by Susan Shelby
“I don’t have enough time!”
“I have too much billable work!”
It’s time to set aside the excuses and create that public relations (PR) plan you always wanted. By now, you know that PR can promote a brand or message, create name recognition, and position a company as a respected thought leader in its field. For the AEC industry in particular, PR can help a firm educate target audiences about its specialties and expertise, highlight new trends or innovative technologies, and move the profession forward by communicating the great work being done.
PR is intended to support your firm’s marketing and business development efforts, and a well-researched and executed PR plan can provide the structure your firm needs to make its PR efforts successful. How can you establish a PR plan for your company? It’s easy when you follow these simple steps:
Step No. 1: Identify goals, objectives, and key messages
What is the intended goal? Perhaps you wish to reposition the company in a new market, extend geographical reach, or reinforce technical expertise. Conduct a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities,and threats (SWOT) analysis on your firm to help you identify what you wish to achieve (goals) and how you will measure success (objectives).
Determine how your firm wants to be represented within the market. Why should a client hire you? What differentiates you? Establish a positioning statement to highlight the firm’s specialties.
Who are you trying to reach? Determine the various target audiences you wish to engage: prospective clients, current clients, potential new hires, and employees.
Assemble a core team, composed of in-house staff, an outside agency, or a combination, and assign roles and responsibilities to accomplish tasks within specific deadlines.
Step No. 2: Create the plan
Now that you have clear goals and objectives, it is time to create a PR plan. Just like your firm’s marketing plan, a PR plan provides a long-term road map for coordinating the various activities and strategies to meet your stated PR goals. Media opportunities often require advance planning (from a few months to a year in some cases), and there are many tools that can be implemented to broaden thought leadership and brand awareness. Within the plan, create a calendar to track the following PR opportunities:
Media relations involves providing positive, consistent, and credible information to editors, reporters, and journalists with the goal of obtaining third-party endorsement in the mass media, including newspapers, radio, television, and the online outlets. Build a media list by identifying which industry publications are an appropriate match for your firm, including local and national publications such as High-Profile Monthly and Building Design + Construction, and vertical publications — also known as trade publications — where the content is focused on one particular industry. Identify editors to pitch ideas to, and research editorial calendars for upcoming issue topics and deadlines.
Byline articles printed in industry publications are a great way to reach target audiences and establish your firm as an industry expert. Pitch ideas to editors that communicate a newsworthy message or story. Many publications accept byline articles. Aim for one or two bylines per quarter.
Write and distribute press releases to announce firm news and keep the company’s name top-of-mind to target audiences. New project wins, staff changes, groundbreakings, and awards are all excellent ways to increase awareness of your firm and showcase its work. Aim for one or two press releases per month.
Identify speaking opportunities and industry award competitions. Both can position your firm to its chosen audience and promote the firm and its employees as thought leaders. Monitor professional associations to seek opportunities to present at events and publish articles.
Integrate your PR plan into your social media. Determine which platforms best reach your target audience, and distribute relevant material in short, timely snippets to build the firm’s brand.
Build language into your website content that includes SEO keywords your target audience will search to find the company. Consider a blog to deliver valuable and useful content at regular intervals.
Deliver e-marketing blasts to a tailored distribution list to strengthen relationships. Keep content short and to the point, showcasing your firm’s thought leadership.
Step No. 3: Execute the plan
Commit to executing your PR plan for a full year, evaluating and adapting as needed. Remember that media relations is an ongoing task, typically requiring several “touches” to make an impression. Show return on investment (ROI) by circulating the coverage your press releases receive, recording award/speaking opportunity submissions/wins, and monitoring analytics.
Public relations creates visibility and brand recognition, builds credibility, and helps to generate new business leads. Firms of all sizes will benefit from a thoughtful and well-planned PR program, reaching its target audience and establishing the firm as an expert in the field. Don’t let this invaluable marketing tool be missing at your firm.
At ABX session C43 on November 17 at 1 p.m., Rhino PR’s Susan Shelby will present “The Anatomy of a PR Plan: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy,” which will cover these points and more. We hope to see you there!
Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM is the president and CEO of Rhino Public Relations.