A truly successful PR campaign goes well beyond simply pitching and getting coverage. There are several intertwined components which take place before, during and after a campaign which help maximize the chance for success. With experience as an internal PR executive and over 16 years on the agency side, I have seen a wide range of situations and approaches. Here are my 7 keys to success:
- Set Clear Goals: This seems obvious, but is often overlooked. The goal of simply “getting press coverage” is not specific enough. What is your company looking to achieve with this press coverage? Are you looking to increase product sales, raise money from investors, improve employee recruiting, raise your company’s profile within an industry, etc.? The answers to these questions will dictate the kind of coverage, targets and messages that are most appropriate for your campaign.
- Have a Strategy-Driven Budget, Not a Budget-Driven Strategy: No successful entrepreneur has ever started their business with the thought “what kind of company can I start for X dollars?” It’s backwards thinking. First you generate the great idea, and then figure out what it costs and how to finance it. Promoting your product or business with a PR campaign should be no different. Arbitrarily assigning a budget and trying to shoehorn in a campaign gets everything off on the wrong foot. Instead, think about your goals, the ideal tactics required to accomplish them, and let them guide the budget.
- Align Expectations: “Success” is usually dictated by expectations. So making sure everyone is on the same page is vital. A critical but often elusive component is taking a long, honest look in the mirror and assessing where your product/brand fits into the larger landscape. Is it genuinely newsworthy and interesting? Do you have the appropriate budget to meet your expectations? The answers to questions like these will identify any gaps in opinion warranting discussion, and allow you to align the team’s expectations.
- Tactical Purpose: In the world of PR, time means both money and opportunity. Therefore, every single one of your tactics and activities should have a specific purpose in the campaign that marries back to one of your overall goals. Simply doing something to “check off a box” is both counter-productive and wasteful. After a campaign plan is completed, it’s always smart to take a step back to review and scrutinize each tactic to ensure its effectiveness in achieving your goals.
- Connective Tissue: PR activities that occur in a silo or as one-offs are rarely effective. Tactics that connect across the entirety of the campaign, build upon each other, and integrate with other marketing activities are what make campaigns successful. I like to call it “connective tissue”. In addition to employing consistent messaging, you should ask yourself: “What does this activity accomplish and how does it tie-in and build towards the next one?” If that answer isn’t clear, then you might want to rethink its value.
- Real-Time Evaluation: Even the greatest strategic minds cannot predict with absolute certainty how each tactic will unfold or how messaging will resonate across the wider landscape. Smart and successful PR campaigns know this ahead of time, and continually evaluate tactics and messaging in real-time, refining and reacting as necessary. The secret is knowing when/where to make changes, and not overreacting to an insufficient data sample.
- Agency Fit: Over the last 15+ years I’ve witnessed hundreds of criteria used in the agency selection process. Among the most common are costs, location, past success, etc. However, finding the perfect agency partner often involves less tangible elements that are often categorized as “fit.” It’s perhaps one of the most important components to a successful campaign. Does the agency have enthusiasm for your brand or product? Do you trust their feedback and insights? Do you like them as people? All of these end up being critically important when working closely on a daily basis, and when campaigns hit a tough stretch and tensions run high, it’s important to know your agency has your back.
Guest contributor Lance Seymour is the co-founder of HighWater Group, a New York City-based PR and marketing agency founded in 1999 with clients ranging from leading global consumer electronics brands and video game publishers, to gadget and emerging smart home technology start-ups.