2020 Planning: Questions to Ask to Create a Stellar Media Strategy

December 5, 2019

A new decade is upon us. It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was a teenager of the 90s, imagining 2020 as a far-off futuristic existence. And now, here we are. Of course things have changed a lot—in the communications business we can point to countless differences between today and the turn of the century. Smaller newsrooms are covering a far wider reach of topics. PR people outnumber reporters six to one. Content marketing has taken on new life and meaning. Social media and influencer relations are taking a growing share of marcom budgets. Digital and interactive media have largely displaced print. Some bloggers hold as much or more sway than a top New York Times reporter. Video is now an integral part of marketing for all businesses. Executives who once asked, “Can you get me on Oprah?” now want to know, “How can we go viral?”

As a top public relations firm, we have adapted, developed new strategies and embraced new tools that allow us to move forward in an ever-changing and excessively noisy landscape. At the same time, we haven’t lost sight of what has not (and likely will not) change. Fundamentals like creative collaboration, grassroots ideas, great storytelling, smart planning, are as important today as they have ever been. It’s with these important elements in mind that we approach planning for our clients.

Below is a list of considerations and questions we lean on when helping our clients forecast for the coming year. Whether you are working with an agency, handling in-house or preparing to kick off the RFP process, make sure you ask these questions among your team to spur the development of a comprehensive and executable media relations program in the new year.

  • Is your budget proportionate to expectations? I love expectations vs. reality memes. From Pinterest fails to parenting mishaps and workout blunders, I can relate to them on many levels. But media expectations and budget reality are no joke. Any company looking to mark 2020 as a milestone year must be ready to bolster its goals with adequate resources. Be frugal and conservative, but remember that like any other area of business or life, you get what you pay for.
  • Are your spokespeople working? If you have a CEO who can slam dunk every interview, good for you. Keep her in the limelight. If your spokesperson has completed media training, but still struggles to keep reporters engaged or tell the brand story in a way that resonates, don’t be afraid to find someone else to step in. A charismatic, media-darling mid-level exec is better than a guarded or overworked CEO any day.
  • Have you thoroughly audited what’s working, what’s not and why? Successes and failures of the previous year, and learnings from them, should lay the foundation for your new plan. Don’t reinvent the wheel for things that are working—likewise don’t repeat past mistakes.
  • What media placements will truly move the needle? Is a Wall Street Journal mention going to make more of an impact for your business than an in-depth feature in a key vertical publication? If the answer is no, stop worrying about that top tier placement and focus on what really speaks to your audience. Moreover, don’t limit your idea of placements to traditional coverage alone. It’s important, but not your only channel.
  • Do you have a strong story and storytellers? Along the same lines as ensuring the right spokespeople, make sure your message is strong and engaging, and that you have great storytellers sharing it with the world. Beyond spokespeople this includes writers who can convey your voice and deliver fresh content all year long.
  • Who cares and why? Is this stating the obvious? Maybe. But I’ve worked with a lot of clients that struggle to answer this question. It’s an important one. If you don’t know who cares and why they care, then you can’t expect a reporter to do the same. Make sure you have a clear answer to these simple questions before you begin media outreach.
  • Do you have backup? Data, customer testimonials, analysts, influencers and partners are critical in helping you prove every statement and claim in your overall story. Without strong, outside validation, it can be difficult to gain meaningful traction with the media.
  • Is your plan holistic? Does it include a method for taking feedback and requests from the sales and product teams? Does it include thought leadership? Is it tapping new areas that have been overlooked in years past?
  • Do you care about influencers? Should you? Have your team or agency conduct an audit of influencers that impact your industry, and determine whether relationship building with them will help you meet your goals.
  • How do you measure success? Measuring the impact of marketing and PR is notoriously difficult. With experience and new tools, we’re are getting better at connecting the dots. Your plan should clearly state how you measure success and what data is needed as part of that measurement process.
  • What’s your failsafe? If the plan isn’t working halfway through the year, do you have a plan B? A plan C? Make sure you do, and that your team is empowered to quickly course correct when necessary.

Hopefully these questions will inspire important discussions and brainstorming to get the new decade off to the right start.

– Ashley Allman, Director of Content

An earlier version of this post originally appeared on the WTIA blog, January 8, 2019.

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