Whether working with a tech PR agency or not, every tech startup should create a PR plan for 2021 in order to win valuable media coverage and drive brand awareness across key audiences.
There are several key elements that go into a measurable PR strategy. When done right, a fully developed plan can set your startup up for success against entrenched competitors by winning more share of voice, driving website traffic and even building the sales pipeline.
Here are Swyft’s best tips on how to create a PR plan for 2021.
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 before you even begin to create a PR plan for 2021. Bear in mind that this year’s communications plan may have taken unforeseen turns as a result of the global pandemic—but that’s OK. Whether you pivoted your plan for 2020 or stayed on track, it’s necessary to evaluate your tech startup’s PR activities with a critical eye.
How well did it work? Should some things be repeated? What should be avoided?
This year-end review will help inform and shape your PR strategy going forward. It will also be especially helpful to have if you anticipate working with a tech PR agency in 2021. While most PR campaigns are discrete events tied to a particular announcement or thought leadership initiative, your partner tech PR agency can get a feel for your company’s campaign cadence and make some reasonable projections about future performance.
Interview key stakeholders
You can’t effectively create a PR plan unless you identify all key stakeholders (C-Suite, product marketing executives, HR, etc.) and find out what expectations they have of your tech startup’s PR investment. These key stakeholders will lay the groundwork for the strategic initiatives your tech startup will undertake in the upcoming year. They will know the strategic vision that you or your tech PR agency have to capture when developing media campaigns and executing media outreach.
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—which have likely moved to a virtual format in the upcoming year—and you have a thought leadership track you or your tech PR agency can develop for your 2021 PR strategy.
Trade shows and sponsored events
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 tech startups should typically devote an entire section of the PR plan to them.
Given the current events, however, it’s important to be flexible when planning this portion of your startup’s PR strategy. In 2020, many trade shows were either cancelled or conducted virtually, and next year’s events appear to be on a similar track. Top tech conference CES, for example, is moving to an entirely virtual format for 2021 while major healthcare conference HIMSS is anticipating an in-person event but has moved their annual conference from January 2021 to mid-August 2021. The situation is fluid, so plan as best you can.
Make a list of the trade shows and other sponsored events your tech startup plans to attend by speaking to your marketing team or tech PR agency. Next, prioritize that list 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.
This section should come from product marketing and reflect the latest product roadmap guidance. We 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 for the communications team or tech PR agency as you seek to create a PR plan for 2021. It’s not uncommon for your product team to make changes in messaging and product feature descriptions up to the last minute before the announcement goes live so be ready to make those pivots on a moment’s notice.
Create a budget
There’s no denying that coming up with a budget for your 2021 PR strategy is often a guessing game. Still, when it comes time to create a PR plan for 2021, developing a budget is critical to planning for and adequately resourcing your important PR activities. This component of the PR plan allows your tech startup’s key stakeholders to make decisions on how to allocate future spend. We 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 anticipated 2021 PR plan. Some common line-item expenses include the cost of an outside tech PR agency, 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, we recommend you check out our PR Budget Checklist below.
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, startup funding announcement, contributed thought leadership articles, etc.
You may even want to break the 2021 PR plan into H1 and H2, or take it a step further and break it down by quarter. A lot can change in six months (as we witnessed in 2020), so giving your team or tech PR agency a chance to review the PR plan and make changes each quarter and mid-year is an absolute must.