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Strategy – the one word that counts

By Kerry Savage

As a young agency PR professional, no sooner had I read a client brief than a thousand tactics were whirling around in my head, most of which would generate a slew of media coverage for the client in broad range of media. Job done, we were bound to win the business! But after the inevitable brainstorm and ultimate culling of ideas, many of my tactics never made it into the pitch document. Why was that?

One word: Strategy.

Like many of my fellow junior practitioners, this sounded like a buzzword just to make us appear smarter, and something to be easily confused with objectives and tactics, or even (dare I say) retro fitted to match some of our grander PR ideas, the part of the pitch which took up most of our time.

However, according to their recent State of PR survey, the CIPR found that seven out of 10 respondents now spend most, or at least some, of their time on ‘strategic planning’, the largest rise of any area of practice (10%) compared with their previous year’s research. It now falls just behind media relations which takes up 73% of their time and content creation at 81%.

So why the shift, especially when media coverage is still so important and now more than ever so easily accessible and influential: brands can be born and die in a tweet, anyone with access to the internet is an influencer, and even politicians communicate in 140 characters? Wouldn’t it be better to just invest our PR budget in quick bursts of media activity rather than spend time and effort creating an actual strategy to justify our efforts?

Far from it. As the lines between the role of marketing and PR in social media continue to be blurred, with customers becoming smarter and consuming their news from a myriad of sources, and, of course, with PR budgets continuing to diminish, now more than ever, brands and organizations need a well researched, insight driven PR strategy.

A serious PR strategy created from an amalgamation of business and brand objectives, insights, and research, that culminates in agreed upon outcomes that are tangible and measurable, moves PR from a tactical media relations function to a business partner and trusted advisor role.

Finally, instead of a collection of scatter gun tactics that once seemed to fit the brief, your plan will contain only those that help move the business to where you want it to go: generating sales, shaping opinions, or creating change.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be flexible when a seemingly unmissable opportunity arise, but we should always ask ourselves, how does it fit in with the agreed PR strategy? If it doesn’t, regardless of whether it came from the CEO or the lead client, it shouldn’t be a part of the plan.

Don’t be afraid to stick to your strategy: while it takes time and effort to create, it’s still the backbone of any successful PR campaign.

Kerry teaches CIPR training course at a number of levels: Introduction to PR strategy & planning campaigns and Creating a PR strategy.

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Posted in CPD, Public Relations

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