Understanding Client Goals When Tailoring PR Strategies

In public relations, one size does not fit all.

As a PR professional, your ability to craft effective strategies hinges on a deep understanding of your organization’s or client’s goals. By focusing on these objectives, you can move beyond generic media coverage and deliver targeted results for greater impact.

Let’s explore why understanding client goals is essential, and how it allows you to tailor PR strategies more effectively.

The Pitfall of Generic Media Coverage

One common pitfall in PR is the pursuit of media coverage for its own sake. While landing a feature in a high-profile publication is gratifying, it may not always align with the client’s broader objectives.

Theodora Jean, founder and managing partner of Coldwater Communications, underscores this point: “Sometimes, prospective clients come to us who want coverage for the sake of coverage. When you ask, ‘What do you want people to do with this information?’ it’s a more difficult question for them to answer.”

The Need for Specific Objectives

To tailor strategies effectively, you must first identify specific objectives. These objectives can vary widely, from increasing brand awareness and driving sales to influencing policy or attracting talent.

Each goal requires a different approach and a distinct set of tactics.

Here are some examples:

  • Increasing brand awareness: For clients looking to boost brand visibility, a combination of mainstream media coverage, influencer partnerships, and social media campaigns might be most effective.
  • Driving sales: Clients focused on sales need strategies that highlight product features and benefits, such as targeted advertisements, product reviews, and strategic partnerships with relevant influencers.
  • Influencing policy: When the goal is to shape public policy, thought leadership pieces, opinion editorials, and engagement with industry-specific publications are best.
  • Attracting talent: To draw top talent, PR strategies should emphasize the company’s culture, values, and employee testimonials, leveraging both mainstream and niche industry publications.

Tailoring Strategies to Client Goals

Once you understand the ultimate goal, you can tailor your PR strategies to achieve the desired outcome. Here’s how to do it:

Conduct a Goal-Setting Workshop

Begin with a comprehensive goal-setting session. Ask probing questions to uncover the client’s core objectives. Jean suggests asking, “What is the intended result, and what is the call to action?”

Develop a Customized Media Plan

Based on the goals you’ve uncovered, develop a tailored media plan that includes a mix of earned, owned, shared, and paid media. For instance, a university looking to increase enrollment in a particular program might benefit from a mix of educational webinars, alumni success stories, and targeted social media ads.

Leverage Data and Analytics

Use data and analytics to track the effectiveness of your strategies. Measure key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the goals, such as website traffic, social media engagement, or lead generation. Adjust your tactics based on these insights to ensure you are meeting the objectives.

Focus on Storytelling

Always put yourself in the audience’s shoes while coming up with your narratives. Find stories that will resonate. A university, for example, is a fountain of story ideas. Every faculty or department is home to groundbreaking research and topics that are important enough to the public that they can lead to successful media campaigns.

Adapt and Innovate

Stay flexible and open to new ideas. The media landscape is constantly changing. What worked yesterday might not work today. Regularly review your strategies and be willing to pivot when necessary to stay aligned with the organization’s or client’s goals.

Case Study: From Coverage to Conversion

Consider a client aiming to drive social change. They initially sought broad media coverage, but deeper discussions revealed their ultimate goal was to influence public opinion and policy. By understanding this, the PR team shifted their strategy. Instead of pursuing generic media hits, they focused on placing opinion pieces in influential outlets, organizing community events, and engaging directly with policymakers. This targeted approach led to meaningful conversations and tangible policy shifts, demonstrating the power of aligning PR strategies with client goals.

Drive Success by Focusing on Objectives

Understanding the client’s ultimate goal is the cornerstone of effective PR strategy. It allows you to move beyond generic media coverage and deliver tailored, impactful results. By conducting thorough goal-setting sessions, developing customized media plans, leveraging data, focusing on storytelling, and staying adaptable, you can ensure your strategies serve the objectives.

Understanding and aligning with clients’ goals will set you apart and drive long-term success. Commit to digging deeper, asking the right questions, and crafting strategies that truly move the needle.