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Client Planning Should Resemble Meticulous Preparations for the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Client Planning Should Resemble Meticulous Preparations for the Lewis and Clark Expedition

In Stephen Ambrose’s book “Undaunted Courage,” readers learn about the courageous Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the advanced planning and preparation that went into such a grand, historic adventure.  It got me thinking just how important a fraction of such planning is for a client’s public relations program.

Depending on the nature of the agency/client relationship, PR plans can go many different ways.

But there are some key objectives necessary for every plan.  They include:

  • Setting the parameters of a PR program and the appropriate expectations of results with clients
  • Providing guidance on program priorities
  • Establishing a roadmap for tactical execution

Usually, the account executive spearheads the development of a plan in conjunction with other members of an account team, and certainly with the insights of the client’s PR and marketing leads.

From my perspective, each PR plan should be original to a client, given its circumstances, yet still draw upon the best practices of the agency.

Furthermore, the account executive should confirm the form-factor of such a plan.  Is a narrative proposal in Word, a PowerPoint presentation, or an Excel spreadsheet with tabs the best way to communicate the agency’s thought process?  Ask your client before embarking on one vs. another.

It should go without saying, but any plan should be built on sound research, outlining key issues and trends related to a client’s business and market space, and include target audiences, competitors, and influencers.  Brainstorming among client team members is one effective way to generate fresh ideas, and to develop strong communication goals, strategies and tactics in support of the client’s overall business objectives.

A detailed PR plan should consider the following program elements:

  • Situational analysis
  • Share of voice and social amplification
  • Influencing the influencers
  • Target verticals
  • Target audiences
  • Business goals
  • Communication goals
  • PR strategies and recommendations
  • PR tactics (may include such things as editorial calendars, and speaker, award and event research based on the program’s direction)
  • Target influencers (media and others)
  • Budget
  • Calendar of activities
  • PR metrics
  • Any optional program elements for client consideration, such as analyst relations

At its heart, a PR plan establishes the communication objectives, strategies and tactics toward reaching a client’s business goals.  Such materials are crucial to ensuring that all key constituencies – from executives to line-of-business and marketing leaders – are aligned with the direction of the program.  Such a plan serves as a beacon, and ensures that everyone agrees with the program’s elements, metrics, budget and results.

And much like Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery, achievements will be celebrated.

That Ol’ PR Magic…Real Examples from Amendola Clients

The question I hear most often from new clients and prospects is, “How do we know if PR program is working and how can we measure our success?”

It’s not an easy question!

To begin with, the goal of PR is to increase brand awareness…and that’s not an easily quantifiable objective. It almost always comes from multiple touch points, plus calls for insight into different media outlets’ true audience numbers. That’s something my team works hard to get, as we’re not content to just take as a given the numbers these outlets report.

But here’s where the questions about PR success get scary for some in our profession. What customers and prospects really want to know is, how many leads will a PR program generate?

Honestly, this is only quantifiable if you put the work into web analytics and lead scoring, and tightly align your PR and marketing teams. We love our clients that go these extra lengths! Even better if you can align with a service such as Meltwater to measure and track placements and sentiment.

But that said, I have to tell you…we hear from clients regularly that lead gen is a happy byproduct of PR, even when they aren’t taking those extra steps!

Here are just a few real examples of this PR magic:

  • After securing a case study commitment from a hospital that used our client’s predictive analytics, we were able to place this customer success story in a healthcare publication that hospital CIOs regularly read. Sure enough, our client’s phone was soon ringing from a CIO who had read the story and said, “This is the tool we ought to be using.” Shortly after, this hospital launched a pilot of our client’s solution, and from there, became a full-fledged and highly quotable customer.
  • We landed one of our clients a coveted spot on a leading publication’s symposium on the opioid crisis. After the panel discussion, a prospect approached our client, who shared with us, “We basically closed a $1 million deal right then and there.”
  • One of our telehealth clients has raced up the Google rankings thanks to the many PR placements we’ve secured. This has been particularly meaningful for our client’s marketing department, which typically expends significant resources on keeping these rankings high. According to our client, PR has organically done what paid SEO never did: garner the top ranking in the client’s respective space. “And made our competition a distant spec in search ranking!” said our client.
  • 10 minutes after a story we pitched to a trade publication ran the client received a qualified lead.
  • Industry conference publications are a hard outlet to crack unless paying for a spot, but this past year, we managed to secure a number of write ups for Amendola clients, at no cost, in one of the most widely read publications in the lead up to HIMSS18. This resulted in prospects reaching out to our clients, including to one client whose CEO subsequently sent out a memo stating, “This is what PR and marketing does for us.”

Check out more examples of Amendola’s PR magic at our collection of customer success stories here. As you’ll see, PR does work…in many ways, to achieve many different business goals.

Interesting in making some magic with us? Shoot me an email at jamendola@acmarketingpr.com. I’d love to hear from you!