Ultimately, a well-orchestrated PR plan can influence consumer behaviour, shape sentiments, and strategically position your brand.
If you've previously invested time in developing your PR strategy, you're in a good position. However, avoid the temptation to roll it over to the new year unchanged. Regular updates are crucial to staying in sync with evolving buyer behaviours, competitor landscapes, and technological shifts. And for those new to crafting PR plans, consider this a valuable starting point. We're here to guide you step by step, offering insights to kickstart your planning journey.
Do I need a PR plan?
Let's break it down pragmatically. A PR plan is about hitting the right notes during periods of need and strategic planning ahead.
A significant chunk of all PR work, around 70%, revolves around ongoing press office; incorporating key topics for pitching that are relevant to the news agenda, group trip dates, and roadshows in the UK. Strategic foresight is, therefore, essential. Especially concerning group press trips, with more forward planning than ever required to make this an effective strategy in a busy post-covid world. Some publications are planning content 6-8 months in advances, so if you want coverage landing in a specific timeframe, forward planning is key.
To be able to build your plan, understanding the awards calendar and the release schedules for supplements is of utmost importance. This insight allows your PR team to anticipate and plan for significant features like the Conde Nast Traveller Hot List or Tatler Spa Guide, which requires time to complete.
We’ve been at the sharp end of travel PR for a very long time so we know that every January the media cover “New Year, New You” topics (read: anything wellness, health and fitness related); every February there will be lots of movie related stories coming out (Oscars!). So three months prior i.e. November we research any movies that may have been shot in our clients’ destinations, any famous films stars that stayed at one of our clients’ hotels (even better if they are nominated for an Oscar this year).
Recognising these recurring themes enables your PR plan to stay fixed yet agile, reacting with timely and relevant narratives in the year to come. Having a PR plan allows you to have oversight of all these calendar events in one place.
Why is a good PR strategy so essential?
Having a pre-existing plan is the key. For example, a client of ours in the Scottish Borders knew they wanted to promote Christmas stays with winter packages, and therefore, this was always included in our PR plan. However, we later added an influencer trip to elevate this activity. Our influencer trip, aligned with the Christmas packages and ongoing outreach, resulted in a noticeable uplift across social media, digital and print. Having a great PR plan allows for creativity in planning, meaning we could see the opportunity to build on our agreed deliverables to enhance our scope of work with an additional, timely, trip.
Plus, you can’t plan for what you don’t know. Having a good PR plan allows your brand to plan budgets, and to allocate resourcing within your team. Getting all your objectives on paper means you have a clear roadmap for the year ahead.
What makes a successful PR Plan?
Begin by taking a close look at your PR activities from the previous year. What did your strategy entail, and were there any areas that slipped through the cracks? Look at what topics worked and what didn’t – what got you coverage and why? Applying these findings forward to your content plans is especially important when you don’t have new news. See our blog post: “My PR agency always asks me for news, but we don’t have any!”
Examine your company's media presence. Whom were you reaching out to? Where did your features land? Was the coverage predominantly positive, negative, or a mix of both? Did you reach target publications? We use an online tool called SEMrush to analyse what links our clients have got throughout the year. This tool allows us to look at the quality of those links, e.g. are they in the clients target publications, and we then measure against the competition to see who is being featured and why.
If you employed metrics to gauge your PR success before, leverage that data to set a benchmark for performance. A common approach is measuring media mentions and the reach of your target audience. It's these insights that lay the foundation for refining and enhancing your strategy moving forward.
1- Goal Setting and KPIs:
Every well-crafted PR campaign and strategy comes with a measurement yardstick. It's the moment of truth, where you, your team, and leadership get a glimpse of how your hard work paid off.
These metrics should intricately link back to your tactics, objectives, and overarching goals. For instance, if your PR efforts heavily lean into social media then tracking mentions, new followers, comments, shares, and post reach becomes paramount.
Consider these additional PR metrics:
- Changes in website traffic
- Organic media mentions
- Website bounce rate
- Word-of-mouth mentions
- Audience sentiment analysis
- Conversion rates
- Domain Authority
- Follow vs No Follow
- New client acquisition
- Improvements in search rankings
- Email subscriber growth
- Email click-through rates
- Stakeholder satisfaction
At Lemongrass, we’ve always been advocates that the best PR strategies are holistic: They involve both print and online, traditional and digital PR, social and influencer marketing. You can read more in our blog: How to measure PR: the metrics that matter
to learn how we set KPIs with our clients.
Remember, you can't measure what you don't track. While it's tempting to measure everything, focusing on key metrics is prudent. It saves time, streamlines data collection, and allows you to zero in on the critical indicators that illuminate how you've met your KPIs.
Setting the stage for success involves establishing SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. We always start with a Backlink Audit to identify where our clients lack links, and where their competition has gained traction, basing our PR plan firmly in the data. For example, when working with Vienna Tourism Board, we identified in their Backlink Audit that their competition had links in UK publications like Grazia, or The Telegraph, and our PR team knew we needed to focus in on these titles to ensure they covered Vienna, not the competition. Having a list of priority publications ensured we could work to SMART goals and stay on track.
2- Know Your Audience:
Let’s consider your target audience. Where do they seek information? Which news sources, blogs, or publications resonate with them? What social media channels dominate their attention?
A deep understanding of your target market will guide you to the right publications for pitching and allow you to prioritise certain publications. We recommend personalised pitching, ensuring you hit the right publication with a message that will resonate with them to get coverage for your brand. Plus, whilst the nationals and daily papers are great and offer huge reach, niche publications can be just as relevant, if not more so, for your audience.
One of our Tour Operator clients specialises in food tours in South America, this is a very specific offering requiring a certain PR strategy and outreach. As much as a feature in Conde Nast Traveller would be great brand exposure, their audience is much more likely to be found reading Delicious, or Olive or a food blog from a well-known chef. This was taken into account when putting together their PR plan and target list of publications for the year.
Find out how we approach generating the right leads for your travel brand here.
Effectively distributing your content hinges on reaching the precise audience. Relying solely on traditional methods no longer yields the impact it once did. Hence, thorough research is crucial, guiding you to communication channels that guarantee the exposure you seek. Optimise your resources wisely by investing time, money, and effort in channels directly aligned with your target audience for maximum impact, e.g. social media and link building are two great channels to build brand awareness, but which platform houses more of your audience? Does your audience respond well to influencers on Instagram, or is an article in FT better for their needs?
Navigate the digital landscape strategically. Identify where your audience resides and tailor tactics accordingly. For example, if you are a resort looking to attract families, hosting an influencer trip is a great place to start. You will partner with family influencers who will showcase your property effectively to the right audience across social channels that they are spending time on.
This is exactly what we do with our long-standing client Martinhal Hotels and Resorts. Focusing on the pre-school market we arrange trips for influencers with young children to experience the resorts personally. We went influencer Beth Sandland to create authentic content and highlighting services that are important to families when travelling e.g. baby concierge service (so you don’t have to pack the kitchen sink!) and washing machines in the properties (as we all know how much washing babies produce). This is content that will resonate with like-minded parents with young children.
If you’re a new hotel opening, looking to build online presence, you might want to prioritise exposure in online publications to get links back to your website. This helps your guests find you through Google.
When we took on The Athenaeum, their DA (which stands for domain authority, and is a measure of the website’s influence) was low. And so was their visibility in Google. Within the first six months we had moved them from a DA 39 to 46 – all via PR and Digital PR. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it has tripled their website traffic. And all that relevant traffic means more bookings. Read about how we did this in our blog: SEO principles for travel brands – a beginner’s guide – Part one.
Each channel will fit with a different purpose and some will align better with your brand than others. Your PR plan should detail these channels and how to most effectively use them.
4- Key Messages:
What are the fundamental points or the relevant stories that you want your audience to pick up and remember your brand for? For example, our client the Slovenian Tourist Board approached us and wanted to be known in the UK market for their high focus on sustainability and responsible travel. Within their PR plan, we knew we needed to focus on sustainability generally, but how does that look in the day-to-day? For Slovenia, it means promoting their Green Certification scheme, and planning ahead for things like Earth Day.
Similarly, another of our tourism board clients, Cascais, wanted to be known for their events. Therefore, we build our PR plan around this messaging, ensuring we’re always keeping an eye to these events in the calendar. We hosted a group press trip to coincide with their CoolJazz Festival as we knew from the start of the year this was a priority for them.
To have the right information, examine your audience’s desires and what they like or dislike. And then build the ideal content or message that will add value. Think like your audience to develop your campaigns with the audience’s view in mind. To succeed, ensure your team reads through your message before sharing it with the public and that it communicates the correct image of the brand or the intended purpose.
Your key message should connect to your mission and vision, and why consumers should choose your brand over another. It should help create a perception of what you want the audience to know about your brand.
If you want your audience to recognise you or your brand as an expert, share trends, key insights, statistics, or educational content. This way, you will build your reputation and make consumers trust you or take action. For example, our medi-spa client Lanserhof are positioned – quite rightly – as industry leaders in gut health, going well beyond their presence in the hospitality and wellness space.
5- Newsworthy vs. Newsjacking:
Key messages are important to know, but they won’t get media attention just as they are. You need to make it relevant to “now”.
Newsjacking in PR is a way to take an existing story getting lots of attention and use it to benefit your brand. This involves jumping on newsworthy topics, leveraging the media’s interest in them, and using those stories to draw attention to your business. By reacting quickly when news breaks, you can gain exposure for your brand and increase its visibility. For example, when working with TravelLocal, we positioned co-founder Huw Owen as an expert commentor on how climate change was changing summer travel due to hot temperatures. This resulted in over 13 pieces of coverage, including Huff Post, Metro, Daily Telegraph and more. This was a reactive piece that wasn’t in our PR plan, but it did align with many of our other goals for the brand, including positioning them as local area experts.
You want to allow for plenty of agility in your PR plan – don’t get too rigid and allow space for creativity and for last minute pitches. At Lemongrass, we build time in for our monthly Creative Forums, a space where we come together to discuss the latest in pop culture, and how we can apply that to our travel clients. Stay agile with trend watching, incorporating last-minute additions, and get creative with your team to stay ahead.
Trend-watching is essential, we monitor everything on a daily basis: the destinations where our clients are based, key services, and their niches (adventure travel, sustainable travel, city breaks, cultural travel, wellness travel, family travel, honeymoons and so on).
We monitor these diligently, to see what’s changing. And we can use the data from interesting search events to create newsworthy pitches for our clients. We do this through Google Trends – which is easy to use, and free. Another great free tool for trends is Exploding Topics, or if you want to get into the data of your audience, SparkToro. Even Pinterest Predicts can be a great place for trending information.
6- Media Relations Strategy:
The landscape of media relations has undergone significant transformations over the past decade.
Firstly, the definition of "media" has expanded considerably. It no longer solely encompasses traditional press outlets and TV stations; the term now includes freelance journalists, bloggers, influencers, and anyone or anything with an audience.
In essence, it can be argued that "media relations" is also now "influencer relations."
Research is paramount. It goes beyond occasional news reading, skimming headlines, or scrolling through Twitter during coffee breaks. A deep familiarity with the media landscape is absolutely indispensable for every facet of any public relations campaign or communications strategy. Look beyond magazines in your media relations strategy. Dive into research to pinpoint outlets that align seamlessly with your brand, whether that’s on a newspaper stand or on our phones – connect with people of influence who genuinely connect with your brand.
Knowing their target media and fostering those relationships is key - so it should be around how to prioritise internal resources if you don't have an agency. Quality over quantity.
Establishing meaningful connections with the right media contacts—be it journalists, writers, analysts, or editors for the pertinent media outlet—is crucial for maximising media representation and enhancing brand awareness. When there's news to share, identifying the appropriate recipients for a press release becomes paramount.
7- PR Plans aren’t set in stone:
At Lemongrass, our plans are flexible and responsive. Unlike traditional year-long strategies, our PR plans adapt within 3-6 month intervals due to the unpredictable nature of the landscape. This approach allows us to stay agile, reacting promptly to emerging opportunities and challenges. Whilst PR plans are great and essential to have, they act as our guides, not our master.
The media agenda changes quickly, and we have to align with it. This is where there needs to be nimbleness in the PR plan and space to adapt to change. For example, when pitching ‘the burning Dolomites’ in summer 2023 for a Dolomite client, we were mindful and responsive to the fact that much of Europe was experiencing wildfires, and although the Dolomites remained unaffected, language around this pitching topic felt inappropriate, and we had to adapt.
We maintain regular communication with our clients, providing updates on activities and adjusting focus as needed. We recommend flexibility and adjustment, rather than rigidity.
Every travel brand has a story. Good PR ensures that your story is communicated in a compelling and motivating manner, and a great PR plan is the first step your story gets told.
Whether you're well-versed in PR strategy or venturing into crafting your first plan, the key lies in adaptability and a proactive approach. Regular updates are imperative to staying ahead of shifting buyer behaviours, competitor landscapes, and technological trends. It's not just a plan; it's a living document that requires constant refinement to remain effective.
Ready to plan your PR for 2024? Let’s talk about your travel brand and your goals. Get in touch – or call 01865 237990.