Five Essential Steps In PR Campaign Planning

Sarah Segal

five essential steps in pr campaign planning

Remember when you learned to write informative essays using the 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When, and Why)? Understanding how to manipulate the five Ws also translates directly to the five essential steps for PR campaign planning.  

In this case, however, you’ll change the order around just a bit – getting clear about: 

  1. Why: Why are you launching this campaign? What are your ultimate goal(s) or desired outcomes? 
  2. Who: Who are you trying to reach? And who are the connections you have that can expand your network across bigger, larger channels? 
  3. What: What communication approaches and verbiage will you use to communicate with the public? 
  4. Where: Where do you plan to engage target audience members? 
  5. When: The timeline that will track the start and end to each of your communications?  

5 W’s Of PR Campaign Planning

If you and your PR team are not clear on these key steps in a campaign’s framework, it will be a struggle to gain the momentum required to make the campaign a success.

The Why: Setting clear goals is your first step 

Establishing the campaign’s ultimate goal(s) is essential to know where you want to end up, and who and what you’ll leverage to achieve that. While “increase sales” may be the obvious goal, each of your campaigns should tackle that ultimate goal. 

And, of course, there isn’t just one Why in a campaign; there are several: 

  • Why are we doing this? 
  • Why are we using the words and verbiage we’ve created? 
  • Why are we using these particular outlets, platforms, or PR channels? 
  • Why are we doing it now?  

These “why” questions aren’t a one-and-done event. Rather, they should be asked every step of the campaign’s way so messaging, targeting, outlets, timing, etc. are always aligned in the same, thoughtful direction. 

If you go about things willy-nilly, without a focused approach to the various “whys,” a campaign can take on a chaotic life of its own, and the final destination may be far from where you intended it to be. 

The Who: PR campaign planning should have a target audience  

There will be plenty of Whos to consider, from the audience members you want to reach out to and engage with, to those who help you publish, promote, and share the messages you send out into the world. 

In addition to your obvious targets – the people you want to sell products and services to (current and prospective customers) – there are other Whos worth considering such as: 

  • The internal stakeholders (board members, investors, key company players) 
  • The general public 
  • Colleagues or competitors 
  • Vendors, partners, and/or sponsors 
  • Influencers, community movers-and-shakers, and celebrities 
  • The media 

Come back to this list over and over again throughout the campaign journey (always keeping the Whys in mind), so you reach out to the right people, at the right time. 

If you are launching a new business or are still in the beginning phases of developing brand awareness, you’ll use a DIY PR approach, leveraging your personal/staff contacts and community network. Once you are big enough to work with a professional public relations agency, you’ll find that their Whos are part of what makes your investment worthwhile because they have the network contacts and media VIP lists required to launch your campaign in bigger and better ways. 

The What: How will you create and generate effective content and messaging?  

From your initial announcements and content that addresses your target audience’s immediate questions, the What is all about content, messaging, and more content and messaging. 

The smaller “Whats” of the greater What is in perpetual motion. With each message, promotional content piece, media spotlight, etc., you’ll always address the questions: 

  • What are we trying to say here with respect to our audience? Keep in mind these messages may vary depending on the target demographics or a particular channel. For example, if you gain a spotlight on a talk show about mindfulness, you’ll use a different language and approach than you would during a local sports show feature.  
  • What questions will the audience have for me? If you’ll be speaking in an interview, you’ll have practiced a range of responses. If you are producing text-based content, you’ll want to have links to your FAQs where prospects can learn more. 
  • Are there tough questions to answer? If you foresee tough questions, prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. If you contract with PR firm, be prepared to undergo training around these questions so you know how to answer them, or how to pause, remain neutral, and formulate the most appropriate response.  
  • What communication channels make the most sense for this message? Blogs and press releases are an entirely different species than Tweets and Facebook posts. Keep messages aligned within the parameters of potential channels or platforms. That said, your messages should always have a unified theme. If a family gathers at dinner and discusses what they learned about your campaign from their individual information streams, the basic gist of your message should be the same across the board. 

The Where: Where do you plan to get the word out? 

Along those same lines, an essential step in your campaign planning is deciding where you plan to get the word out. Cover all of your bases, including:

  • Your website 
  • Newsletters 
  • Social media channels 
  • Your blog 
  • Traditional media 
  • Advertising channels (including print, TV, movie theater ads, radio broadcasts, etc.) 
  • Podcasts 
  • Press conference(s) 
  • Newswire distributions 

The list goes on. Again, without onboarding a PR firm, you will need to access in-house and network connections to coordinate the best “in” to access channels outside of your own digital platforms. 

The When: How do you create a savvy timeline? 

Finally, you need to create a campaign timeline. And, you’ll need to work backward. This is a challenging thing to learn when you’re new at PR campaign planning, but practice makes better – if not always perfect.  

First and foremost, make sure all of your stakeholders, investors, and key players understand the timeline so nobody releases information before it is supposed to be released. The wrong “spoiler alert” can blow (or deflate) the whole campaign. 

As you review the channels available to broadcast your message, you’ll need to work backward to figure out a savvy deadline schedule. Each columnist, newspaper, monthly publications, news channel, and so on have their own deadlines for when (and how) information needs to be received. You need to sync your timeline – and messaging – in accordance with their deadlines. Finally, you’ll need to correlate and sync the release of pertinent information across all channels.

Searching For A PR Agency?

Looking for some assistance so you don’t miss any of the five essential steps in PR campaign planning? Contact us here at Segal Communications. We can work a set amount of time to help you set up your campaign, or we can work with you every step of the way to ensure your goals are met as planned.

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