When you need to drive to a new destination, you look to Google Maps to help find the best route. When you want to renovate or build a house, you work with someone to develop and approve a floor plan, establish a budget, and a coordinate a construction schedule. And when you get a loan for a car, you agree to regular payments that suit your budget. In order to accomplish a goal, you need a plan, schedule, and budget. These are the same essential elements of an effective public relations (PR) strategy.
In our What is PR and Why Do I Need It? column, we referenced PR as an important component of any comprehensive marketing strategy. The keyword here is “strategy.” Careful thought needs to be put into how your PR initiatives support overall marketing and business goals so you can outline a PR program that maintains consistency and reinforces the bigger picture plan.
To get you in a strategic cannabis PR mindset, these are some of the things you need to think about:
- Why do you need PR? What are you trying to accomplish?
- What multiple objectives will help you achieve your goal?
- Who is your audience(s)?
- What are the key messages you want to share?
- How can you reach your desired audience(s)?
- What is the timeline for your plan?
- What is your available budget?
- How will you measure success?
We know PR can be somewhat of a mystery to organizations, so whether you are hiring someone to help or you want to get started internally, we want you to understand the key components of a thoughtful PR plan. This will help guide your thought process and determine where you may need a little extra support.
The first step in the planning process is identifying the “why” behind your PR initiatives. What is your organization’s current situation? What are you trying to accomplish? What business challenge is PR helping to solve? Dig into the “why” with key company stakeholders, colleagues or outside consultants. Think about how you use Google Maps. The first thing you do is enter the destination, right? What is the overarching goal of your PR?
Some organizations leverage PR to yield an increase in sales, while others may want more media exposure for a CEO or other key leaders in order to gain recognition as thought leaders. The point is, you need to identify why you need PR.
Based on the challenge you are addressing or the overriding goal, the next step is to identify objectives. This is a multi-pronged approach to addressing the situation. From informing and educating to influencing changes in behavior, you want to establish objectives that you will be able to evaluate and measure. And you want to make sure everyone agrees about how success will be evaluated and measured.
With your challenge and objectives in mind, now you need to determine the specific audience(s) you need to reach in order to accomplish your goal. This is a key component of the strategy because it will help you determine the right tactics to put in place. Do you want to connect with general consumers, avid cannabis users, or newbies? Are you looking to reach baby boomers, women, millennials, C-suite executives, retailers, budtenders, or bloggers? Maybe you want to connect with investors, potential partners, clients, and industry officials. Taking the time to understand to whom you want to speak will guide the rest of your plan. The more specific you can be the better. If there are multiple audience types, make sure to prioritize them according to your objectives as that may yield better results.
You have identified objectives and specific audiences, so now you have to think conceptually about how you can address each audience to achieve the objective. Part of this is understanding the key messages you want shared throughout this program. While you will need to tailor the delivery to best suit the audience, there will be specific points about your company, product, etc. that you will want to convey. Take the time to carefully craft these talking points and make sure all team members understand how to communicate these messages consistently.
Now it’s time to get down to the details. Tactics are specific activities or tasks you are going to use to achieve your objectives; the tools that will best connect your messages with your desired audience. And there are many tools available to choose from: press releases, press conferences, media events, media alerts, fact sheets, press kits, bylined articles, photography, video, events, parties, presentations, speeches, interviews, media tours, etc. This is how you are going to get the PR job done; how you are going to deepen relationships with the people who will help you achieve success.
Developing a PR calendar helps guide the program. It helps you contemplate the right timing for each tactic and the proper organization or sequence of events. This calendar can take into consideration important cannabis and consumer holidays, such as the obvious 420 and 710—as well as Weed Wednesday (the day before you subject yourself to those annoying distant family members at Thanksgiving!) and Valentine’s Day. New product launches and other important company announcements should be included too. By organizing your tactics into a calendar, you can thoughtfully plan the length of time needed to initiate all tactics and how one will impact the success of another and support the overall goal.
Understanding the funds available for your PR initiatives supports the decision-making process. Some tactics may need to be put on the back burner due to cost. Whether you are starting with a budget or developing a budget as you consider tactics for the plan, there will be limits set to the investment. The time and team members needed to accomplish the tasks as well as the basic expenses of printing, travel, venues, vendors, etc. will impact the overall budget. And the budget will play a role in evaluating the success of the plan.
Based on the objectives set and the agreed upon measurement of success, it is time to evaluate your plan.
What does PR success mean to you?
While we took you through a 101 outline to PR strategy, the long and the short of it is, you need to clearly define what PR success means to you. Whether you spell it out step by step or take a more casual approach to PR, the elements remain the same. A plan, schedule, and budget will offer a framework to evaluate PR success.
Judy Campbell is president at Campbell Consulting. She founded the agency in 1996 to provide companies with strategic communications counsel encompassing PR, digital communications, content creation, media training, and social media. Campbell Consulting is dedicated to shining a spotlight on the country’s best brands and thought leaders in cannabis, craft beer, hospitality, food and beverage, blockchain, and software. The agency recently was nominated for the 2019 BOB (Best of Breed) Awards.