Companies of all kinds are going through the annual process of building out a PR plan for 2020. Developing a plan is absolutely fundamental to achieving the goals and objectives B2B tech companies set at the start of the year.
I realize that the thought of creating a PR plan is enough to give most marketing and communications professionals a bad case of the cold sweats. To help out, how about I give you a few tips and insights based on my ten years experience working in B2B tech communications?
Without further adieu, here are eight tips on how to build a PR plan for 2020.
Create a document
An annual PR plan needs to take the form of a document. You can use Office 365 or Google Docs, as long as it’s easily shared and editorial rights can be assigned to those who need access. The PR plan should contain different sections, some of which we will discuss in greater detail below:
- Communications vision statement: not a requirement but articulating a comprehensive vision statement for a company’s communications will set the tone for the entire document and help shape narrative for your overall communications strategy.
- Executive summary: a PR plan will get reviewed by key stakeholders inside the company. Not all will want to review the plan in great detail, hence an executive summary that can give the key take-aways and an ability to give high-level feedback and, ultimately, final approval.
- Timeline: as best you can, create a monthly calendar to chart the company’s planned activities such as product launches, trade show attendance, planned speaking opportunities, etc.
- Tracks: on the timeline and possibly even separately as dedicated tracks, you should denote the kind of PR opportunity each item entails (e.g., product launches, speaking opportunities, contributed articles, op-eds, trade shows, etc.). If you attend an annual trade show where you spend more marketing budget and announce major items like new products, then consider making the trade show its own track.
Seems like a no-brainer, but you should take a close look at the past year’s worth of PR activities and see what happened. How well did it work? Should some things be repeated? What should be avoided? This review will help inform and shape your PR plan going forward. While most PR campaigns are discrete events tied to a particular announcement or thought leadership initiative, you can get a feel for your company’s campaign cadence and make some reasonable projections about future performance.
Interview key stakeholders
You can’t build a plan unless you identify all key stakeholders (C-Suite, product marketing executives, etc.) to find out what expectations they have of your company’s PR investment. What’s more, those key stakeholders hold the keys to what strategic initiatives your company will undertake in the upcoming year. They will know the strategic vision that you have to capture when communicating with the media.
Thought leadership opportunities
By virtue of their experience and seniority within your company, key stakeholders are also the best positioned to ideate and submit contributed articles to industry publications and mainstream media like the Forbes Technology Council. Throw in speaking opportunities at conferences and you have a thought leadership track you can develop for your 2020 PR plan.
Trade shows / sponsored events
Make a list of the trade shows and other sponsored events your company plans to attend by speaking to your marketing team. Make a list and prioritize it based on planned marketing spend. Events where your company plans to buy a booth and send company staff should take precedence as that’s where the lion’s share of the marketing budget will go. Major events like trade shows are usually a time when your company will announce major product launches, strategic partnerships, and other important news. These kinds of events are also well attended by customers, prospects and the media, which is why you should devote an entire section of the 2020 PR plan to them. (Read more information on how to plan for a trade show PR and media campaign.)
This section should come from product marketing and reflect the latest product roadmap guidance. I suggest breaking out a product roadmap section because it often represents a major drive of announcements to the media. One reason why is that there are usually lots of moving parts to a product launch — time of launch, product features and benefits, new product marketing collateral, etc. Make sure you allow for plenty of lead time as well to build your media campaign. It’s not uncommon for your company to make changes in messaging and product feature descriptions up to the last minute before the announcement goes live.
Create a budget
There’s no denying that coming up with a budget for your 2020 PR plan is often a guessing game. Still, it’s a critical component of the upcoming year’s PR activities and allows your executive team to make decisions on how to allocate future spend. I recommend that you not only look at the past year’s activities as a barometer of future spend but that you also create a line-item budget based on your 2020 PR plans. Some common line-item expenses include the cost of an outside PR firm, travel and lodging to an annual trade show, wire releases, media collateral, award nomination fees, etc. This will make analyzing your year-end results easier when it comes to building out your next year’s budget. If you want more insight on this topic, I recommend you read our post on how to create a PR budget for your company.
Put it in a calendar
Last but not least, take all of your key announcements and drop them into a calendar by month to give visibility to the upcoming planned activities. Consider either using color-coding or creating line separators for the different activities based on whether it’s a product launch, speaking opportunity, company hiring announcement, contributed articles, etc. You may even want to break the 2020 PR plan into H1 and H2. A lot can change in six months so giving your team a chance to review the PR plan and make changes mid-year is an absolute must.