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Brand reputation is everything. Won’t you agree? There is no way your business can be doing well if it hasn’t earned credibility or worse still, has developed a bad reputation. This is where public relation comes into the picture.

Public relations refers to the practice of shaping and maintaining a positive reputation for your organization. It is all about the art of telling impactful stories that build brand credibility and portray your organization in a positive light. Moreover, public relation also plays a major role in crisis management such that there is minimal damage caused to the brand in times of crisis.

No matter how large or small your business is, it needs a robust PR plan. If you are one of those who are confused between advertising and public relations – understand that you don’t need to choose between the two and that both can coexist to meet your business goals.

In fact, as per Content Marketing Institute, 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement and asJean Louis-Gassée rightly puts it, “Advertising is saying you are good. PR is getting someone else to say you’re good.”

Well, if you are new to the PR game and don’t know where to begin, here are 10 ways to ensure a successful public relations campaign –

Define Your Objective

The first step is to define the objective of your PR campaign – what is it that you want to achieve out of this? A clear objective sets the foundation for the campaign and ensures everyone is running towards one common goal.

Make sure your objectives are S.M.A.R.T – specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. This helps you properly evaluable the effectiveness of the campaign. Your PR objective needs to ultimately be in line with your business objectives.

So, whether it’s creating awareness about a new product, supporting a noble cause or informing the public about changes in your company – setting PR objectives is key to a successful campaign.

Identify Your Audience

The second step is to identify your target audience, in short who are you directing your PR message to? Whether you are a fashion retailer who wants to reach out to millennials or a healthcare startup catering to hospitals – having a clear idea of the target audience lets you deliver the message effectively.

You need to know what they read and watch across print and digital mediums, what binds your customers together and what their demographics are.

Invest time and effort in doing this research before you get down to planning the campaign in order to devise a plan that resonates with your target audience and strikes a chord.

Devise a PR Plan

Now that you have established your PR campaign goal and target audience, it is time to devise a comprehensive PR plan.

A PR plan basically includes HOW you plan to achieve the objective you have set out to achieve. It begins with choosing the channels you want to communicate your message on, the activity you want to undertake keeping in mind the timelines and budgets in hand.

Public relations is evolving – it is no longer bound to just writing and distributing a press release. In today’s digital world, PR also includes an optimal mix of leveraging social media, SEO, link building and influencer collaborations to effectively tell the brand story. In fact, 60% of PR executives believe that content creation and working with social media influencers will be vital parts of public relation efforts in the future.

So, ensure your PR plan considers thenew-age trends and goes beyond the traditional channels.

Develop Your Message

This is hands down the most crucial aspect of your PR campaign. No matter how robust a plan you have – if your messaging isn’t powerful and impactful enough, it won’t have any takers.

While developing your PR message, ensure it is clear, concise and valuable. Keep the jargon behind and craft a message that evokes emotion in your readers. A strong message is what will fuel your outreach efforts and materialize your pitches.

Don’t bombard the media with the same old drab PR pitches – work on a creative angle that is bound to capture their interest and attention. Be it organizing an exclusive sneak-peek event for the media or sharing compelling infographics with them – make sure your message is engaging and interesting enough.

Work on a Media List

A media list comprises of the list of publications and media houses you would like to target with your PR message.

The key is to focus on a specific list of journalists and influencers who write about the topics that are in line with your product, offering or industry. While creating your media list, do consider social media influencers and digital publications as well as they are the major content drivers at present.

You need to work on a smart media list that will yield coverage instead of sending it out to multiple publications without doing prior research on their fields of interest.

It always helps to maintain a master PR list and update it on a regular basis – that way you don’t want to waste too much time on gaining contacts just before a campaign.

Draft the Press Release

You may wonder if a press release is still relevant and as impactful in today’s world – the answer is that it very much is provided you keep it relevant to the changing times.

While brands have started to make their announcements via social media and blog posts, the press release still serves as an official document that has all the information required. Instead of just relying on one press release, team it up with appealing visuals in the form of videos and infographics – giving journalists more fodder to work with.

So yes, the press release still holds importance in this digital world so ensure it is well-written with a catchy headline and compelling story.

If you don’t have a PR agency to rely on, you can also outsource the press release drafting to experts such as a writing service to handle it for you.

Media Outreach

All your PR material is ready for dispatch along with your target media list – what’s remaining is reaching out the media. This is a crucial step that can make or break.

Media outreach refers to contacting journalists and pitching the PR story to them. If you’re lucky and if you have an interesting pitch, your story gets picked the first time around but what happens when you don’t hear back from them? After all, you don’t want to harass the journalist, but you do want an update on the email you sent.

If you haven’t heard from a journalist, give them a call after 2-3 days. Now that you are on call with them, reiterate your PR message and ask them if they are interested in publishing your piece. Some journalists can be in an irritable mood but there is no need to get intimidated – be confident, polite and sure of what you want to achieve from that call.

Share on Social Media

Whether it’s getting your CEO to post thought leadership articles on LinkedIn or collaborating with an influencer to reiterate your campaign on Instagram – social media can do wonders to your PR strategy. The lines between social media and PR are blurring, giving brands all the more reason to leverage the powerful tool social media is.

You can also repurpose your press release for social media for your followers to see. Not just that, you can also interact with journalists and comment on their posts – this an important part of relationship building.

Another small but effective way to include social media in PR is by adding social shareability buttons in your press release. This aids in social sharing.

Measure Impact

Like all marketing campaigns, even your PR campaign needs to end with measuring the impact it has had. The simplest way to gauge that is by measuring the number of mentions or clippings your PR campaign has fetched. More the clippings, better the reach!

You can also carry out surveys after your PR campaign to understand if people heard of your brand, new product or offerings. Last but not the least, do consider the mentions you get on social media and if there are any conversations surrounding the campaign.

While all these factors ensure a successful PR campaign, the crux of PR lies in media relations. PR is as much about managing relations as it is about storytelling. Strong relationships are built over time so ensure you take the effort to invest in it. Don’t be that PR person who reaches out to journalists only when needed. It is always a good idea to stay connected and connect with them at a personal level.

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