PR plans always fail without clear objectives

14 September 2022 | 4 min read | PR
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

I love it when a marketing or managing director tells me that they ‘tried’ PR once, but it didn’t work for them. A little prodding soon shines a light on why this is. The reason is always down to one or a combination of the following three things:

  • The client didn’t set any objectives and desired business outcomes so they had no idea what a ‘successful’ public relations project or campaign would look like.
  • If honest with themselves, they didn’t fully understand how public relations differs to advertising and marketing, what it does for businesses and brands in terms of building brand awareness, influencing opinion and perception, and how it supports existing lead generation activities.
  • Perhaps more important, they saw PR as a cheaper alternative to traditional advertising and marketing and simply didn’t invest in their PR yet expected… feck knows.

I sold advertising for 11 years before transitioning into the world of public relations and writing. Every advertising campaign I was involved in had a clear brief from the client:

  • ‘This is our target audience’
  • ‘This is what we want to tell them’
  • This is what we want them to do’

It was strategic and invariably linked to the overarching goals of the business.

The same strategic approach must also be taken when creating a public relations plan. I do understand, however, that this is easier said than done – especially if your business has never done PR before let alone worked with an external agency like the most mighty Clearly!

 So, here’s a few ideas to kick-start your thought process when it comes to determining the ‘objectives’:

Setting objectives

Be clear on why you want to do PR for your business and what you hope to get from it. Consider the following thought-provoking (at least I hope they are) questions to ask yourself:

  • Are we looking to raise brand awareness?
  • Are we seeking to position our key people as thought leaders?
  • Are we aiming to enhance our reputation as a product, service, or employer of choice?
  • Are we seeking to raise perception of our organisation as a leading player in our field?
  • Do we want to increase customer retention and increase sales via referrals?
  • Are we looking to increase customer engagement and satisfaction?

Once you have a handle on your expectations, you then need to set about formally encapsulating them in a single objective statement. Here are a few examples:

  • ‘To become firmly positioned as a go-to talent partner for fast-growing tech companies throughout the UK, drive sales beyond £100 million, and increase our market share by 10 per cent over the next 12 months.’
  • ‘To boost the profile of the business among investors and shareholders to help position the business for sale or flotation by 2025.’
  • ‘To raise awareness of a pioneering embryo-imaging technique and increase the number of couples opting to trial this new procedure by 25 per cent over the next 12 months.‘
  • ‘To position our organisation as an employer of choice for graduates and increase applications to our graduate scheme by 30 per cent in the next 12 months.’
  • ‘To grow our customer base in China by 10 per cent, Eastern Europe by 30 per cent and the Middle East by 45 per cent within 12 months.‘
  • ‘To increase the number of overseas delegates attending our annual conference by 35 per cent.‘
  • To encourage more UK households to join our energy saving scheme, with the aim of increasing homeowner take-up by 50 per cent in the next 12 months.’

The objective statements above all have something in common: they are clear and specific. None of this fluffy PR nonsense.

Each of them is aspirational in their goal setting and this is backed up with a tangible measurement, whether it be a monetary or percentage value.

Successful PR projects and campaigns all start with a clear understanding of the outcomes that the business seeks to achieve. Armed with this awareness, all that is left to do is:

  • Identify the tactics with the greatest potential to achieve the goals you have set.
  • Assign responsibility to your internal team or external PR agency.
  • Allocate the appropriate budget that wilk maximise your PR ROI.

PR only ever fails when it isn’t done right. The results may take longer to come compared to advertising and marketing, but their impact and over time is more significant. If you need a steer with your PR, do let me know.