Football season is upon us. Whether or not you’re a fan, you can’t escape the ads promoting ALL things related to football.
As I pondered football’s return, I started thinking about blocking and tackling – the fundamentals of the game – and how they relate to public relations.
Of course, this is also the time of year when companies start to plan their 2024 budgets. I’m having those conversations with clients right now.
During the PR planning process, clients often want to discuss adding new elements to their public relations programs. That’s a good thing – except when we haven’t focused enough time and attention on the fundamentals.
What Are the Public Relations Fundamentals?
What are the fundamentals of an effective PR program? The block and tackle elements, if you will, include planning their calendar for the year and having a solid foundation in place as far as their messaging, positioning, visuals, and customer references.
Once those are in place, we can build on that foundation and execute more effective strategies.
So, as we head into the last few months of 2023, here are some reminders regarding the basics of PR and communications.
Factor Talent, Preparation and Time Into PR Planning
1) Spend More on Talent, Less on Tech
If I were in charge of a PR and communications budget, I’d allocate less for technology and more for talent.
May I gently suggest that you may not need that new piece of software? 😬
Before you invest in it, consider:
- Will we have time to learn to use it?
- How will we use it?
- How often will we use it?
- Will we actually use it?
- Could we accomplish the same thing without spending money on this?
- How will we evaluate its usefulness?
I can’t say how often I’ve started working with a client who pays A LOT of money for a tool they rarely use. Sometimes, they don’t even know the password because they’ve either never used it – or it’s been so long since they’ve used it they’ve forgotten how to log in.
Thousands of dollars a year are often wasted. And further – paying for more technology won’t necessarily solve your problem.
Turns out that wasting money on unused technology isn’t unique. Gartner’s 2023 CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) Spend and Strategy Survey revealed that the marketing tech category saw the most significant increase in investment from 2022 (63%), while labor saw the most significant decrease (35%).
Yet, while the martech budget rises, utilization rates are declining, falling from 58% in 2020 to 42% in 2022.
Something’s wonky here.
“Boosted spending for martech — while labor simultaneously faces the largest pullback in investment — could present challenges down the line,” says this Marketing Dive article on Gartner’s findings.
“The willingness to let the majority of their martech stack sit idle signifies a fundamental resource disconnect for CMOs,” said Ewan McIntyre of Gartner. “It’s difficult to imagine them leaving the same millions of dollars on the table for agencies or in-house resources. This trade-off of technology over people will not help marketing leaders accelerate out of the challenges a recession will bring.”
Whenever I see a situation like this, I wonder how a CMO could consider reallocating those funds for something that might genuinely benefit them. One example might be to take some of the funds you put toward tech and instead hire a consultant, small agency, or in-house resource to help achieve results.
Without the right talent on board to achieve your goals, paying for all the tech tools in the world won’t get you there.
2) Think About The Elements You’ll Need to Succeed
Next, think about the basics of a solid communications program:
- Do you have foundational elements like clear messaging and positioning in relation to competitors in place?
- Do you have compelling visuals to offer? This is becoming increasingly important and can help your company stand out to media contacts. Hiring a professional photographer or videographer can make a real difference in your ability to land earned media coverage.
- Do you have a press page that includes your press releases, news coverage of your company, and background information? Are you making it easy for reporters to access this information? Do you have a press contact listed? Do you know if that contact checks for messages from reporters daily?
- Do you have a timeline of announcements or news slated to go out in 2024? Include events like trade shows, too. This not only helps you plan ahead to get the most out of each of those, but it also helps you see where you might have lulls during the year.
- Speaking of lulls in your news, what are your plans to fill in during those? Do you have thought leadership or contributed pieces you could write and pitch to trade publications, for example? What else could you be doing to stay in front of your audience?
- When was the last time you reviewed your media list? Be sure to update it periodically. Media contacts and outlets come and go. I suggest focusing on the top 20 or so media outlets your brand would benefit from being featured in. You can do this research without paying for a pricey media database. (They’re often out of date anyway.) Simply check the publications’ sites and take a peek at reporters’ social media bios to be sure you have the latest information.
- What about paid ads? If you’re planning to pay for some, consider how that might impact your media outreach plans, too. If you’re struggling to get attention from a publication you really want to be featured in, spending some of your budget on the paid side may help you get more attention from the editorial side. (Yes, the two are supposed to be separate – but we know that trade publications, in particular, may look more favorably on companies spending some money with them.)
Refer to this piece to ensure you’ve done all your prep work before reaching out to the media.
3) Factor In Time to Gain Momentum
As you plan for 2024, be sure to factor in giving your initiatives enough time to work. Too often, clients start a PR push only to hit the brakes before allowing time to yield any results. They may even jump from firm to firm in search of what they believe is a fast track to getting coverage.
Spoiler alert: There is NO fast track with a lot of public relations efforts, including earned media efforts. It takes time and sustained effort to get the ball rolling. Once it’s in motion, you can gain momentum. But starting and stopping isn’t going to get you where you want to be.
Of course, consider what’s working – and what’s not. If you’re seeing results with a particular approach, you might want to increase the budget for that – and scale back on tactics that aren’t performing as well.
PR Planning Fundamentals Come First – Before Shiny New Tools
Executing the fundamentals will always matter in PR – regardless of any shiny new tool that may catch your eye.
As you work on PR planning for 2024, focus on the block and tackle portions of a public relations efforts first – then add to that as you feel ready.
Looking for a public relations consulting firm to help with your PR planning? If you’re a B2B company looking to launch or expand your PR program in 2024, let’s chat. Learn more about my PR consulting services here.
100% of this blog post was written by me, the human.
About the author: Michelle Garrett is a public relations consultant, writer, and speaker who helps B2B companies create content, earn media coverage, and position themselves as thought leaders in their industry. Michelle’s articles have been featured in Entrepreneur, Muck Rack and Ragan’s PR Daily, among others. She’s the founder and host of #FreelanceChat on Twitter and a frequent speaker on public relations and content. Michelle has been repeatedly ranked among the top ten most influential PR professionals.