In this opinion piece, Herd MSL head of strategy Stu Wragg explains why now might be the time to update your PR strategy.
The COVID pandemic has changed things fast for all businesses, and with that PR strategies relevant just months ago are now under review.
To understand more on how brands are approaching communications during these times, I recently led a panel discussion with comms leaders from a broad range of businesses. One of my takeaways from that discussion was just how much the crisis has challenged approaches to planning and executing. Faced with a fast-moving crisis, brands have been forced to shift from long-term planning to quick-thinking execution, grounded in the here and now.
As restrictions to the lockdown begin to loosen and glimpses of ‘normality’ appear, comms teams are understandably turning their attention back to the longer-term, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a return to ‘the way things were done.’
The need to be creative, adaptable and smart with resources will remain critical in the months ahead. Effective PR strategies are those that enable that, so to check whether yours is up to scratch consider the four questions below.
1. Does your strategy help your team make decisions?
I’ve always thought a good strategy is a working document that helps guide day-to-day decision-making. In this way the usefulness of a PR strategy is as much about helping you decide what you shouldn’t do as what you should do. To ensure your strategy assists, consider the choices you’re likely to face in the weeks ahead and stress-test the usefulness of your strategy to help you tackle decision-making. For example, if you need to prioritise investment in one proactive campaign over another, the core pillars of your strategy should serve as a decision-making filter. If they don’t, consider making some changes.
2. Is your strategy insight-led?
The pace of events means planned tactical activities will need to be constantly reviewed. At the same time, quick decisions must also be smart decisions, so data is your friend. Consider the information sources you need to access for decision-making in the year ahead. That might include social media conversation sentiment, call centre insights or earned media intelligence. Ideally all these data points are fed into one place to make life easier. In my experience, if you don’t have a system in place to capture and assess key data points you risk wasting time chasing data to analyse, and can miss your time to act.
3. Is your strategy memorable?
PR programs are rarely executed by individuals. Whether it’s an internal team or an agency partner, it’s generally a team effort to ‘get the job done’. Successful teams, particularly when thinking about what lies ahead, require clarity of focus to do their best work. That can be difficult however when your strategy is hard to keep top-of-mind. Ideally your PR strategy can be summarised on a page or articulated in a few sentences that everyone can recall. If it’s not possible for most folks to remember your strategy without digging out the doc it’s time for an edit.
4. Is your strategy remove of jargon?
We might not like to admit it but our industry is full of jargon and that jargon seeps into the plans and strategies we write. That’s a problem during and emerging out of lockdown as clarity of action and message is critical. Help your team and audiences by ensuring your PR strategy uses clear, plain and easy-to-understand language. That will not only create efficiencies in execution but more likely result in the output of clear, concise and understandable communications to your organisation’s internal and external audiences.
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