If 2024 is anything like the last few years, PR pros know it’ll be a year full of evolution and challenge. Newsrooms are shrinking, reporters are more stretched thin than ever before, and yet our companies and our clients invest in PR to help drive business-critical outcomes.
Knowing this, the importance of a well-defined PR (and overarching communications) strategy cannot be overstated. In a world where communication trends, consumer behaviors, and digital platforms undergo constant transformation, PR pros must adapt – and have the right plan in place – to stay relevant and ensure trust with key stakeholders.
As we enter into the busy season of H1 planning, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos or to move straight into execution. Instead, consider the basic, foundational building blocks of creating a PR plan that should guide you throughout 2024.
Start by identifying the outcome you want to achieve this year, before prescribing the tactics you’ll take to get there. Perhaps you’re looking to increase awareness of your brand. Maybe you need to reposition your company, product or solution against an evolving competitive landscape, or in a new market or vertical. Whatever your goals for 2024 may be, you won’t reach them before you’ve achieved alignment. So start by identifying outcomes and key results, and then design a communications strategy that ladders up to your north star. It’s tempting to jump right to tactical execution, but resist the urge to execute without first developing the right approach and forming the right marketing mix.
Revisit and refresh, or reaffirm, your key messages. Understanding the key messages you want to promote throughout the year is vital – and not only to ensure message pull-through in owned content and announcements. These messages also need to guide the industry trends you dig into for thought leadership and the conversations you’re having with reporters, influencers and other stakeholders. Any good planning conversation will include a read-out of key messages from the previous year, and an evaluation of how those are evolving in the year to come.
Identify your tent pole moments that you can anticipate on the horizon. Do you have a new product launching in 2024? Attending a major trade show, or launching a new piece of research? Mapping out those tent pole moments will form the skeleton of your 2024 plan. From there, you can start to slot in themes and thought leadership topics to seed those narratives leading up to key milestones; and, to extend the life of moment-in-time announcements or events. It’s about creating a steady drumbeat of momentum around moments in time, rather than relying on those moments to completely drive your marketing and PR program.
Look from the outside in. Understanding what your company or client wants to promote is one thing. But as any good PR pro will tell you, that message won’t break through unless it aligns with what reporters and influencers are interested in and covering. As you’re mapping out your company or client’s key messages and tent pole moments, consider the big moments that will dominate industry conversations and publications throughout the year. For example, companies in greentech or clean energy should consider moments and events like Earth Day and COP29, as well as upcoming regulatory requirements for ESG reporting – all of which will impact the industry in 2024. Understanding the major topics media will be grabbing onto, and ensuring you’re well-suited to be a source on those topics, will ensure you’re a valuable resource to reporters, rather than just pushing your own narrative in a silo.
Align on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure success. Having a plan is ineffective if it’s not measurable and actionable. Be sure to include KPIs – that map back to your desired outcomes – in your 2024 plans. I’d advocate for using your KPIs as a rubric when plotting out all other elements of your plan. Ask yourself: are these the right channels to meet my KPIs and goals? Do my KPIs directly influence the objectives my company or client needs to achieve?
Throughout the year, plans will inevitably change. New priorities will arise. That’s par for the course. But, with the right marketing and PR plan, that starts with north star objectives and is based on outcomes, you’ll be well-suited to execute and adapt along the way.
This article was written by PR Club Board Member and Vice President, Public Relations at Walker Sands, Hailey Driscoll.