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The Five Foundations of Successful PR

Deciding to do PR and media relations is super exciting, and once you’ve decided to go for it you’ll be chomping at the bit to get cracking.

But wait!

Before you even start drafting your press releases, posting on social media or planning your blogs and e-news, there are some essential building blocks to have in place to help get you set for PR success.

1. Understanding what PR is and isn’t

PR is Public Relations. And it’s pretty much what it says on the tin! The relations between a business or brand and its publics.

So this could be customers, trustees, staff, funders, stockists, followers, the list goes on! Anyone with whom a brand communicates.

There are lots of different ways to do this, and different audiences want different things from your PR, and to be spoken to in different ways - these points are really important to remember.

Different tools and tactics can include:

- Media relations - probably the most ‘famous’ and what people often think PR solely is

- Social media

- Blogs

- Enews

- Staff newsletters

- Membership magazines

- Awards

The one thing PR isn’t is advertising. It isn’t paid for where you get to say what you want, when you want and promote this to a wide audience that isn’t already engaged with you. That falls into marketing - yes I know the lines get blurred SO easily!

So when someone runs your product or story in their magazine for free, that’s PR. If someone shares your social post for free, that’s PR. If any payment changes hands for that positive promotion, that’s advertising. You’ve probably seen bloggers using #ad; that’s because if money changes hands, the endorsement is no longer free from bias and so moves over to the advertising side of the fence.

I know this can be hard to get your head around and understand the differences, but it’s essential you do! Advertising has its place, and is an incredibly useful tool, but only if supported by a great PR campaign in my mind. The two complement each other, but advertising alone likely won’t get you authentic brand supporters. (We’ll talk about authenticity a lot here at Garnet PR!).

Picture this, you’re flicking through your favourite magazine, you come to a page which is a full-page advert for a brand. You skip past it, right? Now imagine you come to a full-page interview with the founder of the same brand, you’re much more likely to read it and perhaps grow to know, like and trust that brand aren’t you? And therefore more likely to think of them when you come to buy a product they sell.

That’s PR.

In essence, PR is about building brand awareness through protecting and promoting a brand’s reputation authentically (there it is again!). Whether that’s through media coverage, communicating openly and honestly with staff, having people share your social posts or other forms of PR. It’s about sharing information to build up a positive profile, and to increase the know, like and trust factors, which we touched on before.

PR is worth its weight in gold, and when done right can drive increased profile and fantastic brand awareness from target audiences, which in turn helps people travel along the sales journey and brings them closer to buying from you.

2. Aims, Objectives and Goals

Ok, so you understand PR.

Now you need to know what you want to achieve, and how you’re going to get there. This is a really exciting bit of planning a PR campaign, and one of my favourites! The sky's the limit, you can dream big, and then put plans in place to help you achieve your goals.

So, first up, set your aim. This is your big picture of success. What do you ultimately want to achieve from PR? This can be specific to a campaign, e.g. a new product or event, or can be a long term, profile-raising activity. You might have more than one running at one time!

Next up, objectives. These are the smaller steps you’re going to take to achieve this aim. The key to a good objective is to make it SMART; specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Ensure these stretch you but that they aren’t impossible - you’ll just never attempt them if they are!

Having these in place will help you identify the tactics you’re going to use in your PR plan. Who and where your audiences are, what they want to get from you, how they like to be talked to, basically all the things you need to do to communicate effectively with all your ‘people’ (in business these are called stakeholders) and target new audiences effectively.

Ok, so now set some goals to help you hit each objective. These are fast-moving, bitesize steps which keep you on track and help you move forward to achieving each objective, and in turn your main aim.

To help you get set for PR success by sorting your aims, objectives and goals, download my free Goal Getting Superstar Planner here:

3. Key Messages

Now you’ve got your aim, objectives and goals sorted it’s time to move onto your key messages.

You’ll see we’re moving steadily through different elements which all feed into each other, you can’t really do any of these without the other, and if you miss one of the foundations you’ll find yourself struggling to deliver a successful campaign.

So, key messages are related to your specific campaign or activity. What is it you want to talk about? What do you want people to remember after hearing from you?

These need to be simple, clear and concise. And you must know them inside out. I’d want you to be able to tell me them on the spot and even in your sleep!

I recommend one to three key messages. In descending order here are my recommendations:

- Key takeaway - if they remember nothing else, what do you want your audience to know? Is it a new product? A special offer? An award nomination? This is your core.

- Call to action - what do you want people to do? Buy from you? Vote for you? Share?

- Reason or essence - if people will remember one more thing, what do you want to be? Are you a sustainable brand? Do you specifically service people in a set area? Are you known for being the go-to brand in your sector? What makes you stand out? You’ll likely find this third key message will run through all your PR campaigns and activities.

Key messages are the core of your PR and should be consistent across all communications. Even if they are tailored and phrased differently for various audiences (which I recommend), for example, a press release vs a social post, consistency is key.

4. Timelines, key dates and macro & micro environments

Now we can look at timelines, key dates and environments.

Let’s start with looking at environments; these are actually very simple - macro is everything happening outside your business and your immediate ‘world’, micro is everything happening in your business and your ‘world’.

So the micro environment will dictate your timelines and key dates in ways like manufacturing timelines, deliveries, you planning special offers. Make sure you know these dates inside out!

Macro is the wider environment which might affect your timings; special calendar dates e.g. Christmas or summer holidays, Brexit (dare I say it!), anything which you have little control over and will affect more people than just you. Use them to your advantage where you can. They will either have a benefit or an impact, know them and plan for them.

I recommend using both of these to plan your timelines. For example, I’d avoid sending a news release out to the equestrian media in Burghley week, or to the National press during the general election. And obviously, don’t plan to pitch for media coverage if you’re not sure your product will be in stock or your event will still have tickets. Honestly, this is one of the biggest bugbears journalists have, and I’m totally with them!

Getting your timings and plans sorted in advance of launching your PR campaign is essential, make sure you’ve got your messaging lined up - social media, blogs, e-news etc… should all be consistent if you’re launching something. Maximise your exposure and chance of reaching your different audiences at key times in your activity to get the best results.

5. Research

Now to arguably the most vital stage of PR planning, especially when it comes to media relations as a PR tool.


Let me say that again, RESEARCH!

It is a non-negotiable if you want to have a successful media relations campaign, which is a huge element of any PR activity.

You need to know where your audiences are, what they like, and in media relations terms what they are reading; magazines, blogs, online news platforms? What do they want?

And now the fun bit - go read it!

Learn what’s included, the tone of voice, regular features, where your brand or story might fit and the journalists writing each relevant section. Honestly, this is such a great bit of planning, and, if done well, will yield brilliant results.

These media outlets will be essential in informing your target audience, helping them make buying or booking decisions, influencing who they know, like and trust, and ultimately who they purchase from. So you need to be relevant, timely and appearing in the right places at the right times to reach them.

This is why research is so incredibly vital.

So there are my five foundations of successful PR.

There are some more elements which are helpful and very important, but these are my top five that you must put in place before starting any activity.

This way, even if you need to tweak your tactics, with rock-solid foundations you’ll be in a great position to be flexible, adaptive and successful with your PR.

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