Choosing and applying the right PR tools

Setting clear goals for building your reputation and understanding your target market will help you choose the right public relations (PR) tools for the job. These steps will help guide your PR decisions.

Decide on your PR goals

Think about the type of reputation you want to build for you business. What do you want to be known for? What characteristics will draw new customers to you? What is newsworthy about your business? What are some big ideas to get customers talking about you?

To develop effective PR strategies you need to set SMART goals:

  • Specific — state clearly what you want to achieve
  • Measurable — set tangible measures so you can measure your results
  • Achievable — set objectives that are within your capacity and budget
  • Relevant — set objectives that will help you improve particular aspects of your business
  • Time-bound — set objectives you can achieve within the time you need them.

Develop your key messages

Develop a series of statements that answer the who, what, where, when and why of your business. These statements are referred to as key messages and can be used as part of your PR material to showcase your business’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Key messages are factual and are usually no longer than one sentence. Typically you should have no more than 5-6 key messages.

Develop a PR budget

Like all marketing tactics, you need to invest money in your PR. Some businesses may choose to appoint a PR agency to handle your PR activity. Effectively you are paying them for their time, usually at an hourly rate. If you choose to conduct PR activities yourself there may be a number of things you may need to budget for, including:

  • direct mail of media kits
  • promotional items
  • events
  • sponsorship
  • brochures.

Set a budget that will help you plan and support your annual investment in PR.

Identify your target audiences

Consider your market research, or refer to your marketing plan, and list your target market segments.

Review the information about who your customers are, how they live and where they get their information from. This information will help you identify your best PR tools and tactics.

Narrow down your best PR opportunities

Always be on the hunt for interesting stories, angles and anecdotes about your business. Identify the 'material' that will help build your chosen profile. Make this a habit that is part of the way you and your team think.

Choose material that is topical, interesting, stands out from the crowd, and best fits your target audiences. Matching your PR material to your target audiences will help you choose your most effective PR tools.

For example, you might produce a story about the anniversary of your third-generation family business for seniors in your community through a local newspaper, newsletters for community groups such as Lions or Rotary, and a senior citizens magazine. This may involve a media release with a case study of business growth, with professionally photographed images and by pitching a member of the family as a spokesperson to media.

Tailor PR to your target audience

PR and media tools exist for each of your customer segments. Your task is to match your media to your market. Consider the list of PR tools and activities and choose the best media channels to reach your customers.

Research community groups, websites, publications and local and regional media sources — and start to build records of distribution sources matched to your target markets.

Review social media sources and seek advice from PR professionals if you need direction on how to access your customers through the fast-changing world of social media.

Developing a list of media sources that reach your customer base will help you choose your mix of tools. This is typically referred to as a media database.

For example, you want to promote your outdoor adventure store by generating publicity about a member of your staff who recently won an international rock-climbing competition. You want to target outdoor sports adventurers and youth consumers in your community. You use:

  • social media sites to connect with journalists who will release your story
  • Facebook and your website to tell your customers about the achievement
  • sponsorship of a local community 'active youth' project aimed at promoting youth health and fitness — using your staff member as an ambassador
  • a community event to raise funds for the outreach project
  • a media release to local newspapers publicising the win, the active youth project and your sponsorship
  • your own newsletter to promote the story to your own database.

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