Valuable Business

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The importance of an ‘always on’ PR Strategy & How to Map It Out

Nic Forster

Head of PR & Communications @ Forward Partners

I was talking to a good friend last week who has recently started up and he was unsure about how to go about tackling PR. In one sense, he was keen to build a story around his brand and begin talking to key press as soon as possible, in another he was unsure of what he really had to say and whether it would be a better idea to hold off until the business had really gained traction. These are valid concerns and ones which I hear a lot - in the earliest days of your startup it’s natural to wonder if you really have all that much to talk to press about and whether it can wait until the business has gained momentum. However, my advice is typically that mastering press outreach is a bit like starting out on any journey - if you have no idea where you’re headed, you’ll never get to where you need to go (and you’re at risk of missing key destinations on the way).

In this piece I’ll explain why maintaining an always-on PR presence is key and how to go about building a year round communications calendar.

Key takeaways

  • Focusing on building an “always on” PR strategy will help you keep on track with your business storytelling throughout the year.

  • News & media consumption has evolved - it’s less about sporadic campaigns and more about ongoing conversations to maintain and build brand awareness & understanding.

  • With the right planning you can ensure that your news outreach is year round and that you remain front of mind with both consumers and core journalists covering your sector.

Media consumption and the death of sporadic campaigns

Over the past decade the way we consume media and interact with brands has completely changed. In 2006, businesses could execute several press campaigns per year and amplify these across monthly, weekly and the limited key online titles which existed. Fast forward to 2016 and the landscape has exploded to contain media that moves much faster and delivers much more immediacy; more titles are moving solely online, social media means that conversing with consumers directly is easier than ever before and the ‘noise’ that consumers are exposed to is massive. This all means that stilted seasonal campaigns alone are unlikely to deliver the ‘cut through’ you need. They’re also unlikely to offer the insight into your business and its stories that the press and consumers now expect from brands.

A well planned yearly outreach calendar will help to ensure that your conversation and storytelling is ongoing.

Mapping your PR year

Use the following steps to build out a twelve month PR calendar, documenting the stories you’ll engage your audiences in across the year:

Team  

Get together as a team and discuss what each of you feel are the most interesting and newsworthy elements of your business. Input from all functions is key to gain a full overview of the things which set you apart in both the eyes of the consumer and also the press. Different things will excite different team members and this session will help you unearth your business’ core story threads.

Themes

Once you’ve drawn up a list of USPs, start considering how these elements fit into wider themes. What are the patterns and how can they be encapsulated in a story or theme? For example the beautiful products and quality from a UK homeware brand could be categorised into an overarching story theme of ‘Great British Style.’

Dates

Once you have a list of themes, you can then begin plotting these on a calendar, matching each to the most appropriate time of year or season. For example a theme of ‘female entrepreneurship’ may be best to tie to dates during which you know the press and consumers will already be focusing on related stories e.g. International Women’s Day.

Do this across the twelve months of the year so that each six weeks your focus shifts onto a different overarching theme.

Stories

Take each theme and consider how you can bring it to life as a story. To use our entrepreneurial example above, what will you do to bring to life International Women’s Day across your business? Could you focus on the women who inspire you, your customers and the press? Could you share examples of inspirational women on your team via social media channels whilst also encouraging press to profile your visionary female founder?

Tracking

Build a media database which will allow you to record who you contact, when and what the response was. It’s likely you’ll be talking to a lot of journalists and losing track of progress is very easy to do. A well organised excel document is every PR’s best friend and will enable you to record all potential leads and feedback.

Engagement

Engage everyone on your team. You’re all in it together and any successful campaign needs the support of all team members. For example, customer services will need to know about the campaign so that they can respond appropriately  when it’s mentioned on a customer call. The person handling your social media will also need to amplify activity and capitalise on traction by retweeting and responding to customers and press on Twitter and so on.

Filling the gaps

Plan for quieter times in the year so that you can ensure that you always have a conversation to engage your audience in. It’s important to stay front of mind and build the understanding that you’re not only selling a product, you’re also dedicated to providing first class content and inspirational insights for customers.

For example, during quieter, non-seasonal periods you may be able to undertake industry research to ignite and drive conversation amongst consumers and/ or the media.

Iteration

Each time you receive press coverage, analyse as a team and decide how effective the piece was. Did it convey the messages you wanted it to? Did it result in an increase in traffic/ sales? Was it impactful in building the brand story? Use these learnings to shape and build future outreach, so that you can maximise activities and the results they deliver.

Nic Forster

Head of PR & Communications @ Forward Partners

Nic is Head of PR & communications at Forward Partners. Over the course of a 10 year career in communications, he has working with global brands including Orange, Warner Bros., BBC, and amazon.co.uk. Nic also headed up the PR team at one of the UK's fastest growing e-commerce businesses, notonthehighstreet.com. He now leads communication strategy on behalf of Forward Partners whilst also working with our startups, helping them to conceptualise and tell their brand and business stories to both press and the target consumer.

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