PR has the power to help businesses and brands flourish in remarkable ways. (But you already knew that, solo PR pro!)
For professionals in charge of this growth, however, what does it take to develop and execute an effective PR plan to guarantee it will launch successfully?
A great starting point is to note this: PR plans come in all shapes and sizes. But no matter the campaign it’s created for or its purpose for an organization, they can’t be generally applied to any goals. Instead, tailor each one to uniquely fit your client's individual objectives.
Plus, your PR plan has to establish several elements, like the budget, strategies and tactics, evaluation methods and more.
These plans are the backbone of the success of your communications plans, so every PR solopreneur needs to know two things: how to create a rock-solid PR plan and what to do before and after writing it.
The lifecycle of a PR plan: Creating one from start to finish
You can’t just write a PR plan — there are steps you need to take first to gather the right information that’ll help you create the roadmap to your client’s brand success.
Start by defining the desired outcomes, then follow the remaining steps for a smooth PR planning process.
1. Meet and greet! Onboard your client
Before you get to work on an effective PR plan, your first step is to meet with and onboard your client.
Ideally, they’ll have signed a contract before the meeting; otherwise, without a partial or full upfront payment or a signature on the dotted line, you run the risk of investing time into a project with no guaranteed return.
Whether you provide an onboarding questionnaire or invite your client to a discovery call, the goal of the meeting is to determine which elements you’ll need to help elevate your client’s brand.
It’s also your chance to start the project productively and thoroughly. For instance, build a relationship, get the client up to speed, address concerns, discuss the key players a part of the project and any other information needed to get it off the ground.
And don’t forget to secure your client’s confirmation with the details in writing! A paper trail is always handy to reference when decisions come into question along the way.
By the end of the onboarding process, your client should feel confident and completely understanding of how you will achieve their desired outcome.
2. Learn their goals and expectations
Don’t dive into your PR plan — or even brainstorm ideas — without a clear understanding of your client’s goals.
Not only is it important to gauge their expectations for success, but you should know beforehand the metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) your client plans to use to evaluate the efficiency of your PR plan.
Spend this time getting to know the business to tailor your strategy to its needs as well as any existing challenges and how it wants PR to remedy them. Plus, ask about past PR and marketing tactics, especially what has worked and what hasn’t.
These goals may be short-term or long-term, close-ended or not, but it’s up to you to reflect them in your PR plan.
3. Put your genius on paper — write the plan
Ready to write a PR plan that gets results? These are the eight components PR planning typically includes.
- Research and situation analysis: This section gathers your research about the product/service and more from earlier meetings with your client. You might even include a SWOT analysis to further outline the organization’s strengths, weaknesses or otherwise to provide a more detailed analysis.
- Goals: Goals should always reflect the organization’s strategic business goals.
- Target audiences: Who are the people you want to reach? It’s imperative to know the “who” in your PR plan because the more you know about your target audience, the more effective your strategy will be.
- Objectives: Attach a timeframe for when objectives should be achieved, and ensure they’re measurable plus outlined in quantifiable terms.
- Strategies and tactics: Include tactics and strategies that address the objectives and help engage the target audience — the strategic statements focus on the “how,” while tactics outline the activities a part of the implementation.
- Evaluation/measurement: Here, share the methods you plan to use to measure the outcomes of your PR plan and whether the objectives have been met.
- Budget: Provide specific dollar amounts needed to achieve the plan’s goals. Be sure to include fees, any out-of-pocket expenses and hard costs. (Give our budget worksheet a shot!)
Based on your client and their needs, a PR plan might also include these elements:
- A timetable, especially if there are a lot of moving parts
- Short key messages for target audiences
- Media lists for influences, experts or analysts if outreach is part of your plan
- Include contingencies/critical success factors in plans with a lot of dependencies to highlight the margin for error.
Need some more guidance? Check out our guide to PR Planning.
4. Improve what doesn’t work
Revising your PR plan is one of the most important steps.
This part of the process allows you to strengthen it even more after a round of feedback from your client and other key team members.
Once the client has reviewed the official plan, set a date to check back in with them to ensure their expectations were met. If some weren’t, listen to understand each concern, then implement any requested changes.
However, don’t hesitate to respectfully push back on any elements your client objects to that you believe are valuable.
Explain why your expert opinion may be worth relying on, especially if it’s something the client originally agreed to on the plan outline you shared during onboarding.
Execute your PR plan like a pro
Once the plan is approved, it’s time to really get to work!
Technology is invaluable to the deployment of your PR plan. Use it to provide relevant information to your target audience where they want to be reached.
Your target audience has a diverse range of communication preferences — not to mention devices — so it’s critical for you to access them across it all: email, push notifications, social media platforms, desktop, laptop, smartphone, desktop and more.
Of course, track every metric along the way to learn how your audience responds.
Create your next PR plan with our planning ebook and template! Customize the template as you go for each client and see how easy it is to write effective plans they’ll love.
What has your experience been with PR plans? Leave your response in the comments section below or tag us on social media using #solopr.