Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” While this wisdom can be applied to virtually any aspect of business or personal growth, it is especially true in public relations. Simply put, you aren’t going to see real PR success without a solid plan. The best PR plans are thorough, containing a clear outline of objectives, key messages, audiences, tactics and metrics to serve as a roadmap for achieving a specific goal.

When developing a plan, consider the following: 

Define Goals & Objectives

Whether you’re aiming to increase brand awareness, drive new business or foster thought leadership, it is important to define your goals and objectives, as different paths demand different tactics and metrics.

Goals are broad visions for the future of your company, and your PR goals should align with your overall business goals. For example, if your business goal is to be the No. 1 payroll software solution for the construction industry, a complementary PR goal would be to position the company as the most comprehensive and tech-forward software solution in the minds of industry leaders who are in charge of payroll decisions.

Objectives dive a bit deeper, detailing the steps you’ll take to achieve your goals. They should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

Building off of the previous example, a PR objective would be to increase brand awareness among industry decisionmakers in the Southwest by December 2018, as measured by web traffic and sales leads generated. This objective meets the SMART criteria and creates a base to build out the rest of your plan.   

Identify Target Audiences

Based on your goals and objectives, define who your communications are intended to reach. You may identify numerous audiences and demographics to help you achieve your goals. Each audience will likely require customized messaging and tactics based on their relationship with your company and the action you want them to take. 

Determine Key Messages

After defining your audiences, think about what you want each segment to learn, do and remember about your business. You will want to tailor your messages for each audience based on their behaviors, characteristics, needs and roles.

Develop a messaging framework that can serve as a base for all future communications, from press releases to social media posts to website copy.

Outline Strategies & Tactics

Create a game plan to execute your goals with strategies and tactics. A strategy is a general approach used to achieve your objectives and reach your goals. A strategy to achieve the aforementioned objective of increasing brand awareness could be pursuing speaking opportunities for executives at construction industry conferences in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Using this broad guideline, you can get into the nitty gritty with your tactics.

Tactics are the specific action items that must be completed, such as training spokespersons, developing presentations, reaching out to media, managing social media platforms and more. By creating time-oriented objectives, you can build out your PR tactics into a timeline to keep your team on track toward your goals.

Think Beyond Media Relations

While media relations is certainly a part of PR, you can effectively reach your audiences through a variety of other channels, including content marketing, social media, events, email, awards and more. Be creative in pursuing opportunities to connect with your audience.

Measure Your Progress

In order to determine the success of your PR plan, measure your progress over specified timeframes. Pull data from social media, your email marketing platform, your website, CRM, customer feedback channels and other locations to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Are you on track to hit your objectives in your proposed timeline? Do you need to adjust the strategy? Regularly assessing your work keeps your goals top of mind and keeps your team accountable.

Investing time to build a robust PR plan will help your team keep their eyes on the bigger picture and provide structure for the day-to-day work that inches you ever closer to your end goal. Sticking to your plan and updating it as business goals and priorities shift is essential to PR success and your business’s bottom line.