesses convey the reputation they’re looking to build to a specific target audience.
A thoroughly researched, structured and executed PR campaign will reel in customers, investors, journalists, prospects, partners, fans, suppliers, rivals, and employees – whatever the target market. Broadly speaking, it can be anything that helps a business achieve a variety of goals. This can include improving and managing a business’ reputation, increasing its sales or attracting new investment.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to effectively execute a PR campaign.
Set your goals
Before you even start to think about what your PR campaign will be, it is vital you have a clear understanding of what you want from it. Setting goals in advance will allow you to keep focused, stay on-message and monitor how effective your campaign is as it progresses.
It’s essential to have a thorough knowledge of what you want to achieve, whether it be to boost sales, improve brand awareness or add size to your audience reach. Your goals will ultimately define your audience, which in turn will define the type of campaign you deliver.
Once you’ve decided on the basics, you can start being creative. With the end result in mind, you can begin concocting a campaign that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
Lock onto your target audience
From this point in, everything you do will revolve around reaching your required audience. Knowing who your specific target audience is from the offset will allow you to effectively channel your time, energy and resources into your campaign – maximising its chance of hitting those goals you previously set.
What are your audiences’ wants and needs? Knowing these will help you decide where best to exploit the PR campaign. The methods you use to reach audiences may differ if, for instance, you are trying to reach out to B2B customers as opposed to B2C, or tech-savvy youngsters instead of the internet wary.
Pick your weapon
By now, you have an idea of your objectives and the audience you want your campaign to reach, so now it’s time to pick the form of which campaign will be delivered.
There are many ways of getting your message across. One of the most popular ways is through press releases to national print, radio and TV media outlets, but other methods such as awards, trade shows, conferences, speeches and publicity stunts are also highly effective.
If you want to be picked up by a leading publication to reach a wider audience, you have to take a considered approach. National media isn’t there to stroke egos; it wants newsworthy stories, so you must make sure what you are trying to say is both eye-catching and relevant.
For example, if you’re looking to send a press release to a national newspaper, you should look to fine-tune the release to pique the interest of that particular title, or even that specific journalist. Centre the release on an angle that highlights a compelling product or backstory that’s relevant to their readership.
You can even take advantage of a national story or trend – something referred to as ‘newsjacking’, where you provide quotes or information off the back of breaking news or big events. At this stage journalists are actively looking for supporting material for the articles they’re working on, so stepping in as the provider is an excellent way to put your head above the parapet.
This also applies to any new surveys, polls or statistics that emerge in the media. If they can be related to your campaign, respond with commentary or possibly your own findings to put yourself in the frame here too.
When it comes to B2B focused campaigns, you could consider tailoring the approach to suit industry-related trade shows, newsletters or blogs – whichever is the best route to reach your target market in that particular industry.
Ultimately, though, and however you do it, the aim of any campaign is to make your audience take notice, so the method of approach should be the one that favours them.
Amplify your message
Alongside the traditional PR methods, you can supplement the campaign with other communications channels, namely; social media.
While the mainstream media is still a very effective route to go down for executing a successful PR campaign, social platforms are a powerful tool too, and give you greater dexterity with audience engagement, as well as retaining ownership of the message you’re looking to give.
Traditional PR leaves you reliant, to some extent, on the good will of journalists and editors, who are open to interpret your news however they wish – or not at all if they choose not to cover it.
Social media, however, allows you to publish your own managed content directly to your audience. Donald Trump is a great example of this. He chooses to Tweet whatever message he wants to convey, bypassing the mainstream media, and reaching his audience directly (no matter their opinion of the content!). While you might not have the social clout of the US president, if you do have a following, or even if you’re looking to build one, it’s definitely worth tying it in with your PR campaign to amplify the message.
Currently, there are around 3 billion active social media accounts, with Facebook alone having around 1.55 billion active monthly users, so the potential is absolutely vast even if your immediate following is low.
These social platforms are non-restrictive in the sense that they allow you to be more creative. You can utilise hashtags on Twitter, drip-feed images on Snapchat or Instagram or, if you’re after the B2B market, directly reach-out to a specific audience on LinkedIn. And you can do all this whilst cutting out the middle man.
PR campaigns are an excellent way to get maximum exposure of your brand to your target audience. You only have to look at recent news to see examples of campaign results.
Old Spice gave away free fragrance scented paper blazers in the latest edition of GQ, PlayStation announced it will stage a video game music concert at the Royal Albert Hall and suicide prevention charity CALM sparked discussion with 84 sculptures of men on top of the ITV South Bank Studios to raise awareness of male suicide. All of these are prime examples of PR campaigns doing the media rounds and getting an organisation’s message out there.
Just remember though, no matter how big, small, far-reaching or expensive your campaign is, plan, plan and plan. The perfect PR campaign comes as a result of careful and thorough research; never jump the gun.
Selecting your goals, target audience, method of delivery and appropriate communication channels before pushing the big red button, will ensure all the time and effort gone into the campaign achieves the required results. Good luck!