Every public relations activity should come with a detailed plan and verification system — especially your launches and relaunches
A successful launch can energize your organization and supercharge your brand, so don’t leave anything to luck.
Second chances, in business or life, can be rare and with a cluttered online landscape in times of crisis, there is too much at stake these days to cut corners on execution.
It’s all about process and accountability, knowing how to communicate objectives while being open to feedback from your colleagues. Be adaptable in the face of creative challenges and know when to step back so others can shine, especially younger team members who are perhaps more at ease with online communications.
Remember, most marketing campaigns don’t go viral, and shouldn’t (more on Virality and Value here), but there’s no excuse for wasting marketing resources without adding any value.
Build Your Timeline
It all starts with a vision. Regardless of what is being introduced — a new brand, product or idea — try to enlist public relations and/or other marketing professionals who will help you build a realistic timeline and editorial calendar for your launch, including several weeks if not months of preparation and editing, followed by teasing, launch, campaign maintenance and evaluation.
To answer a common question: Yes, you can write your own press release but we wouldn’t recommend it. Understanding the media outlets being targeted, and the language and tone required to engage them successfully is an important value-add for your organization.
There are all kinds of online tools to help you visually map out the stages and strategies of a marketing campaign; we use the Google suite as it offers several format options. Trello is also a solid option for media project management. That said, nothing beats a good ol’ fashioned whiteboard, a physical reminder of your progress and a way to interact with your team more dynamically, not to mention easily edited with the wipe of a dry brush.
A typical PR launch can roll out across a variety of timelines. If the announcement is isolated or of minor importance (including bad news!), a 48-hour window for the campaign may be all that is needed. For a standard campaign, an initial press release to priority contacts may be followed by up to two-to-four weeks of outreach to specialized contacts, online content publishing and follow-ups.
For a sophisticated and complete public relations plan, a flexible, year-long schedule and budget would be ideal, and typically outlined in the summer or early fall with a variety of themes, subthemes and backup plans ready for deployment each month.
Good leaders lead, and great leaders delegate. Your social network or media contacts may be a point of pride but please don’t be a hero because you can’t effectively do PR on your own.
Once you have your timeline in place and a plan in hand, it’s time to compartmentalize. Assign team leaders to work in tandem with outside consultants or suppliers, keeping deliverables in sync and on track. These are your lieutenants, your project managers; they deal with the details so you don’t have to.
One of the less tangible but irrevocably important benefits of delegating is how it imparts a sense of ownership among team members. When you give someone responsibility, especially tied to the brand’s core mission, they feel trusted. More than that, they feel responsible for the outcome and how it’s a reflection of their value within the organization.
PR is a team effort and should not be overseen by any one individual; put your faith in frontline employees, particularly younger people who bring fresh perspectives to the table.
As previously mentioned, nothing is written in stone. Things happen, with increasing chaos lately, and plans change.
In navigating your rollout to (re)launch, remember that you’re not just rearranging deck chairs. An unwillingness to adapt to changing circumstances is the quickest way to sink your media ambitions.
Sometimes, admittedly, we have to improvise. And just as companies and organizations adapted to the pandemic, so must you become more nimble in navigating the obstacles that stand between you and your communications goal.
If in doubt, talk it out — your team is your sounding board. When there are many moving parts, the last thing you want to do is fall into a feedback loop. The decision is ultimately a leader’s but those decisions must be informed by all available information.
There have been some mornings in recent months where, believe it or not, the right call for a brand given that week’s news environment was to postpone a carefully planned campaign, even the night before release. This may feel like a setback but the truth is, these sorts of delays and timeline adjustments are almost always imperceptible from outside the organization.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in web marketing are important for managing and measuring success but they are not scientific nor definitive.
The myriad methods of evaluating marketing metrics is a topic unto itself, so let’s just agree for now that in the realm of PR, success is more than just clicks.
Ultimately, choosing the appropriate goals in the form of KPIs is a question of what works best for your organization and expectations versus investment. Sales are an important indicator of course, but only after several months of PR work; an immediate, dramatic impact on revenue is not typically the goal of these activities, but instead the fostering of long-term community engagement.
Another important PR-KPI is simply the number of mainstream, organic (non-paid) earned media. A successful PR campaign will typically result in a small handful of hits. “Small” being the operative word here — in PR work, we agree to accept how having no hits would not be considered a success. But to expect wide coverage in every priority outlet is not realistic for most launches either.
Social media “likes” or engagement metrics again provide some clue but are not definitive in terms of measuring a campaign’s success. Sure, audiences may “like” something but will that like result in a relevant action that benefits our client?
At the end of the day, campaign preparation work amounts to minimizing risk (to the brand) while maximizing the odds of meaningful engagement over the next two quarters, at least. It’s a lot of work to outline and communicate your organization’s vision but it will feel very rewarding when you feel like audiences have connected with your vision.
Christopher Paré is a Senior Content Specialist and Public Relations Consultant with TNKR Media.