What goes into a PR campaign? Story, targeting, and outreach
Updated: May 14
Herewith, some excerpts from the debut episode of the Mind Meld PR vlog, a conversation on the subject of what's required in a real-life PR campaign -- plus a bit of additional commentary we hope you’ll find useful, and possibly even -- dare we hope? -- entertaining. Annnnnd… we’re live!
“The simple way to define what a PR campaign is, in terms of media relations -- it comes down to three buckets of activity. I would say the first bucket is coming up with the actual story. The second part is the media targeting and list-building. The third part is doing the actual outreach to get results.”
You can work up a broad-brush brand story for a given company fairly quickly -- but then you need to craft every aspect of it. How are you going to phrase the press release? Can this story be related to current events being discussed in the media world -- like, say, the new season debut of a hugely popular TV show like The Walking Dead?
That’s what an enterprise SaaS company did to win some attention -- the strategy is called newsjacking -- tying into something that’s already in the public eye. It’s the kind of outside-the-buckets task you need to do, on top of these three PR campaign basics.
The basis of a PR campaign: storytelling
“One thing about PR is that you’ve got a company, a client, just going along and taking care of business -- and you think, well, not a lot of news coming out of there. Where are we going to find a hook that’s going to make reporters, and people in general, interested? But we’ve found, have we not, that there's always a hook, there's always a story, there’s always a narrative. There is no brand without a narrative.”
We’ve talked elsewhere about fabled brand stories of the past, like the car-rental service Avis’s underdog “We try harder” narrative or the comic spin on the joys of procrastination employed by the hugely-successful food-delivery firm SkipTheDishes.
Uncovering such narratives is the beginning of outreach work -- but only the beginning.
A common starting point for narrative generation is the actual story of the company (as opposed to the brand) -- if it’s a compelling one. Did the CEO face tremendous adversity in building the company? Is there a record of customers memorably expressing their delight with the product? These could be useful to the larger story you’re aiming to craft.
Remember, though, that narratives exist to be adapted -- and events may require you to pivot your PR campaign on a dime.
The next step in a public relations campaign: targeting
“There’s some grind. There’s list-building and looking for things Google doesn’t show you. Some software, some tricks, some knowledge. You know how it is.”
In a PR campaign, you need to look at media properties -- their circulation, frequency, and overlap with your target audience and brand themes. More importantly, you have to track what their editors need.
For reporters in your segment, you’ll want to find out what they’ve been writing lately, who they write for and how they prefer to be approached (most journalists are very clear about this).
On Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and InstaGram -- what is the run of conversation about your brand/ themes, and how can you differentiate your story from those of your competitors?
A word about the three audiences of PR-campaign targeting
“... When we're talking about media relations, you actually have three different audiences that you need to appeal to. Number one is the reporter, the one that you're actually going to be interacting with. They’re the gateway, the gatekeeper to getting your news out there. The second audience is of course your ultimate target market -- who you want reading that news clip about your company. And then there's a third audience that's even maybe more important than the first two. It depends on what kind of company you are in, what your company culture is -- but that important audience is the person who is in charge of that company. So the CEO or the CTO or potentially the head of marketing -- if you can't get it past them, if you can't get the green light from them -- yeah, this release is never going to make it outside of your company.”
From a client’s perspective, a PR campaign is a contracted-out project over which they might want to exercise a great deal of control -- or very little. As Forbes magazine has noted, no matter your customer’s personality, PR pros should “provide expertise beyond what is stated in the scope of the project.”
To get PR campaign work done to everyone’s satisfaction, it’s important to strike the right balance in the agency relationship. PR work aims to keep the client happy (no kidding!) and make sure they feel they’re in control of the story - as indeed, ultimately, they are.
Need help getting media coverage for your tech company?
We should talk! Tell us about your business and PR goals -- and we’ll help you share your story with the world.