To public relations (PR) pros like us, the start of a new year means strategic planning for the year ahead. Rather than simply rewriting or reworking a strategy from the past year, a true expert knows the importance of revamping and re-strategizing to ensure continued growth for the client. According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), a quality strategic plan can be broken down into four main components including analysis, research, execution and evaluation.
Despite the success achieved for your client throughout the last year, a repeat of the same endeavors will never be as successful the second time. It is imperative that we as PR professionals evaluate what worked and what didn’t, identify trends that we can incorporate into a new approach, pivot to new methods and tactics and curate a new strategy to support growth rather than stagnation.
Anyone can create a plan and see it through. What makes our services as expert PR professionals valuable is our dedication to altering, updating and reworking strategic plans to ensure they continue to meet and exceed client goals. Without this commitment to positive change, you’re left with a stale plan that likely misses the mark as years go by. As we finalize our 2023 strategic plans for clients of Stanton Communiations, we hope we can provide some insight that may help you in developing your new plan for the new year. Check out our top tips for revamping your PR strategy below and let us know what you do to keep evolving your client strategy!
Evaluate: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Step one in formulating a strong public relations strategy must start with an unbiased evaluation of the past year. Look at what worked, what didn’t and what could have been successful had it been done differently. Use these findings as a guide to rework your new plan. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel if certain aspects of a previous strategy led to great success for a client. There will always be new methods to the madness that is PR, and it is important that you bring a timely, well-informed plan to support achieving your client’s goals. The Forbes Communications Council shared that knowing your client’s goals and determining what signals success in achieving and meeting said goal, is a foundational element of a measurable PR plan. This idea reigns true, particularly when approaching a specific client’s strategic planning process with at least one year working with them under your belt.
Look at what led to the greatest success throughout the year. Did you generate quality media coverage by guiding the client through the process of developing authored bylines? Were you able to secure significant TV coverage through proactive media outreach? Maybe supporting a revitalized social media strategy for your client led to the greatest return on investment (ROI). Whatever generated the most success for your client, realize it and integrate that tactic into your plan for the new year. After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Now, look at what may not have worked as well. Maybe your client is protective of their messaging and didn’t feel comfortable responding to quick turnaround media opportunities. Perhaps their subject matter experts didn’t have the time to dedicate hours to supporting an authored byline. If one method was rejected or didn’t work several times, take that as a lesson learned and find new ways to tell the client’s story in a way that aligns with their comfort level, goals and internal strategy. No matter what, it’s likely that a client’s target audience journey may evolve, according to MailChimp, and if this is the case, there is no getting around the fact that the strategy guiding communications efforts must evolve too.
Identify Timely Trends
Much of strategic PR work evolves alongside trends, current events and breaking news. A strategic PR pro looks to current trends and what is going on in the world to support a creative and up-to-date PR plan. At the start of a new year, look at major events happening throughout the year – are there any huge trends on social media? Is there a major world event coming up such as the Olympics or a big election? What about events occurring that relate more directly to your client, such as conferences, new product launches or famous spokespersons joining the team. All these timely developments can and should play a major role in your strategic public relations plan to ensure it hits the viewers or target stakeholders in a way that feels current and not stale.
Once you’ve identified trends and hot topics to integrate into your plan, the work is not done. While anyone can notice a trend, the value a PR pro brings is finding an authentic and organic way to incorporate it into a client’s public relations efforts, while moving in the direction of the client’s PR goals and ensuring measurable ROI. Since PR works to shape the minds of a given target audience, a strategy must address what’s important to that audience in that moment, according to Meltwater.
Curate a New Strategy
Now is the time to put your insights into action. Review your strategic plan from last year and highlight the tactics, action plans and methods you can remove based on their lack of success, outdated timeliness or if they simply don’t fit with the client’s current PR goals. Take time to mull over what did work – after all, efforts like thought leadership, proactive media pitching on new announcements, and media advisories to generate attendance and coverage of events will always be foundational elements of any quality public relations strategy.
You should now have a basis on which to build the new, revamped strategy. As you weave in your new ideas through those that proved successful in the past, remain thoughtful about how these ideas organically uplift the goals and expectations the client has set for you in the coming year. An annual strategic plan should never be a copy and paste from the year prior. As time goes on, trends change, clients and their goals evolve and the tactics that work and don’t work will be learned from. By revamping your PR strategic plans on at least an annual cadence, you are providing your clients with the most current, meaningful and impactful ideas to ultimately achieve their goals.
After all, PR pros are hired for their strategic thinking – the more strategic we can be at the start of the year, the more value our work will have. At the end of the year, you’ll be surprised at the ROI and measurable results you’ve achieved by adhering to a revitalized plan.