PR Fundamentals: What is a Public Relations Strategy?

Promo Panda Staff
Staff Writer for Promo Panda

The gameplan 

So what is a public relations strategy? 

Like a lot of different PR terms, PR strategy can be defined quite easily, but fully understanding the concept can take a bit more time. 

Just to get the definition out of the way up top, a PR strategy is a plan that determines the goals and, well, the strategy that will drive upcoming public relations efforts. The best PR strategies can be summarized very easily.  

As a PR campaign progresses, PR materials or events and how those materials perform can be measured against that initial strategy. 

But arriving at a condensed and concise public relations strategy can be much more difficult than it seems. 

It will require clear and direct communication with the client, as well as a fair amount of preparation that gives the PR professionals involved a much more accurate understanding of the client’s needs. 

In this article, we’ll talk about that preparation process and some of the different circumstances and events that a PR strategy should account for. 

Preparation 

The guiding concept you should keep in mind when working to form a PR strategy is that it’s the ultimate gameplan. 

Think of this strategy as a guidebook that you and the rest of your PR team will be able to look to in just about any situation. 

It will tell you how to respond to different circumstances and even what to do when things are going well. 

So what work can you do to prepare?

Finding the target audience 

Knowing who your target audience happens to be one of the most crucial considerations when formulating a PR strategy. 

what is a public relations strategy

Determining the target audience is extremely important when forming a PR strategy.

If you don’t know who your target audience is, then the campaign will consist of shots in the dark. 

Picture a wall of balloons at a carnival. If you don’t know which one you need to hit to win the prize, then each throw will be a mystery. You might hit another balloon, but unless it’s the exact one you wanted to hit, it will have been a wasted throw. 

If you can narrow down your client’s target audience to a degree of great specificity, then all of your later campaign efforts will be that much more likely to succeed, and you’ll have a lot more knowledge about which efforts weren’t successful. 

If your client already knows their target audience very well, then you won’t need to spend quite as much time on this. 

But in many cases, you will need to conduct a fair bit of research and pore over a large amount of data to better understand who the campaign should try to reach. 

Determining key messages 

Key messages should be communicated by the campaign itself, and if you don’t know what those key messages are beforehand, then the PR strategy you come up with won’t take into consideration the best ways to communicate those messages. 

For example, if one of the key messages is that the brand is on the cutting edge of their industry, then the strategy can include all sorts of ways to achieve an image of forward-thinking techniques and brand new tech. 

Examples of PR strategy components 

Now we will look at several examples of different PR strategy components; that is, different events or contingencies that your strategy needs to account for. 

We need to stress here that these are just a selection of important public relations strategy components. This is not a comprehensive list, but it should give you a very good idea of how wide-reaching each strategy should be. 

In-person events 

While a PR strategy doesn’t necessarily need to include precise details on how a marketing event should be executed or where exactly it will be held and when, it can easily guide future event planning. 

What should guests of the event feel while they’re attending? What should they be thinking by the time they leave? 

What kind of professionals would you want to invite to a prospective event? Should guests be encouraged to use a pre-determined hashtag? 

If you’re able to provide event planners with a detailed strategy, then the finished product will be that much closer to the ideal vision. 

what is a public relations strategy

Worst-case response 

Even after the most careful planning, things can still go very wrong. A product might have a defect. A new show might have a story beat that the public responds to negatively. 

But even if a campaign goes smoothly at all times and doesn’t encounter any major problems, it’s still important to include worst-case response in the PR strategy. 

If something does happen, then a response team can take a look at the strategy and get specific instructions on what they need to do next and when. 

Without this guidance, damage control can quickly become hectic and ineffective, making the overall situation much worse than it needs to be. 

But if you’ve planned ahead, everyone will thank you in the long run, from other PR team members to lower-level employees and the clients themselves. 

Social media marketing/branded content 

Branded content and social media marketing are a part of just about any contemporary PR campaign, and so it’s very important to know what these efforts should look like long before it’s time to actually make them. 

As with other components we’ve talked about, the more detailed your vision, as explained in the PR strategy, the more accurate to your vision the finished materials will actually be. 

Press coverage 

You need to have a plan for press coverage, even if you can’t guarantee write-ups in the near future. 

This can take quite a bit of research. Look into specific websites that tend to cover related subject matter. Find ways of contacting the proper individuals within these publications. 

what is public relations strategy

You also need to decide what potential articles would actually talk about. Rather than trying to get something written about an entire brand, consider more specific elements of that brand and their recent efforts that might be appealing to publications, journalists, and their readers. 

Who within the client’s company would you want to speak to the press directly?  

If you manage to work out these details ahead of time, then everyone will be much happier with the results once you do secure press coverage. 

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