PR Strategy Validation: Do You Have a Winning Formula?
In the complex and competitive world of B2B Public Relations ensuring the soundness of your strategy is imperative. Far too often, I see businesses rush into PR campaigns without the crucial step of validating their strategies. In this piece, we’ll explore the pitfalls of launching a campaign without PR strategy validation. Plus, we’ll offer insights into investing your time and resources wisely during this pivotal phase.
The risks of launching a strategy without PR strategy validation
When you implement a PR strategy without validation, you’re gambling your PR budget. This gamble can result in significant setbacks for your business, which is why it’s important to highlight the potential pitfalls.
Without PR strategy validation, companies waste time and money
Launching a PR strategy without validation is akin to throwing arrows in the dark. You might think you have a great plan, but without data-backed validation, you’re just taking a shot at prey that’s too fast for you. This leads to wasted time and depleted resources, which could be better utilised elsewhere in your business, such as on a well-validated PR strategy!
PR strategy validation avoids the risk of damaging your reputation
One of the most significant risks of unvalidated PR strategies is the potential damage to your reputation. A poorly thought-out strategy invariably leads to miscommunications, misalignment within your spokespeople, and the resulting public backlash, loss of prospects and innumerable missed opportunities to build your brand. Protecting your reputation is a priority in PR, making strategy validation a non-negotiable step.
Why you need PR strategy validation
The risks are clear. Now, how does PR strategy validation benefit companies, their people, and your product or services’ success?
Distinctiveness rarely comes out in the first draft
In my experience, PR strategies often require fine-tuning to effectively speak to your target audience and stand out in a crowded marketplace. Your first draft might lack the emotional benefits, unique selling points or creativity needed to capture your audience’s attention. Alternatively, it might be trying to broach more than your top value proposition in one sentence, losing your prospect’s attention in complexity.
PR strategy validation helps identify areas for improvement, uncovers opportunities for more distinctiveness, and slashes overcomplexity.
The value of validation for business
Validation isn’t only about fine-tuning your strategy for PR itself; it’s about ensuring that your approach aligns with all your business goals. A great PR agency will craft a PR strategy that positively impacts all of your business objectives. Far beyond providing you with the assurance that you’re on the right path, knowing that your PR efforts will yield positive results across the board helps everyone stay on track and on message.
How to manage your PR strategy validation
Now that we’ve established the importance of PR strategy validation, you’re ready to understand how to go about it effectively. You can outsource this, or start in-house. I’ll explain the high-level actions to take in each case.
In house: Survey prospects, refine your strategy, repeat.
An effective method for PR strategy validation is to start in-house. Present your strategy, with finalised messaging and imagery included, to the whole company and trusted advisors. Then, continue by surveying your team members and stakeholders for feedback. You might choose to do this with an online survey tool but in-person interviews, or at least video calls, will reveal much more and allow you to dig into any answers that are given.
Their perspectives can be invaluable in identifying potential gaps or highlighting the strengths in your strategy. After gathering feedback, refine your strategy accordingly.
It’s important that both your in house team and your PR team is willing to iterate. It’s not a bad reflection on their work if they do not hit the bullseye first time, but it is if they stick to their guns regardless of qualitative feedback. Ultimately, the feedback you gather will help everyone to deliver their best work.
Outsource: Choose a PR firm you trust.
At EC-PR, we provide you with an email to introduce us to 10-20 of your trusted advisors. These might be customers, advisors, and mentors who know the business well.
Our team books a 30-minute interview with each person, during which we run through 10-15 questions curated to validate or – in the worst case scenario – invalidate a PR strategy. This can be disheartening, but we operate under the idea that it is much better to know that a strategy is unlikely to work before spending valuable, and often limited marketing budget on it.
Once we’ve presented the strategy, interviewed your advisors, and collated our findings, we propose tweaks or a rehaul to the strategy. The objective is to perfect the plan as much as possible, no matter how much work it requires on our part.
Billy Burnet, Vice President of Marketing at XTM, said:
“Many organisations think they know their customers or prospects well. But when their communications strategy and messaging hit the market, it doesn’t have the desired effect. This is because the independent validation process that EC-PR orchestrates is missing. EC-PR uses proven best practice techniques to help ensure you get unbiased feedback from your prospects and customers on your communication strategy and messaging. Having gone through the process ourselves at XTM, we found it invaluable. We simply could not have done it ourselves – you need to have an external PR agency like EC-PR involved so you know you are getting unbiased feedback.”
Dave Ruane, Director of Partnerships at XTM, added:
“During the customer validation process, a word stood out that we realised summed up the look and feel of our brand – and it wasn’t a good thing. “Moving away from what that word stood for was a driving force that led to truly effective changes in our branding and website. We knew we could and must make changes, and it was thanks to the external validation process EC-PR led us through that we could do that.”
How much time do you need to spend on PR strategy validation?
The amount of time you dedicate to PR strategy validation can vary depending on the complexity of your plan and your industry. That said, it is essential not to rush through this process. Try to complete as many interviews as possible within the first few weeks, and stay connected with your agency to get an early indication of whether you’re on the right track or not. You’ll quickly understand if you need to pause and rethink your strategy or if you can get started. But don’t stop there – allow for 2-3 months to complete all the interviews, process your findings, and produce your second iteration.
At EC-PR, we advocate for the comprehensive approach detailed above, which involves reaching out to trusted advisors and customers. Why? Because, this strategy has been curated over our decades in the industry, to validate or invalidate PR strategies for maximum success. It’s an essential step in our proven communication strategy. Our clients believe it’s one of the most insightful and valuable steps in the process, and it gives them complete confidence in knowing that their PR strategy is going to deliver results.
No company or thought leader will be able to convince me that PR strategy validation is not a critical step in successful growth campaigns! To summarise, by taking the time to mitigate risks, you can refine your approach, and set the stage for a successful PR campaign.
Remember, it’s better to discover the flaws in your strategy early on than to waste your precious PR budget on an ineffective plan.
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