Planning for PR Impact: The Right Tools for Your Strategy

FrankWilliamsby Frank L. Williams

In last month’s article, I continued my series on Planning for Impact by discussing how to identify strategies to achieve your desired outcomes. As a refresher, planning for impact means that, instead of starting with desired outputs such as sending a certain number of press releases or posting a certain number of items on Facebook, you should begin by discussing your desired outcomes.  Put another way, you should begin by considering what impact you want your public relations program to have.

Two months ago, we established outcome objectives for the fictitious N.C. Widget Manufacturers Association. By outcome objectives, I mean objectives that define what behavior, attitude or opinion you want to achieve from a specific audience in a measurable, time-sensitive way. Last month we identified potential strategies to help NCWMA achieve the objectives we previously identified. 

It is important to remember that strategic thinking is high-level thinking.  Strategies serve as a road map toward your destination, not detailed directions. Your strategy defines your approach. Many people make the mistake of putting tactics before strategy. They dive directly into the weeds before obtaining a 50,000-foot view of the situation. Put another way, they get in the car and start driving before planning out the trip.

Last month, we focused on thinking at the strategic level. This month, we will explore how to begin developing turn-by-turn directions – that is, identifying specific tools and tactics for each strategy.

Below is one of the objectives we previously identified for NCWMA and the strategies we associated with that objective. Each strategy is followed by sample tools and tactics that could be employed. During the course of writing this article, I developed significantly more tools and tactics for each strategy, but in the interest of brevity will only include a few of them here.

OBJECTIVE:  60% of North Carolina citizens surveyed prior to the start of the legislative session view the widget industry favorably. 

Potential strategies (tools and tactics identified in sub-bullets):

Strategy: Position NCWMA as the authoritative, expert source for information on the widget manufacturing industry in North Carolina

  • Post statistics, statements and other news on social media
  • Distribute press releases on the economic impact of the widget industry
  • Distribute press statements on pending legislation and current issues that could impact the widget industry

Strategy: Utilize media relations to increase awareness of NCWMA and the widget industry in North Carolina

  • Distribute press releases on the economic impact of the widget industry
  • Pitch feature stories on the economic impact of the widget industry
  • Distribute press statements on pending legislation and current issues that could impact the widget industry

Strategy: Expand digital outreach to key publics

  • Post frequent updates to Twitter that are relevant to key political influencers, political media and trade media
  • Post frequent updates on public Facebook and LinkedIn pages
  • Utilize private, members-only Facebook and LinkedIn Groups to provide pertinent, timely information to members

Strategy: Highlight the positive economic impact of the widget manufacturing industry

  • Distribute statewide press releases on the economic impact of the widget industry
  • Post economic impact statistics on social media throughout the year and encourage members to share
  • Conduct targeted television and radio advertising campaign highlighting the importance of the widget industry

Strategy: Celebrate major successes achieved by NCWMA members

  • Establish annual awards program, with winners recognized at annual conference
  • Recognize annual award winners on social media
  • Recognize individual achievements of widget manufacturing leaders in North Carolina

Strategy: Showcase community and civic leadership and contributions by NCWMA members.

  • Highlight members’ charitable efforts on social media
  • Highlight members’ charitable efforts in press releases
  • Highlight members’ charitable efforts in email newsletters

The big-picture goals we previously discussed define WHY you are engaging in public relations activities. The objectives established two months ago clarify WHAT behaviors, attitudes or opinions you want to impact, and in what audiences.  Last month we focused on strategies that outline HOW you will approach changing those behaviors, attitudes and opinions. This article explores the “HOW-TO” by identifying tools and tactics to incorporate into each strategy. Your next step would be to identify specific ACTIVITIES/ACTION ITEMS to be implemented, with task deadlines and a responsible party who will be held accountable for their completion.

Frank L. Williams

Frank is the founder and president of Pioneer Strategies.