Black Friday, Christmas lights, and festive jumpers; it’s that time of year again… the time to start planning your PR calendar for 2018. The end of the year gets so busy that it’s easy to get to January (or later) before even starting to think about the PR plan for the year ahead. But so much about successful PR comes from planning ahead, so here’s a quick guide to getting your calendar sorted.
Lay it down
Start with a simple spreadsheet (Excel or Google Sheets). Lay out the year according to the level of detail you need – monthly, weekly or even daily if needed.
Who are you talking to?
Taking the time to ask yourself this question first can really help to focus the mind. This one question leads to lots more; are you trying to keep existing customers engaged and loyal, or are you trying to win new ones, and if so, who are these people? Are you trying to increase your market share of your main industry or are you changing your business model or diversifying to target a whole new target market? Are you talking to new customers, repeat customers, the general public, decision makers, stakeholders or a combination of all five? Get this clear in your mind before you go any further.
Choose your channels
Consider all of the different places you could potentially reach your audience, including news websites, print and broadcast media, your own website, social media, events, and more. If you’re not careful you can just end up making lots of noise in irrelevant places, so when time is finite focus first on the channels that you know have the biggest impact on your business. After that, experiment with new, untested ones.
Get to know what’s going on
Research what’s going on in your industry, your local area and nationally throughout the year. The news cycle will cover some stories every year like clockwork (think leap year engagements, business comment on Budget day and so on) while other topics are ever present (think industry challenges like productivity, slow broadband or local and wider social issues). The key here is to work out how you can genuinely add something new and insightful to the debate so that journalists will take notice.
A word of warning here: approach awareness days/ weeks with caution. There are so many now that cynicism abounds among weary journalists. Jumping on a bandwagon and shoehorning your products into some entirely unrelated (or even politically sensitive) campaign rarely pays off. However if it’s something that’s really relevant to your business and run by an authoritative source, then make the most of it!
What have you got to say?
Once you know your audience and how to reach them, next comes the fun bit – deciding on your PR stories. There’s the obvious company news like product releases, year-end results, new hires and new customers. Plan these into your calendar, spreading them out if possible so as to not deluge journalists with three months’ of stories in a week. Then there’s your more creative stories; making something out of nothing (as we wrote about here back for Lincs Business earlier this year).
…and who’s going to say it?
Lots of businesses simply don’t realise how much knowledge and expertise they have in workforce. If you’ve got the Midland’s leading small business accountant or the UK’s youngest managing director working for you, shout about it. And (if they’re happy for you to do so) plan in speaking opportunities or include them as your spokespeople for PR or topical news stories throughout the year.
You don’t need to have every week of 2018 planned and finalised right now. Plan at least three months ahead in detail to make sure everything’s covered while looking 12-months ahead for important events and milestones. The longer-lead ideas will inevitably change as the year goes on, while great new ideas will crop up at the last minute, so leave yourself some wiggle room. We review 12-month calendars at least once a month, editing and updating the plans accordingly.
This list’s not exhaustive, but it should help you get started. If you’d like some extra pointers, or if you’ve got your own ideas to share, get in touch.