2019 is looming, and before you put your feet up and dive headfirst into the Christmas chocolates, you need to get prepared for the year ahead.
Many start-ups and small businesses delay planning PR activities due to uncertainty around business plans and the unpredictability of the news agenda. Yet, while staying fluid is fundamental when it comes to PR, so too is putting a broad strategy in place. PR as a discipline can sometimes seem ‘intangible’ and ‘hard to manage’ to small businesses. Formalising your approach and processes will help you to take control, drive your own agenda, create accountability and stay on track.
Here are our top tips to help you on your way:
2018 review and collaboration
You can’t move forward, without looking back, which is why your first step should be to conduct a brief review of what worked and what didn’t in 2018. If you’ve had support from an agency or freelancer over the year, ask them to help you, but do try to keep it focused. Lengthy powerpoint reviews might have their place in certain businesses, but they’re a luxury that most small businesses don’t have time for
Most importantly, if you do have PR support, then work collaboratively throughout this process, using it as an opportunity to learn together and build enthusiasm for the year ahead.
- If you set targets, did you meet them? If not, why not and does it matter?
- Were the targets you set the right ones? What do you want to measure next year?
- What worked well and was time well spent?
- What didn’t work well and how can you learn from it?
- How could you operate more efficiently?
- Where do you need to focus your efforts next year?
Work with key stakeholders to agree agree business priorities for the year ahead, and use these to develop your communications objectives. It can be easy to fire from the hip with PR ideas, but by linking your planned activities directly back to business objectives, you’ll ensure your PR strategy stays on point and delivers real value to the bottom line.
If you’re planning to support several areas of the business through PR, a useful exercise is to weight and rank your communications objectives in order of importance. This creates clarity and sets expectations with stakeholders from the get-go.
This is the fun part. Get brainstorming and get creative. Involve people from all parts of the business, along with your external freelancer or agency and, with your objectives in hand, come up with as many ideas as you can.
Try and hold your brainstorm out of the office to help stimulate ideas. A fellow business owner might have a space you can borrow, or a private room in a cafe or restaurant can work well. Make sure it’s a space where everyone can hear each other well and communicate, and where you have lots of whiteboard space and flipcharts to get your ideas down!
Congratulations, you’re now ready to draft your PR plan. Armed with your objectives and a host of creative ideas, you can now look at these alongside your budget and plot activity across the year. Again, this might be something that you can ask your external PR pro to help you with, or at least feed into. A few pointers:
- Make sure you spread your ‘bigger’ ideas across the year and look for moments when they will have the most impact. For example, is there a ‘national’ day you can align your announcement to?
- Avoid planning major activity for times when you know your target media will be preoccupied or busy. For example, if you work in financial services, avoid planning anything around The Budget. If you work for a company involved in food, avoid launching anything at the beginning or end of The Great British Bake Off!
- Allow time (and budget!), for everyday work – ongoing proactive and reactive media relations, content development, competitor monitoring etc… Agree what you want covered day-to-day – often termed ‘retainer’ work – and who is going to do it.
- Allow for contingency. As with all business functions, things change throughout the year. Make sure you have some budget set aside to pay for support with unforeseen PR activities.
Close the loop
Plan in hand, share it with the rest of your business. Having ensured buy-in throughout the process, everyone should already be on board. Setting expectations from the word ‘go’ and being clear on ideas, timings and budgets will ensure you have a smooth journey into 2019, and are ready to face whatever the year throws at you!
If you’re short on time or expertise to plan your 2019 PR strategy, then The Work Crowd has a whole community of expert freelancers who can help. To find out more about how it works, just give us a call on 020 3828 8440 or drop us a line at *protected email*.