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How to Create a PR Strategy That Actually Works

The good news: You just need to get the basics right.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

How to cre­ate a PR strategy that actu­ally works?

When put­ting togeth­er a PR strategy, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

In an attempt to cov­er all pos­sible bases, you might risk adding too many bells and whistles — while fail­ing to add the essen­tial parts.

The good news: You just need to get the basics right.

And this blog post can help you.

Here we go:

What Is a PR Strategy and Why Do You Need One?

A PR strategy is a guid­ing prin­ciple that helps your organ­isa­tion estab­lish and main­tain rela­tions with stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and pub­lics.

In con­crete terms, a PR strategy (also com­monly referred to as a com­mu­nic­a­tions strategy) is a doc­u­ment or present­a­tion out­lining how your organ­isa­tion is sup­posed to win three cru­cial PR assets in today’s com­pet­it­ive landscape:

Attention, trust, and loy­alty are the build­ing blocks of those rela­tion­ships the organ­isa­tion needs to sus­tain itself.

  • An organ­isa­tion, starved of atten­tion, trust, and loy­alty, is com­pelled to wage a per­petu­al struggle for its con­tin­ued existence.

The Cost of a Poor PR Strategy

A poor PR strategy will cost you:

Everything you do or say as an organ­isa­tion will add or sub­tract from those will­ing to listen, read, or view.

Everything you don’t do or say as an organ­isa­tion will add or sub­tract from those will­ing to listen, read, or view.

In short:

  • Everything com­mu­nic­ates.

Whether or not your organ­isa­tion is act­ively work­ing with PR, every inter­ac­tion and non-inter­ac­tion will add to (or detract from) your brand’s attention‑, trust- and loy­alty capital.

Some PR pro­fes­sion­als sub­scribe to the idea that PR activ­it­ies can be trans­lated into ROI. I think it’s an admir­able ambi­tion, but when push comes to shove, the actu­al cost of hav­ing poor pub­lic rela­tions is dwind­ling chances of survival:

Not even the greatest empires can last forever with a poor PR strategy. Over time, deteri­or­at­ing rela­tion­ships with stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and pub­lics will pile up and bring even the migh­ti­est of powers down.

The Most Common PR Strategy Mistake

A PR strategy is basic­ally “a doc­u­ment or presentation.”

As such, it must­n’t be short. You can add bells and whistles to your PR strategy; per­haps you wish to include a long sec­tion describ­ing research on your stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and pub­lics. Perhaps you wish to include a long sec­tion describ­ing each pri­or­it­ised media channel.

That’s fine. But a word to the wise:

  • The heart of a sol­id PR strategy beats not with loud bells and whistles but with the quiet resolve of sub­stance and clarity.

Poor PR strategies typ­ic­ally lack sub­stance and clar­ity. Few notice this absence because all those “bells and whistles” seem impress­ive and well-documented.

Bells and whistles can be valu­able in their own right. But always make sure you get the basic PR strategy down first:

How To Create a PR Strategy - Spinning Top - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Spin for the win. (Photo: Jerry Silfwer)
Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

The Magical PR Strategy Question

Your PR strategy should answer one simple question:

  • Does this strategy provide a guid­ing prin­ciple for how your organ­isa­tion should defeat com­pet­it­ors in the battle for atten­tion, trust, and support?

Whenever your PR strategy fails to answer this ques­tion, it also fails to provide a roadmap to success.

Competitiveness is derived from per­man­ent infra­struc­tur­al char­ac­ter­ist­ics of organ­iz­a­tion­al design, rather than just rely­ing on tem­por­ary stra­tegic assets.”
Source: Strategic Change 1Connor, T. (2007). A con­sid­er­a­tion of stra­tegic assets and the organ­iz­a­tion­al sources of com­pet­it­ive­ness. Strategic Change, 16, 127 – 136. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​2​/​J​S​C​.​789

Learn more: The Magical PR Strategy Question

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

How To Create a PR Strategy That Takes the Cake

A suc­cess­ful PR strategy should have three essen­tial com­pon­ents: ana­lys­is, guid­ing prin­ciple, and coher­ent actions:

If you can­’t explain it simply, you don’t under­stand it well enough.”
— Albert Einstein

Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

How to Write a 1‑Page PR Strategy

My inspir­a­tion for writ­ing “no-bull­shit” strategies comes from the clas­sic “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters” by Richard Rumelt. The 1‑Page PR Strategy focuses on how to win. 2Rumelt, R. P. (2011). Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Crown Business.

The most basic idea of strategy is the applic­a­tion of strength against weak­ness. Or, if you prefer, strength applied to the most prom­ising oppor­tun­ity.”
Source: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters 3Rumelt, R. P. (2011). Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Crown Business.

Here’s how you can write a 1‑Page PR Strategy that fits one page — using the myth­ic­al battle between David and Goliath as an analogy:

1. Analysis

  • David can­’t beat Goliath using his size or raw strength, but he has an advant­age in speed and accur­acy from a distance.

2. Guiding Principle

  • David should­n’t engage in close com­bat but rather use tools that will allow him to strike from a distance.

3. Coherent Actions

  • David should­n’t use any heavy armour because that would slow him down.
  • David should use a sling­shot, a weapon he is famil­i­ar with and can strike from a distance.
  • David should lever­age the sur­prise ele­ment and not advert­ise his advant­age beforehand.

If you write 1 – 2 clear sen­tences per bul­let, your strategy should fit nicely on one page.

Read also: The Easy Street PR Strategy: Keep It Simple To Win

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

Tips for Developing and Implementing an Effective PR Strategy

A help­ful approach to for­mu­late a robust PR strategy is to identi­fy a stu­pid major­ity and a smart minor­ity:

The Stupid Majority

From what con­ver­sion the­ory tells us, minor­it­ies tend to hold their opin­ions more firmly. This is reas­on­able since going against the major­ity comes at a high­er social cost. 4Silfwer, J. (2017, June 13). Conversion Theory — Disproportionate Minority Influence. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​c​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​-​t​h​e​o​ry/

But some minor­it­ies have an addi­tion­al advantage:

Smart Minority = a minor­ity of today that will grow into a new major­ity of tomorrow.

In con­trast, some major­it­ies have an addi­tion­al disadvantage:

Stupid Majority = a major­ity of today that will stead­ily decline into a minor­ity of tomorrow.

Examples of Stupid Majorities

Stupid Majorities are to be found everywhere:

Riding a skate­board isn’t a real sport!”
(Stupid Majority vs Red Bull)

Computing is about bits and bytes, not design!”
(Stupid Majority vs Apple)

Websites and apps can­’t pro­duce movies and tele­vi­sion shows!”
(Stupid Majority vs Netflix)

Electric cars can­’t com­pete with gas cars!”
(Stupid Majority vs Tesla Motors)

Hotels must have hotel rooms!”
(Stupid Majority vs AirBnB)

Taxi com­pan­ies must have tax­is!”
(Stupid Majority vs Uber)

Media com­pan­ies must pro­duce media!”
(Stupid Majority vs Facebook)

Identifying a Stupid Majority (and sid­ing with a Smart Minority) will cla­ri­fy your core mes­sage and attract highly engaged minor­ity supporters.

Since time’s by your side (the Stupid Majority will be gone no mat­ter what), tar­get­ing a Stupid Majority might become your career­’s most influ­en­tial PR strategy.

Read also: The Stupid Majority PR Strategy: How Underdogs Dominate

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

How to Evaluate and Adjust Your PR Strategy Over Time

It takes time for a new PR strategy to propag­ate through your eco­sys­tem of stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and publics. 

  • Despite the swift cur­rent of mod­ern tech­no­logy, the cul­tiv­a­tion of human rela­tion­ships remains anchored in the unhur­ried pas­sage of time.

Relationships are built on loy­alty, loy­alty is built on trust, and trust is built on atten­tion. It takes time.

Therefore, you shouldn’t strive to change your PR strategy for the sake of change itself. Only change your PR strategy if you’re sure it isn’t working.

How do you know the difference? 

Apart from the appar­ent lack of good res­ults, I find it help­ful to map out sev­er­al com­pet­it­ors and sum­mar­ise their PR efforts as 1‑page strategies. This exer­cise often demon­strates who wins and loses the war for atten­tion, trust, and loy­alty — right now.


Please sup­port my PR blog by shar­ing it with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: More PR Strategies

ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Connor, T. (2007). A con­sid­er­a­tion of stra­tegic assets and the organ­iz­a­tion­al sources of com­pet­it­ive­ness. Strategic Change, 16, 127 – 136. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​2​/​J​S​C​.​789
2, 3 Rumelt, R. P. (2011). Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Crown Business.
4 Silfwer, J. (2017, June 13). Conversion Theory — Disproportionate Minority Influence. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​c​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​-​t​h​e​o​ry/
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

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