In a time when consumer pressure is more evident and powerful than ever before, one piece of negative press at an unfortunate time can snowball into a brand disaster that essentially leaves you radioactive. Classic scheduled (and largely reactive) PR methods are facing significant challenges—but what about a more agile approach?
Agile methodology has been standard issue in the world of project management for quite some time now, and it’s easy to see why. Traditional ‘waterfall’ style project management was cumbersome and inflexible and produced below-par results. With some added agility, PR workers could have more luck navigating the choppy waters of public opinion.
In this piece, we’re going to cover what every new business owner needs to know about agile PR: what it involves, what it can accomplish, and how they can use it.
How agile PR compares to standard PR
Borrowing from standardized methodology, agile PR is far more active and adaptable than traditional PR. Let’s compare some scenarios to see what this looks like.
An old-school PR manager might set out a fully-fledged plan for how to proceed for a year, focusing on distributing press releases, hosting events, and securing featured pieces in relevant publications, all while remaining on their toes in case of a sudden brand image emergency requiring them to put out some fires.
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An agile PR manager, however, would be far more likely to set short-term goals, pursue them, review the results, and decide further goals based on the new situation. Their work would be more changeable but also more nuanced in its execution—rather than getting the go-ahead for a 12-month strategy, they’d need the authority to make ad-hoc decisions and carry them out.
It equips you to change with the times
Today’s digital world moves astonishingly quickly. You can lay out a strong strategy in January and find that a solid portion of it feels behind the times by March. Tastemakers are more numerous, varied, and niche-specific, which means they can spring out of nowhere to achieve great prominence seemingly overnight.
Agile PR gives you regular opportunities to stop, review the landscape, and decide whether to continue with your anticipated course of action or revise your strategy in light of changed circumstances. That way, instead of relying exclusively on stable but low-interest investments in steadfast outlets, you can secure cost-effective publicity through the newest hit influencers, then move on if their influence wanes.
And instead of having a set of queued social media posts on generic topics, you can take your brand conversation live, touching upon current events attracting huge influxes of traffic. It’s risky, yes—assume an inappropriate tone or step on the wrong toes and you can doom yourself—but as long as your PR person is competent, it will majorly boost your engagement levels with an efficiency that a press release could only dream of.
It allows rapid improvement through iteration
Once you’ve committed to a fixed-term PR strategy, you’re in something of a bind when it comes to expedient assessment. If the metrics indicate that the results aren’t there, you have two options, neither one of which is ideal:
- Stop the campaign, chalk it down as a failure, and look to restart it with some revisions.
- Leave the campaign running in the hope that it will eventually achieve its objectives.
The former is messy, because halting an in-progress campaign looks bad and presents an organizational nightmare. The latter might sound preferable, but if the end result is that the campaign continued to be ineffective for the rest of its planned duration, you’ll have wasted even more resources on it.
Agile PR splits up all of your PR work into digestible chunks (try doing this for user stories when planning your content). You carry out a piece of work, review it, and repeat the process. Every time you carry out an assessment, you arm yourself with information that will help you make the next piece of work better than the last.
This is vital for a new business owner because you need to work doubly hard to gain PR traction in the short term. Even if you’ve managed to find your ideal starter store with the business model you want and an existing customer base you’re happy serving, you still need to put your own stamp on the brand or you’ll feel ineffectively generic. Rapid iteration will allow you to get up to speed with user requirements and demonstrate your commitment to excellence.
How you can adopt an agile PR approach
Agile PR might sound intimidating, but it really doesn’t need to be. The advent of countless marketing automation tools and outsourcing options has made it perfectly possible to carry out some granular PR work without taking up hours of your day. Consider the following:
- Comprehensive PR monitoring solutions require some basic configuration and monthly fees, but take care of everything from scouring the internet for mentions of your brand to giving you a meaningful breakdown of how your individual PR campaign facets are performing.
- Virtual assistants can be found to do some manual work at a frequency of your choosing. The work won’t be anywhere near as advanced as you’d get some dedicated software, but it’s fairly cheap, so it could be a jumping-off point if you want to trial agile PR.
- You can try taking a more active role in your own PR, though on a limited basis to avoid interfering with your main duties. By getting involved in social media discussions and getting a live look at how your brand is being talked about and perceived, you can learn a lot about how to adjust your approach to business.
The beauty of agile PR is that you don’t need a complex plan for it—in fact, that’s contrary to the whole idea. It’s more about embracing spontaneity and learning to work out what will get results at a given time. Use any resources available to see if it suits your approach to business. It could prove transformative!