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7 Steps to Creating a Successful Public Relations Plan (+Template)

PR is one of the building blocks of a successful marketing and brand strategy, and a proven public relations plan template can help you get started.

At the highest level, a public relations plan is about telling the story of your company. An effective PR plan focuses on the unique points of view that differentiate your company from the competition. These plans help companies establish relationships with the media and build credibility with their target audiences.

I’ve been working in the PR world for nearly two decades. In that time, I’ve helped build integrated public relations plans for B2B technology companies of every size, from startups to globally established brands. I’m now passing on those best practices and lessons learned to our Advisory as a Service clients and portfolio companies here at York IE.

PR is a key part of our drumbeat marketing philosophy, which focuses on developing a strong point of view and then consistently sharing it through multiple owned and earned channels until it becomes associated with your company. This strategy is especially important for startups, who need to consistently spread their message to build brand credibility over time. There’s no overnight success stories in business — or in PR.

This post will dive deep into PR plan best practices and tips. I’ll also share York IE’s public relations plan template, which will help you and your leadership team start implementing your strategy right away.

Table of Contents

What Is a Public Relations Plan?

A public relations plan outlines the goals, objectives and tactics needed to manage and enhance an organization’s reputation and relationships with its target audience. It helps a company become associated with its unique point of view within its market.

It’s possible you’ve heard someone say recently that “traditional PR is dead” or “press releases don’t move the needle anymore.” The landscape is changing, but public relations is still crucially important for your company.

Newsrooms are shrinking, and there are fewer journalists monitoring newswires for the next startup story. But that doesn’t mean that PR is dead. It’s still essential to establish a plan for how your company represents itself to the public. The press release is a foundational piece of content within your PR plan. It gives you an opportunity to tell your company’s unique story in your own words — regardless of whether it leads to media coverage.

Our CMO Adam Coughlin talks about the concept of manufacturing momentum. If you’re celebrating a small win every month or two — a new hire, award or partnership — you’re showcasing constant growth to potential customers and investors. You’re also pushing out your messaging to your engaged audience time and time again.

Why You Need a Public Relations Plan

You need a public relations plan to help you:

  • build your brand;
  • establish a cadence and timeline for news distribution;
  • gain third-party validation through the media; and
  • teach employees how to talk about your company.

Build Your Brand

Drumbeat marketing is defined by strong messaging, discipline and consistency. Once you’ve developed a strong POV, you need to constantly push that theme until it’s associated with your brand. A public relations plan gives you the means to execute consistently.

It’s essential to establish a concrete plan before you start writing press releases or pitching media. That way, you’ll be distributing a consistent message that ensures your audience knows exactly what you stand for. Every touchpoint that someone has with your company is an opportunity. It is either a good opportunity (brand equity gained) or a negative one (brand equity lost). Naturally, you want to stack good opportunities.

Establish a Cadence and Timeline for News Distribution

Timing is an important part of any good PR plan. You’d never want to splash all of your news in a single month and then go dark for the rest of the year. A steady drumbeat of buzz is much better; it’ll help you get your message out consistently and keep your name top-of-mind within the market.

Gain Third-Party Validation Through the Media

At York IE, we’re big believers in producing and distributing content through your owned channels: your company blog, company social media accounts and accounts of your executives and subject matter experts (SMEs).

It’s also important to gain third-party validation by getting your company’s name in media outlets via an interview, contributed article or mention in a larger story. You’re effectively showing that a credible source deems your company to be credible as well. It’s also a way of reaching a new audience that exists beyond your owned channels.

Teach Employees How to Talk About Your Company

As you grow, your public relations plan will provide a framework for any employee who needs to speak publicly about your company. This includes executives who are called on for interviews and marketers writing contributed articles or submitting award applications. Additionally, in a crisis communications situation, it’s important to have a document that defines what your company wants to say to the outside world and who can say it.

How to Create a Public Relations Plan

To create a public relations plan, follow these seven steps:

  1. Set clear goals, objectives and benchmarks
  2. Identify your target audience
  3. Develop key messages and assets
  4. Select your media targets
  5. Establish a timeline
  6. Delegate ownership of tasks
  7. Execute

Be sure to download our public relations plan template and use it to guide you through each of these elements.

1. Set Clear Goals, Objectives and Benchmarks

What do you hope to achieve when you execute your PR plan? It could be multi-faceted: increasing media coverage, improving public perception and acquiring new customers. Set benchmarks to measure your performance, such as media placements, social media engagement metrics, website traffic, etc.

2. Identify Your Target Audience

Who would be interested in the news you’re announcing — and how does it impact them? It’s important to be specific when defining your audience for your next contributed article or press release. For example: If you’re a cybersecurity company, you should know if you’re speaking to a chief security officer or appealing to a SecOps engineer.

3. Develop Key Messages and Assets

All your PR activities should tie back to your central thought leadership themes. I always recommend building a messaging hierarchy to ensure your leadership team is aligned around your vision, mission and points of view.

Once that message is established, you’ll have to decide how you want to communicate it. You have a few options:

Press release: A press release is an official statement from an organization that helps inform the public about an announcement or piece of news. It’s straightforward, informational and can be released either on your website or through a wire service.

News-driven media pitching: You also might pitch your news to a media outlet. The pitch might include an offer to share your news with reporters under embargo: You give them the news before you announce it publicly, and they agree to wait until the agreed-upon date to publish their coverage. You may also pitch a release as an exclusive, which means you grant expanded access and early reporting opportunities to a single outlet. This is a chance to tell your story using news as a timely hook.

Proactive media pitching: Here’s another opportunity to tell a story. This process includes getting media placement in a third-party outlet, either with a contributed thought leadership article from one of your subject matter experts (SMEs) or by securing an interview with the publication.

Owned channels: Your announcement might include several assets: a press release, company blog post, social media posts, graphics, an email note to employees and other stakeholders, etc. Map out which core assets you need to prioritize and make sure it’s live at the same time. This is a chance to create a moment and using all your owned platforms is the perfect spot to launch.

4. Select Your Media Targets

Every comprehensive PR plan should include a list of relevant media publications to pitch your news to. If you’re an early-stage company, it might be better to steer away from huge names such as Fortune, TechCrunch or Fast Company; unless your company or executives have established some major brand recognition, your chances of earning coverage in a big publication tend to be low. Instead, aim for industry publications that appeal directly to your target market. Secured media coverage in a trade publication that your audience actively reads may go further than a TechCrunch mention.

5. Establish a Timeline

When is your launch date? Once this has been decided, you can work backwards. Stick to the timeline and make sure you have a buffer for every deadline.

You’ll want to start pitching your news to the media roughly two to three weeks prior to launch. That means you’ll have to finalize your content prior to that date, ensuring time for proper sign-off from all key stakeholders. There is nothing worse than pitching a reporter and not having a final release ready to share.

6. Delegate Ownership of Tasks

Speaking of key stakeholders: It’s time to make sure everyone’s in the loop and knows what they’re in charge of. Identify which SMEs will be responsible for speaking to the media if an opportunity arises. Assign content deliverables to the correct writers or marketers. Understand who will be pitching to media, who is uploading the press release to the wire, etc. Make sure the SMEs who are signed up to speak about the news are free that day.

7. Execute

Now it’s time to make some PR magic happen. Your public relations plan is only as good as the execution that accompanies it.

Company leaders should always be involved in building a PR plan. Many companies seek an agency or advisor to help execute the nitty-gritty, such as emailing reporters. If you’re looking for help with execution, our Brand Strategy and MarCom team is here for you. They’ve seen and done it all!

How to Use the Public Relations Plan Template

Before you begin filling out the template, I want to leave you with a few best practices. We follow these principles in our PR planning process at York IE:

Make News Moments

We take every opportunity — new hires, partnerships, funding announcements — to showcase our growth and reinforce our core messages. Larger, established companies might not need to make everything a news moment. But in the early days, celebrate the wins and broadcast your message. You’re building your brand with each piece of news.

Use Data to Tell Your Story

Numbers and metrics help bring your message to life. Include relevant metrics at every opportunity as you announce your news. Data makes your story that much stronger.

A good example: We use our Fuel platform to gather data for our Fastest-Growing Startup Cities report, which garners coverage from media outlets across the nation.

Lean on Your Founders and SMEs

Even if your company’s social media pages don’t have robust followings, the accounts of your founders and leadership team probably do! Make sure they blast out your message on their personal accounts, leaning on their networks to bring more awareness to your growth.

Grab your leadership team, download our public relations plan template and get to work! An effective PR plan can go a long way in helping your company achieve its goals.

Public Relations Plan Template

Establish a concrete PR plan so you can execute consistently.

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Public Relations Plan Template

Establish a concrete PR plan so you can execute consistently.

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