“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” - Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Scholars estimate that Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War as early as sixth century B.C. In today’s business world, his views on the importance of strategic planning hold truer than ever. With a growing number of communications channels to manage and C-suites increased demand for measurable return on investment (ROI), it is more important than ever to develop a sound PR strategy that delivers meaningful results.
A good PR campaign begins with a clear message and a focused strategy – and too many organizations rush for coverage diminishes the strategic value of their public relations initiatives.
Four key elements of a sound PR strategy include:
1. Objectives - PR campaign objectives should drive real business results – not press coverage. While awareness and positioning are key elements of a communications program, it is critical to consider how an increase in awareness should affect the business. For example, should greater awareness lead to an increase in visitors to the website by 40 percent or in-bound sales inquiries by 25 percent? If you are not thinking about the campaign’s overall impact on the business, then the campaign will never fulfill its promise.
2. Messaging - Whether it is communicating a product’s value propositions or the benefits of your sustainability initiatives to the local community, delivering a message that is clear, meaningful and impactful is critical to the campaign. The messaging development process begins with understanding your target audiences’ needs and interests. Be sure to do your research – talk to front-line sales team members, hold customer focus groups and stay abreast of the latest trends being covered in the media. If you don’t understand your constituents, you can’t develop messaging that will resonate with them.
3. Planning - Once the objectives, target audiences and messaging have been defined, you can begin to plan the “how.” Develop realistic timelines and budgets to execute your tactics. Whether it is a press event at a tradeshow or social media contest, it is imperative to never lose sight of your objectives and target audiences. Plan methodically and think about how each tactic will get you closer to achieving your objectives.
4. Measurement - Winston Churchill once said: “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” One of the most ambiguous yet vital aspects of a PR campaign is measurement. PR is not a direct sales tactic, but it does affect a business’ bottom line. Because every campaign is unique, there is no clear-cut methodology for measurement. However, it is possible, and critical, for managing stakeholder expectations and demonstrating program success. Measurable objectives should be established at the campaign’s outset and tracked and reported against on a regular basis. The more you can tie your campaign to real business results, the greater ROI your program will achieve and the more influence you will have within the C-Suite.
As with any business initiative, developing a strong strategy with clearly stated and measureable objectives is imperative to PR program success. And remember to keep it simple. Demonstrate what your company does best and what makes it different from the competition – and communicate this to your target audiences. If you do this, and measure the campaign’s value to the business beyond press clippings, e-newsletter opens or Facebook likes, you’ll be a key contributor to your company’s success.