Creating a Public Relations Plan

A good PR plan will keep you focused on getting publicity on a regular basis

Public relations — getting your news into the media — is great for small business owners on shoestring budgets. You can get the same number of eyeballs as someone who shells out for a big ad, but it's free, and often considered more credible. Creating a PR plan helps you:
  1. Figure out how to get your news into the hands of the most people — and the right people — at the least cost.
  2. Define trackable PR goals.
  3. Organize your publicity efforts rather than taking a scattershot approach (a press release here and there).

Determine your goals

Your PR goals will determine your PR strategies, so be as specific as you can. Do you want to get more customers? Increase repeat customers? Get the word out about a new product or service? Position yourself as an expert? Be sure to write your goals down; as goal experts say, "Unwritten goals are nothing more than wishes."

Be a copycat

Look at how other businesses have formulated their plans, and follow PR plan outlines and checklists provided by other companies.

Sleuth out your targets

If your prospects are mainly college students, appearing in magazines aimed at baby boomers would be a waste. To build a list of media outlets that target the markets you're aiming for, contact likely prospects (call the sales or advertising office) and ask for media kits.

Choose your news

Decide what you want to say to your target audience - something newsy and exciting that will get people to sit up and take notice of your business. Keep your target audience in mind, pay attention to your chosen media outlets to see what they consider news, and don't try to pass off a sales pitch as news. Examples of news worth printing are new business openings, contests, events, new studies/polls and community service.

Plan your pitches

Sure, there are always news releases, but you can also get your news out via newsletters, articles (with your business mentioned in a bio box) and your Web site.

Get help

If you don't have time or the expertise to create a comprehensive PR plan yourself, hire a pro.
  • Media outlets have lead times that range from a few days to several months, so make sure you start your PR planning four to six months before the event you want to publicize.
  • Make sure your news is really news. If you send out a release about how wonderful your company is, the media outlet will probably suggest you buy an ad.
  • Having trouble? You can find loads of independent PR professionals and PR firms who will do all the work for you; check your local Yellow Pages or search on Google or Yahoo.