What’s the point of having a communications strategy before getting stuck into public relations and communications activities? – Manchester-based B2B PR and content marketing agency, Metamorphic PR, considers the value of putting the PR “cart” after the communications “horse”
Public relations is about writing press releases and watching them transmogrify into marvellous and momentous media coverage, right?
Well, as the old crooner and sex bomb, Tom Jones, might say it’s not unusual… that is, for businesses adopting a DIY (do it yourself) approach to public relations and communications activity to put the proverbial cart before the horse.
To elaborate, writing and distributing press releases is a tactical element of media relations; one possible activity in the public relations tool box, but not always the right one for a company’s general communications needs or to support a specific initiative.
To have a fighting chance of choosing the right types of PR and integrated marketing communications techniques to meet business imperatives, it’s important to take a higher level view of your desired destination before strapping yourself into the driving seat and flooring the accelerator. What you need to work on, first, is a communications strategy.
You would expect the pilot of a plane you just boarded to know his ultimate destination, have a flight plan to get you off the ground, keep you in the air and land safely. What you don’t need is someone in the cockpit flicking any switch or pushing any flashing light in front of them.
The same goes for your public relations activity: you need to know the “HOW” before you decide on the “WHAT”. So, how can you begin to formulate a communications strategy?
Devising a communications strategy
One approach to this is to:
- Brainstorm the strengths of your company, product, service, initiative
- Plot them against the opportunities that exist in your market
An “opportunity” might be to inhabit a thought leading position in a particular area of activity. It’s an opportunity because either nobody else is adopting that position, or because whoever is claiming thought leadership is there by default rather than true credibility – and your company could be doing it better.
A “strength” could be having a leading expert among your team or access to unrivalled data or knowledge that would enlighten the market and demonstrate your depth of insight. Combined with the thought leadership opportunity above, you’ve got the makings of a coherent communications strategy.
With that as the foundation, your understanding of (or research into) your audience – who they are, where they are, how best to reach them – should influence the tactical PR and communications activities you select to fuel your journey along that strategic road. In other words, if there are only 10 key decision makers in your market rather than 10,000, your choice of communications activity and method of delivering that activity need to picked accordingly.
Take aim – but avoid the silver bullets
A little PR/communications knowledge is a dangerous thing and just because a company knows what a press release is, or what a flash mob does, doesn’t mean either should be on the communications activity plan.
The same goes for new tools that are appropriated by PR and marketing communications professionals, often because they are flavour of the moment and considered the latest silver bullet to be fired into the crowd. For example, social media platforms need to be treated with caution; they might be your company’s ticket to untold riches but – equally – they could also be pointless. However, if the right thinking has gone into conceiving a communications strategy then, yes, you might have proven the business case to play around on Facebook in the name of commerce.
Dennis Kelly, Chartered Institute of Public Relations Fellow and strategy planning expert, once summed up how you question whether you’ve got yourself a communications strategy:
- Does it say “how”?
- Is it proactive?
- Does it focus on results?
- Does it take you from A to B?
- Is it dynamic?
If not, then it’s back to the drawing board. But the time spent on thrashing out your communications strategy will make everything that flows from it more focused on what you want to achieve.
If you’re a company in need of support with devising your communications strategy and coming up with suitable tactics to implement it, then please get in touch via this online form.