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Friday, April 23, 2010

Public Relations Basics | What is a PR Campaign? Here Are 12 Steps to Create One

Public Relations Basics | What is a PR Campaign? Here Are 12 Steps to Create One

An integral part of your public relations efforts is the PR campaign. The PR campaign is the living, breathing final product of your research, brainstorming, and creation. As such, your PR campaign needs to be researched, thought out, focused, and realistic.

During a campaign, you "go live" with your press releases, news stories, and strategies. Some may define this as an advertising campaign (which sort of defeats the purpose of calling it a PR campaign); to have a successful PR campaign, you must advertise yourself in a sense, but it requires more that your PR efforts are successful. This means that your press releases, news and media contacts are in place, and that your strategies are well crafted for your company. That requires that a few things happen before you start your campaign:

1. Do your research. As I mention for every PR effort, research is the backbone of any success you garner. (If you are able to consistently succeed without research, we need to talk; you may have magical powers.) Forward thinking requires that you know how to properly anticipate needs, demand, and your ability to supply for those needs. In order to know that, you must do your homework. You can do this two ways: with primary research and secondary research. Primary research is research you conduct on your own with surveys, focus groups, etc. Secondary research is simply the use of research already conducted, like the census, study reports, customer reviews on other websites, etc. Use this research to help you identify the next steps in your campaign.
2. Know your target audience. This also includes a knowledge and understanding of anyone that may be included in the public that will receive your message. Even if they are not buyers of your product, they may become potential buyers. Tailor your message for your target audience, but don't disregard others not included in that audience. Know the public and know how your campaign will affect them. This can help you to anticipate future issues, needs, etc.
3. Know the stakeholders. This includes anyone who takes an interest in the campaign, like company executives, shareholders, employees, etc. These people need to be defined so that you can properly share with them the campaign, get them on board, and get their support. They also should be updated with the campaign's results as they are realized.
4. Know the market situation. Research other companies; define market elasticity; know your competitors; recognize opportunities and ignored markets; etc. This is the place for you to really see where your services can be used, how you can craft your messages/strategies, and how you can gain market share with your PR efforts. Overall, this gives you a good overview of the entire "forest" so that you can better implement your campaign.
5. Know your limitations. This includes knowing your resources, such as your time, budget, and the abilities of your team. If you need to hire na external company or firm to help with your PR campaign, do it. The repercussions of an ill-planned campaign may be more detrimental than having to pay more for a well-planned campaign.
6. Define your objectives. This needs to come from a well defined company objective/mission statement. If you company has not yet defined this in tangible measurements, this may be a good time to do so. If there are relevant objectives and a well defined mission, ensure that the campaign's objectives are also in line with the overall company's objectives.
7. Define your message(s). These need to stem from the objectives you defined in the previous step. Ensure that these are things that you can create strategies from, as that is what you will be doing in the next step. These can include things like, "PublicRelationsBlogger is the best online resource for PR basics, definitions, tools, and more." How do I send that message out? By creating great strategies.
8. Define your strategies. Created from your messages defined above, ensure that these strategies in fact help you reach your objective; if they do not, they may be better saved for another campaign or simply removed altogether. From the example above, this could be, "Demonstrate PublicRelationsBlogger's expertise through reviews, guest posts, and blog followers." To do that, I need to define tactics next.
9. Define the tactics you will use to achieve the strategies you seek. For the example above, I can contact other bloggers to review my blog, list my blog on review sites, ask other bloggers to let me write a guest post, etc. These tactics all help me reach the above strategy, which ties into my message I defined, which ties back into the campaign's objectives. Create a few different messages to really go at your objectives from all different angles.
10. Create a time line. This will help you define where and when to implement tactics. Be sure to take into account things like media deadlines, other events taking place, and other events the company has planned.
11. Implement. After you've done the above, implement your campaign and see your hard work pay off. Remember that you must monitor and manage the campaign as it runs through its life cycle; if you've done the steps above, the less monitoring and need to editing of components of the campaign you'll have to do when already in place than if you had simply thrown some tactics out there with an ill-defined message. Doing the right preparatory steps can make less work for you to do after implementation
12. Evaluate your results. This is where you evaluate your success (or lack thereof). Really measure the results, where things need to change, and where you were really successful. This can help you create a great campaign next time.
Overall, the above needs to be realistic. Did you set your goals too high? Too low (which can also be a problem)? Having goals that are challenging yet possible to attain make you work hard and feel more accomplished after having achieved them. Ensure, too, that your budget reflects what you can and cannot do, and that your tactics are in accordance with that budget.

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