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Setting PR Budgets

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Budgets for PR and marketing are never big enough. Like all things in business there are finite limits and someone always has more to spend than you. However, follow these straightforward tips and you could end up with a more effective public relations programme.

  1. Plan. Every business needs a plan, but so often this is a rushed annual task, grudgingly undertaken while enmeshed in day to day activities. This results in this year’s plan being just like last year’s, but plus (or minus) X per cent, with fingers crossed.
  2. Take time out to plan properly. It could save you a small fortune. Take time to look at the business, look at the trading environment, understand the threats and opportunities and what resources you need to counter them and take the business forward.
  3. Use a proven methodology. Paul Smith, has devised a useful planning tool SOSTAC®, standing for situation analysis, objectives, strategy, tactics, activity and control. This is worth sharing with colleagues. The communication plan, after all, needs to nest into the overall business plan and link to plans for marketing, operations, finance, and so on.
  4. Focus on activity not history. List the key activities arising from the current business plan – new products, investments, acquisitions, market development, and so on. Now decide what communications will support these. Specify the required PR activities – how many releases, case studies, features, press conferences, facility visits, events, road shows, exhibitions, product placements and when these will happen.
  5. Integration and balance. PR is the most potent and cost effective marketing tool you have, but it cannot support the whole communications programme alone. It needs to be integrated with advertising, web promotion, sales and other activities, respecting what each of these channels can contribute.
  6. Prioritise. The good old two dimensional matrix is useful here. Plot each of the activities against a cost and benefit axis. Use the four quadrants to determine the must do (high benefit, low cost), should do (high benefit, higher cost), like to do (lower benefit, lower cost) and marginal activities (high cost low benefit).
  7. Slaughter a few sacred cows. Somewhere in the programme there are certain to be sponsorships, exhibition attendances, long standing advertising commitments that have outlived their usefulness – kill these off and recycle the cash.
  8. Decide what resources are required. Now, do you have a full and rich programme of activities or is it more a series of projects? In house resources may meet some of your needs but for others you will need outside help. Draw a clear boundary between in-house and outside tasks.
  9. Brief your PR company. At this stage you are able to give a full brief to your PR company, telling them what you want to achieve, what you are planning to do and the services you expect them to provide. Any decent PR company should be able to give you a firm cost and suggest alternatives that will be more effective or save you money.
  10. Build in feedback. Based on the objectives you set at the start, decide on the most appropriate form of evaluation to help you measure effectiveness and improve performance.
  1. Don’t forget to be flexible. Circumstances change, new opportunities arise. Build contingencies into the budget to allow for this and be prepared to drop more marginal activity to fund new projects.
  2. Don’t change the goals. Tactical changes to reflect circumstances are fine, but reorientation of effort to achieve different goals sends mixed messages, creates confusion and undermines confidence.
  3. Don’t let history dictate your plan. Change is so rapid in marketing and media that every activity must be carefully evaluated for continuing relevance.
  4. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must use a capital city agency. The capital has no monopoly on talent. Skilled specialist PR practitioners operate throughout the world, are accessible via modern technology, have equal access to media and do not carry huge capital city overheads.
  5. Don’t accept retainer arrangements. This is an old fashioned payment system where you buy a block of the PR’s time, usually in day units, to do unspecified tasks. This unfocussed, unprofessional way of working belongs to the days of gin and tonics, bow ties and mysterious ‘media contacts’. It has no place in modern communication.

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