Many businesses and organizations are reactive when it comes to setting and executing their media relations strategies. If you want to reach your target audience in a meaningful way, you need more than a fly by the seat of your pants strategy. You need proactivity, consistency—and patience—to achieve big results.
Your PR efforts will have a greater impact if you’re working from a 12-month plan.
Planning out a media strategy for an entire year can seem daunting. But it’s possible to lay the foundation for a strong public relations strategy—just follow these 5 steps.
How To Create an Annual PR Plan
1.Establish business priorities and content plans. First, look at the year ahead and identify the stories coming out of your organization. Are you launching a new product line in the new year? Perhaps your team is expanding or you’re relocating to a new space. Develop talking points that you can stick to and find ways to organically incorporate them whenever you have an opportunity to speak to the press.
While you’re planning your messaging, be realistic about what’s appropriate and in line with your field or industry. If you work with highly sensitive information, for example, feature stories about products or services probably aren’t in the cards. However, you may be able to highlight speaking engagements or conference panels on your social media pages or emails instead.
Be sure to build in opportunities for paid media (advertising), earned media (press coverage), and owned media (your blogs, emails, and social posts). A robust PR strategy needs all three components, and you’ll thank yourself later for planning them out in advance!
2. Review editorial calendars and look for opportunities. Most publications will release their 2022 editorial calendars in November and December of this year. An editorial calendar details all of the planned themes and topics a publication intends to cover. You may have to do some digging, but these editorial calendars are free and publicly available (look in the advertising section of a publication’s website, or call or email the publication to request this information).
Using the editorial calendar as a guide, identify what topics your target publications plan to cover that might be a good match for the stories your organization wants to tell. You want to get ahead of the curve and pitch publications several months in advance. Reviewing calendars now gives you time to think through the angle of your pitch—and potentially shop your story around until you find the right fit. .
3. Prepare all your supporting materials. While you’re working on next year’s annual plan, reassess the state of your press kit. The more relevant photos, videos, and soundbites you have handy, the better positioned you are to get the coverage that you want.
If you learn that in May your target publication will be doing a story about small businesses in your area, make sure you have several team members who are ready to speak to that topic. You may want to plan a photo shoot now so you have quality headshots, job-related pics and, if applicable, product photos so you’re ready whenever opportunity arises.
Even if a reporter doesn’t ask specifically about the topic you want to cover, look for opportunities to incorporate your own talking points. I say that with a big caveat: you must be able to steer the conversation subtly without feeling like you’ve derailed the intent of the piece! Rather than take the discussion off-course, look for ways to tie your ideas back to the main themes of the reporter is covering.
4. Set realistic PR goals. Once you have a plan in place and an idea of what publications might be interested in featuring you, set realistic PR goals for the year ahead.
Nearly every business wants to get covered by The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal because they know those publications have reach and authority. What they don’t often consider is that getting your “big break” in a major publication may not be the optimal way to reach your audience.
Consider your ideal piece of media coverage: Who does it reach? What story does it tell about your organization? After answering those questions, you may realize that a story in your state’s largest newspaper isn’t actually what’s best for your business. In fact, there might be a local publication that’s easier to pitch that will generate a bigger PR impact.
5. Be ready to change on a dime. The news cycle is unpredictable, so it’s critical to keep your PR strategy agile. You may not think you’ll have a chance to talk about your new product line until June, but a news event might make you suddenly relevant in February. You have to be nimble enough to get yourself in the story when it’s timely, even if it’s sooner (or later) than you had planned.