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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 help­ing 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
  • Loyalty

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 bril­liant PR strategy beats not with the clam­our of 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.

How To Identify a Good PR Strategy

Your PR strategy should answer one simple question:

  • Does this strategy provide a guid­ing prin­ciple for how our organ­isa­tion should win the war for atten­tion, trust, and sup­port in our com­pet­it­ive landscape?

If your PR strategy fails to answer this ques­tion, it’s just orna­ment­a­tion (i.e. cor­por­ate cringe).

Learn more: Your Bullshit PR Strategy is Cringe, Sorry

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:

1-Page Strategy - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Keep it clean. (Photo: @jerrysilfwer)

How to Write a 1‑Page Strategy

My inspir­a­tion for writ­ing “no-bull­shit” strategies comes from the clas­sic Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. The 1‑page strategy focuses on how to win.

Here’s how you can write a 1‑page 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

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:

PR Strategy: 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.

But some minor­it­ies have an addi­tion­al advantage:

Some minor­it­ies of today are the start of the new major­it­ies of tomor­row (smart minor­it­ies).

In con­trast, some major­it­ies have an addi­tion­al disadvantage:

Some major­it­ies of today will be gone entirely tomor­row (stu­pid major­it­ies).

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

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

PR Resource: More PR Strategies

Doctor Spin’s PR Strategies

Make sure to explore a wide vari­ety of PR strategies for every dif­fer­ent type of situ­ation and challenge:

Learn more: How to Create a PR Strategy That Actually Works

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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