A simple guide to PR strategy

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What’s the value of PR? How should I measure it? Can it drive revenue? Why aren’t journalists writing about my product IT’S AMAZING?? I’ve been asked questions like this a lot since I started working with start ups and scale ups.

I see founders and execs who soooort of know PR’s important and love finding themselves at the centre of coverage, but aren’t sure how to quantify it. Next to commercial channels like ppc, PR can feel hit and miss, and leadership teams can struggle to justify investing in the area.

The truth is, comms activity is mostly a slower burn. Unlike with owned and paid channels, you don’t have complete control over things. It’s dependent on journalists, editors and an unpredictable media landscape.

That said, if you’re a new-ish, growing business, you probably want potential customers to know about you, you probably want them to trust you so they convert quickly, and you probably want to look attractive to investors and talent. PR enables all of these things.

If you’re in this boat, your strategic imperatives are:

- to increase the volume of positive consumer coverage (because this builds awareness with potential customers)

- to secure top tier coverage - meaning in established publications with broad reach like national newspapers (because their endorsement drives trust)

- to increase the volume of positive corporate coverage (because this impresses investors and talent)

There’s obviously a load of nuance beyond this. To refine your strategy some more, try answering these questions:

1. Who are your audience?
If you have personas or segments for marketing or product development purposes, apply them to PR. If you don’t, create some. It’s ok to start with something scrappy. There’s lots of advice about how to go about this exercise, but as long as you get to something that describes your customers in a way that makes them feel real-ish and relatable-ish, that’s great.

Also, try to get some insight about their media consumption — the newspapers / magazines / sites / blogs they read, the radio and podcasts they like, the TV stuff they’re into. This will inform your media approach. While ‘top tier’, as I’ve suggested above, makes good sense, you’ll benefit from tailoring the target list.

You can do this for talent and investors too. If, for example, you’re a health-tech and you’re looking to recruit clinicians, coverage in medical trades would presumably be useful. Similarly, if your offer is tech-driven and you’re seeking funding in the next year, AltFi and Sifted are titles to aim for.

2. Who are you and what do you want to be known for?
In other words, what’s your brand strategy and messaging. The terminology has been different pretty much everywhere I’ve worked, but you basically need to know:

  • why the business exists – sometimes called the mission or purpose, sometimes brought to life in a manifesto
  • what you want to say and become known for – sometimes called key messages
  • how you communicate – sometimes called a personality, often manifested in a visual identity and tone of voice

This is high level stuff and without it, it’s impossible to make comms consistent. If a coherent story underpins your coverage, the sum of your PR will be greater than the parts.

3. Why’s your offer special?
Get clear about the narrative around every product or service you offer. What’s the value proposition? How is it presented in marketing materials? What claims have you made around it in the past? How do you evidence these claims? This context is vital when it comes to brainstorming for actual releases.

4. What’s worked so far, and who’s covered you?
The businesses I work with tend to have already done some PR. It’s important to know where there’s been coverage, to keep track of the journalists involved, and to form a view on the messages that are landing. The likelihood is, there’ll be immediate opportunity around more of the same – and that’ll get the rhythm going.

5. How is your area represented in the media, and where are you best placed to contribute?
I love a good media audit. With your topic or product in mind, explore the type of stories it inspires. Hone in on what you can realistically leverage and your outreach will be way more efficient.

For Farewill, for example, after identifying the types of articles relating to wills, funerals and death, we focussed efforts around practical pieces on wills, case studies around unusual funerals, commentary on industry change, and trends evidenced through our customer data.

6. What’s the most important thing to measure?
The number of pieces of positive coverage is an easy thing to track, and equate to growing brand awareness. Platforms like Latana, Attest and ProQuo AI add texture here but if they aren’t in your budget, you can do a lot with Google Analytics. Uplift in web traffic and a growing proportion of direct, referred or organic traffic are the metrics to keep an eye on.

Beyond this, you might also want to think about:

- Revenue
This is only the case if short-term numbers are a priority and you’re in FMCG or relatively low cost D2C, where PR can be effective in driving sales.

- Proportion of consumer vs. corporate / different products
You might be recruiting aggressively and want to focus on corporate coverage to bolster your efforts. You might be launching a new product and want to make it the hero in your portfolio, for example.

- Share of voice
This can reveal something about your market position. In my experience, it’s hard to track without significant investment in the right software, but if anybody has any tactics please let me know!

- Impact on ranking
If you work with an SEO expert, you can explore the value of backlinks and their impact on other digital marketing spend.

- Improvement in quality
If you’ve only been mentioned in passing or misrepresented somehow, looking for improvement in the quality of coverage is a really valid success measure.

- Balance of channels
If you’ve not done broadcast, you might want to try it out. You’ll probably find that appearances on broad reach TV programmes like This Morning have a significant impact on web traffic. I’d never recommended focusing exclusively on one channel, but it is worth thinking about the balance.

This isn’t an exhaustive set of questions but I hope they’ve given you lots to consider. If you’re after more advice or would find it helpful to see a PR strategy I’ve previously put together, I’m very happy to share!

Ramble, mostly about brand, content + comms stuff

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