Your PR checklist: five questions for success

9 February 2023  |  Insights
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Whether you want to build your credibility, win new donors or campaign for change, PR is an essential – and effective – part of any non-profit communications strategy. So it’s no surprise that when charities come to us for support, they’re often itching to get started.

But – as with any comms activity – it pays to pause and do your groundwork before launching into your PR campaign. That’s why we ask all of the organisations we work with to think about some fundamental questions before we begin, to help us make the most of their PR investment.

If you’re thinking of delving into PR, here are the key questions to ask yourself so that you start off on the right foot:

What’s your goal?

The first step towards success is to have a clear vision for what that success will look like, and how you’ll measure it. The amount of coverage you achieve in target media is a great first step, but how is that coverage achieving your wider organisational goals?

Sometimes success is quick and easy to quantify – like the number of people attending an event or showing up at your local service because they’ve heard about you on the radio. Other goals, like improving your credibility and changes in attitudes, may take more time to bear fruit and need more considered evaluation, so it’s important to set realistic expectations and to think about where you will see the signs your PR is working.

If you’re not sure where to start, your agency or in-house PR specialist should be able to help you set realistic expectations of the impact PR can have and how you should measure them.

Who's your audience?

You’ve probably already identified your target audiences with your fundraising or marketing teams.

It’s important to share these audiences and any personas you’ve produced with your PR agency or team, and outline which of these audiences you specifically want to reach with your PR campaign.

Some key areas for you to to discuss are: where should you target your PR efforts to get their attention? Which media do they consume? Which social media platforms are they on, and which events do they go to? Who influences them? And what motivates them to take action?

You may need to do extra research to find this out, but it will be worth it - because it's key to developing a campaign that strikes a chord with the people you want to reach.

What’s your message?

In today’s soundbite culture, you need to be clear and concise to get your point across. This is particularly the case if you’re working with the media, who are only likely to give you a few words or moments of airtime.

So, if you only have 30 seconds to make your point, what do you want to use them for? Make sure your key messages are short, simple and memorable.

Identify a key spokesperson or people who can represent your organisation well, is an engaging communicator, and can be available to speak to the media at key moments in the campaign. If they haven’t had media training, it’s a good idea to arrange this before you launch your campaign

What’s your hook?

Knowing what you want to say is just half the battle – the key to your PR campaign’s success lies in how you say it.

A good PR campaign needs something about it that will grab attention, or as the media call it, a strong hook. Here are just some of the ways you can make your campaign stand out:

  1. Case studies. An emotive personal story is media gold, particularly if you can offer interviews and photos alongside it. It’s also a powerful way to put a face to an issue that you’re campaigning on.
  2. Research or statistics. Can you highlight any trends or commission new research to give your story a unique angle and credibility?
  3. A creative photo opportunity or PR stunt. This doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, simple ideas can often be the most effective – remember the ice bucket challenge?

The more interesting, emotional or unusual your hook, the more likely it is to get the attention you want.

What’s your timeframe?

Good timing is critical to the success of a PR campaign, so your PR team or agency needs to be aware of important timeframes from the outset. Consider:

  1. Your organisation’s internal timings. How does your campaign fit in with your broader comms plan and are there key milestones you need to hit? How long will it take to get together the assets that you need? When are your spokespeople available to do media interviews?
  2. Anything in the news agenda that they should be aware of. Is your campaign time-sensitive? Or can you make it more high profile by tying it into a relevant event, like the budget, the new school year, or an important climate change conference?
  3. Important timings for your target audiences. Make sure you’re ready to meet media deadlines, and highlight if you want to target a particular influencer or organisation so that the PR team can contact them early and look out for any potential diary clashes they may have.

By asking these questions right at the outset, you can have a clear expectation for what you want PR to deliver for your charity – and give your PR agency or in-house team the best chance of success.

Written by Charis Gibson, Director of Communications

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