A great PR brief is not about what you want

Anthony Caruana shares tips for how to deliver a strong PR brief so marketers can maximise their efforts during a global pandemic.

Marketers are under increasing pressure as the world struggles to adapt and ride out the economic impacts of COVID-19. For many marketers ‘keeping the lights on’ across digital media channels is crucial to a successful rebound and to remain relevant in the future.

Many marketers are now grappling with quickly engaging PR agencies and freelancers to help them keep the brand alive across digital. Delivering a strong PR brief is crucial so you don’t waste valuable time or money.

The typical approach to writing a PR brief, whether it be for a one-off project, an event or ongoing retainer, is to focus on what you want. PR professionals roll their eyes when they hear you want to be in a major financial newspaper or business magazine. That’s what everyone wants. The chasm between what you want and what you can get is often very wide. Having what it takes to achieve this type of coverage is about more than throwing dollars and manpower at the problem. You have to earn this sort of media attention.

You can spend hours crafting PR briefs, outlining endless KPIs and objectives, and while these are useful, what is more relevant is providing an insight into WHAT stories, news, opinions, spokespeople and customers you have to work with in your media campaign. This needs to be tempered with the limitations of your budget.

I can’t tell you how many briefs have come across our desk at Media-Wize that completely omit any insight into what we may have to work with. Just before COVID-19 a big multinational issued an eight page PR brief for support to promote an event. Unrealistic expectations abounded about what they thought was achievable. When I asked the marketer what news, what speakers, what content or topics we may have to work with, they couldn’t answer. The company wanted a result on a shoestring budget but had no idea how to go about it.

Journalists have almost no interest in marketing, promotion and sales hyperbole – everyone is the biggest, best, first, world leader and a game changer. If you push those messages to a journalist be prepared to have solid proof points to back them up. They will be either ignored completely or heavily scrutinised, leading to questions you may never have anticipated.

Reporters are looking for the new – a story they haven’t covered before, a new approach, a new solution, a fresh opinion.

When you write your PR brief, invest time in really picking apart your business and brand and understanding how to convey your value proposition to different audiences in different locations. It’s okay to not have all the answers but you need to unlock some budget for a discovery session.

For companies to ride out a global pandemic they need to be careful they don’t waste resources on marketing approaches that don’t translate when working with the media. Marketers blow a lot of money through not understanding how the media works. Every dollar is critical to surviving this crisis – businesses cannot afford to get it wrong.

I recommend starting with media training. This allows marketers to join with spokespeople to dive into how the media works, learn how dramatically the game has changed in Australia over the past few years and what tactics in which to invest. Spokespeople need to practice mock interviews in a safe setting with a real journalist and be coached on how to improve messaging. If you do this, you’ll uncover a raft of hidden stories that marketing teams didn’t even know even existed in their organisations.

Then a roadmap for effective communication and PR strategies can be developed that importantly focuses on stories that will help achieve desired objectives and maximise the chances of success.

Anthony Caruana is a well-known writer, presenter, facilitator, journalist and consultant. He is the CEO of Media-Wize.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.