How to overcome common PR plan roadblocks

Like a GPS, your strategy sets you on a particular course. Unforeseen elements can require a route change to deliver you and your message to the desired destination.


To earn great results from your public relations campaign, you have to start with a great plan.

That’s why seasoned PR pros spend so much time researching media outlets, tactics, competitors, internal initiatives and so on.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go the way we want. CEOs change direction, reporters don’t respond, and competing stories get in the way. Much like a GPS, public relations plans are designed to guide you on your journey, but they have to be rerouted when you veer off course.

Here are some roadblocks I’ve experienced over the years, along with ways I’ve gotten back on track:

Journalists are not responding

We’ve all been there. You’ve spent countless hours researching media contacts, putting together lists and sending out tailored pitches, but your inbox is quiet.

This could happen for any number of reasons. Your email could have gotten lost in a sea of pitches, the news doesn’t stand out, or perhaps it’s hard to explain in a couple of short paragraphs and your text blocks were sent to the trash bin. Whatever the reason, there are simple ways to recover:

  1. Make your story newsworthy. Try to offer something new, such as a video, photo or exclusive interview. Reaching out again with a new angle can sometimes be enough to get a response.
  2. Expand your media list to new segments. For example, if you’re pitching a vacation planning service to travel sites, consider alternatives such as mommy bloggers or financial writers. Then rework your pitch, making it relevant to those new contacts.
  3. Write guest blog posts. There are thousands of blogs out there in need of good content. Ask whether they accept guest posts, and float some ideas.
  4. If all else fails, post content on your owned media channels . Then integrate it with paid media, such as social media advertising or Cision content amplification.

Messaging changes

George Bernard Shaw said, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Change is inevitable. Messaging often evolves to better communicate the value of a product or service, and for some that can be challenging. Don’t get frustrated; you’re there to make sure those changes are the best they can be.

Look at change as an opportunity to collaborate and to strengthen your relationship with those running that line of business. By working together, you will often arrive at something that’s much better than what you had when you started.

Breaking news items or competitive stories hit

Tornados knock down houses, Kardashians get divorced, and competitors beat you to market. No matter how much time you spend preparing, you can’t plan for the unforeseen. Luckily, news cycles are short, so you can wait it out and try again.

If you don’t have the luxury of time, note the challenge in your performance report to help ease the pain of lackluster results.

Launch dates get moved

Sometimes products get pushed back, or competitive pressure forces companies to release things early.

If your timeline gets extended, look at it as an opportunity. You now have an excuse to update reporters, reach new ones and create more content.

Conversely, if three weeks suddenly turn into two days, don’t panic. Prioritize tasks, execute on the most important ones, and prepare to put in extra hours.

Strategy changes direction

It’s not uncommon to spend time developing a strategy and then find out that your campaign must change direction. When this happens, don’t throw your strategy away; find new ways to use it.

You’ve probably learned something new. You can turn that knowledge into a blog post or presentation. If you keep it in your back pocket, it could become useful in the future. Your boss or you clients will thank you.

No one ever said this would be easy. PR pros have the sixth-most stressful job in the U.S., but if you have patience and think your way around challenges, you can provide amazing value and be a star for your organization.

Anthony Hardman is a senior consultant at PR 20/20. Follow him on Twitter at @ahardman. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

Topics: PR

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