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Amy
November 18, 2020

Digital PR Process – Step 2: Planning campaign strategy and ideation

It can be easy to get off track or lose sight of successful ideas when brainstorming – we’ve all been down that road. So to avoid getting stuck on ideas that don't work, aren’t relevant or are just a little bland, we’ve built a process that starts by defining your strategy and identifying opportunities so you can be inspired to create and validate ideas.

Now you’ve set your objectives and conducted brand, media and industry research, it’s time to determine your digital PR strategy and start brainstorming ideas. 

Digital PR Process

Defining your strategy

When building a digital PR strategy, it’s important to be organised; you should follow timelines and map out your activity and the target audience you plan to reach. However, staying organised while keeping your objectives and research top of mind can be tricky. When mapping out strategies for our clients, we take into account the following: 

  1. Timeline: set out a timeline of activity you want to follow, based on specific days/events, holidays or other brand activities. We often break up our budget across the year, mixing up large, small and reactive campaigns. 
  2. Key themes: look back to the research phase and incorporate the topics you’ve determined you have authority in and are priorities for the brand. 
  3. On-site pages: determine which pages you want to drive authority to and will have to link to in the content. Also decide where the content will live on-site.  
  4. Activity: outline the type of activity you want to run. Digital PR? Reactive PR? Is it reliant on a date or event? We believe it’s good to have a mix. This provides flexibility when the unexpected happens, such as global pandemics, and helps fill gaps when working on larger scale campaigns. Here are some examples of different campaign activities:
    • Large campaigns: reports, microsites, games, activations.
        • Example: Netflights Airport Review – a report analysing the UK’s 25 busiest airports and how they fare in a number of categories, such as family-friendliness and accessibility.
    • Small campaigns: indexes, user generated content (UGC), data visualisation.
    • Date or event reliant: events, holidays, national days.
        • Example: Fairports an International Women’s Day campaign showcasing how few airports are named after women compared to men, and highlighting women who have made strides in the aviation industry.  
    • Reactive PR: newsjacking, comment opportunities, revamping past campaigns.
        • Example: Evening Standard comment, utilising the ease of COVID-related travel restrictions to comment on destinations to visit.

 

Campaign ideation

With your strategy sorted, it’s time to start ideation. This can be the most daunting task, especially when inspiration runs dry but don’t worry, that happens to all of us. So we’ve developed a process that helps get the creative juices flowing and ensures the ideas are viable. 

First off, ask yourselves the following questions: 

  • What is the main topic and purpose of the activity? (Gain strong local authority or be the go-to-place for a certain niche) 
  • What topics relative to your brand are trending? 
  • What makes these topics interesting?
  • What are common questions about these topics? 
  • What are other brands saying about these topics? 
  • Get into the mindset of people using your product or service what questions, reservations misconceptions or reactions might they have? 
  • What data do you have access to? 
  • What budget do you have for external resources? (Data, design, dev, activations etc.) 

Tip: get your team in a room to answer these questions on a whiteboard. Seeing it all together helps inspire.

 

Campaign brainstorming

Now you’re inspired, you can begin brainstorming ideas. We could write a whole article on this (stay tuned) as there are so many different strategies, exercises and books to read about how to be the most effective. And no matter which brainstorming exercises you do, it’s key to have as much information as you can, and bounce ideas off each other. Reference your research, get inspired and talk it out with your team. And the best advice we can share: keep the ideas simple.  

Here are some additional tips and ideas to help you get cracking with brainstorming:

  • Get inspired! Here’s a list of some of our go-to sources for campaign ideas:
  • Set aside one-hour individually before entering a brainstorm session to do additional research, so it’s top of mind going into a brainstorm. Use Google Trends, Answer the Public, social listening and the news. 
  • Write out headlines and work back from there reference your research of media and journalist interests
  • If budget was no question, what would your dream campaign be? This can be a great starting off point 
  • Brainwriting exercises: write it all out on paper, in teams or individually
  • Word-association exercises 

 

Reactive PR brainstorming

When brainstorming for reactive PR, you have to be on your toes and work fast, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some top-line ideas in your back pocket:

  • Practice reactive-PR thinking. Have your team choose a handful of headlines from the previous few months and use brainwriting to come up with ideas that you could have used for reactive PR. You just may come up with a campaign idea from it
  • Write out headlines and work back from there  
  • Keep good documentation of the internal data you have and old campaigns that can quickly be revamped or reworked 
  • Watch what other brands are doing with their reactive PR
  • Keep an eye on the news daily and brainstorm ideas with your team to see if there are any relevant opportunities 

 

Validation

Now you’ve produced some ideas, you want to validate them. We’ve broken down our validation checklist into three categories: PR-ability, SEO-ability and essential questions. This helps to see where the ideas may be lacking and where you could pivot an idea.

To summarise, you want to make sure readers and journalists will actually care about your content so you can achieve those high-quality links. It’s essential to make sure it’s a fresh idea you can actually execute, and above all, ensure the concept is simple enough to produce a subject line that will grab a journalist’s attention and a headline that will encourage your audience to engage. 

Digital PR idea validation checklist

Brainstorming is done best when you have different minds all working together. We know it’s harder in this current climate to get your team together for sessions, and it may be difficult to feel inspired and creative. But we assure you, the above process, whether it’s done around a meeting room table or in a video chat, is sure to help boost your creativity and come up with campaigns that will definitely meet your campaign objectives.

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