This article first appeared on smeinfo.me
Like with any business plan, developing a PR strategy requires the business owner to think about goals and visions: What do you hope to achieve with the PR plan? What kind of personality do you want your company to have? Who are the people that you want to target? Which medium do you want to use?
Keeping your audience in mind
Identifying your audience is an important factor as it helps develop key messages that companies want to send out, says Gladson Ronad, client services director at public relations agency MCS Action. He explains that firms need to segment the audience based on the product or service they are selling and in the end, this helps identify the "key message" they want to deliver.
He points out that the message can be anything, including a motto coined by the client, but once established, this should be included in whatever PR material is sent out - be it a press release or an interview.
Ronad says another thing he takes into account when working with a new client is going through the company's business calendar and basing PR strategies on the business objectives. Be it the launch of a new product, an upcoming event, or a deal signing - these are all essential when thinking of a long-term PR strategy.
Ideally, it would be easier to have someone else look after these essential matters, but agencies can charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for handling an account - money that entrepreneurs can't afford right after launching their company. And SMEs need "people who can be very honest with them" and tell them to wait until they are in business before signing up for a commitment with an agency, says Louay Al-Samarrai, joint managing director at Active PR.
However, business owners can still start doing their own part in building an image for their company in the first year or two. The strategy can vary considerably, depending on the industry the SME falls in.
Al-Samarrai explains that he recently advised a DJ, keen on publicising himself, to take advantage of social media. But, this is obviously not a "one-size-fits-all" solution. For an SME offering something like financial consulting, social media may not be the best option, he says. Instead, owners should look at their own network and attend networking events, while taking the opportunity to deliver talks and connect with people.
Building publicity by connecting with the media is also important. While SME owners may not be PR consultants, they can start the process by choosing the medium they expect to be most effective.
When pitching a story to a journalist, there has to be a story angle that can both serve as news and give the company publicity. These are often written in the form of press releases and sent out to reporters and media agencies. There are a lot of ways you can help build a news story and get it published; if done right, it can cost nothing.
Freelancers may be a viable option when looking to have press releases written, but it is crucial that companies choose someone who knows what he/she is doing, since the job involves more than writing a story and sending it to a database of journalists, says Al-Samarrai.
When business owners are at the stage of thinking about hiring an agency to help them with their PR, the one thing they need to think about very seriously is the brief, as it can save a lot of time and effort if it is specific, says Al-Samarrai.
The problem is that clients often don't align their communication objectives with the business objectives and many agencies accept the terms to "get the business" and then "play shortcuts," he says.
Ronad adds that clarity is the most important feature of the brief. Companies should specify their objectives as clearly as possible, he says. "If [the client] wants to increase sales by 100% and by increasing visibility," this is something that should be in the brief as this helps ensure that the PR strategy achieves the client's objectives. He adds that companies should provide as many details as they can without breaking their confidentiality clause and present these in a simple way.
In addition, he says that firms need to be clear about their financials and this is especially true in the case of start-ups. Companies need to stipulate the budget they are willing to invest in the campaign so that agencies can develop ideas accordingly, he explains.