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What is PR Strategy?

PR Strategy

First published in Imagemanagement.in (http://imagemanagement.in/?p=4022)

Suggest a good PR Strategy… These have been the scariest words for me till date as I have no shame in admitting that I have never truly understood what it actually means. While in an agency, my boss once called all the Account Managers in his cabin and asked us ‘Explain, what do you mean by a PR Strategy?’ We all came up with one smart answer, which were basically what we can tactically do achieve PR coverage. So after ridiculing us for 15 minutes, he explained us that Strategy means an ‘Art of War’, it means the macro plan of what you will do to achieve the desired results. And the activities? That you will execute on a daily basis are all tactical approaches to achieve the overall strategic objective. Rest of the managers must have got enlightened with this thought but I could only understand that whatever we have been suggesting to our clients till date was only a tactical approach and not a strategy. Clients who bought our plans were probably as smart as us, but I still couldn’t figure out what Strategy actually means. Request all readers to help me in building my understanding on this super buzz word of our business.

All the PR books that I read, conferences and seminars that I attended again and again repeatedly claim that Media is just one component of a well thought our PR Strategy. It is about deploying a combination of communications tactics used across mediums to continuously shape and influence public opinions.

And in reality all these years I have been running behind media only to get what is obviously expected out of me i.e. Coverage. Even when I moved to the corporate side, no matter what is suggested in the plans, what we actually run behind is the laundry list of things that can be done to get more and more and more Coverage.strategy

Does Strategy include coming up with few bright ideas that are synergistic with branding/business objectives of the company? Does it mean that the ideas suggested should communicate the key messages that the brand wants to share with its publics/stakeholders?

If the above is correct then the starting point in developing a PR strategy is to first understand the company’s business and communication objectives, and what  is the overall marketing plan   but how many of us really have access to the above information. Ofcourse if we are part of an Integrated overall marketing approach then we can easily come up with a plan on how we can integrate PR in the multi-layered marketing plan.

Then comes creating those key messages and I am sure that most of the PR plans fails to achieve its desired objective because the messages that we create sound like Advertising Slogans and fail to create messages that resonates with the target audience?. Why should a journalist turn into a company’s sales representative and start broadcasting your ad messages? Hence understanding and drafting the appropriate key messages becomes the most critical part of a PR Strategy. To do this probably we need to dig deep into the company’s business, understand the objectives, challenges faced and link it up to the industry that it operates in and the overall environment that can impact the business sector.

Next may be to try and figure out how we disseminate these messages using various tools that are not as misused, abused and beaten to death like our poor Press Releases. May be through creating Industry relevant White papers, case studies, hard hitting opinion pieces that can go on to establish the company as  an industry thought leaders. Working along with the media or industry bodies in creating round tables for industry relevant discussions can also go a long way in extending credibility amongst the company’s stakeholders. Tracking and negotiating speaking opportunities in seminars, conferences can also increase the chances of company spokespeople to been seen as opinion makers by the journalists.

But to achieve the above it is important that the company top management works with its PR partners more actively. They may agree with you but in the end nothing may actually happen and the reasons can be many such as lack of content, lack of time quick approvals from the company’s end  on content that  is  quintessential to drive the above. Spokespersons may not be adequately trained or lack confidence to speak at various forums etc., So the responsibility of the PR partners is to then gauge the problems and help bridge the gap by aiding the client to develop the required materials using their own in-house resources and domain expertise. Invest in training the spokespeople and help build their confidence.

Again easier said than done but if we are able to do that then, we would be the most valued partners for the company and the CEO. We would not be seen as postmen/vendors/aggregators but knowledge partners.

Now, coming back to my earlier question. Do the above qualify to be called as a PR Strategy? If not then please enlighten me and folks like me and help to understand  how to draft a PR strategy? Your comments, feedback will be most welcome. You can leave your comments on my blog www.vikypedia.in or just drop a line on Twitter @vikramkharvi.

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