Queen’s Gambit for PR: Why You Need a Distinct Strategy

A well-designed strategy is a prelude to success: true in chess and equally applicable in public relations.

But the value of a strong PR strategy has changed. It was not so long ago when the PR strategy played second fiddle to the marketing strategy. Often, the primary purpose of PR was to build a strong relationship with the media in order to get coverage.

This changed when social media and blog posts started to make their mark. Suddenly, you could raise noise levels by working with key influencers or micro-influencers. In addition, social media offered an excellent platform to shout about your brand and get heard by both the audience and the press. Even major media tend to pick up news or newsmakers that are trending on social media.

So, it’s no surprise that the modern approach to PR strategy is to align PR tightly with marketing strategy. That means PR pros are working even more closely with the product and branding teams in order to understand the target audience, their behaviors, and how to target the right blogs, media, and influencers to get that ever-elusive coverage.

Yet, a PR strategy cannot be the same as the marketing strategy, a mistake often made. Why?

PR strategy vs. marketing strategy: it’s different.

In PR, you do not have complete control over your messaging. Your messaging also needs to have a distinct angle and is not repeatable like marketing slogans are.

A good PR strategy has an additional plus point: it can build credibility. In a world awash with marketing and influencer messages, credibility is to be treasured and safeguarded.

PR also needs to have a strategy to manage crises in a way that marketing does not. Today, a crisis can occur within a blink of an eye. All it takes is a single nasty comment or a boatload of flaming messages, and you need to do damage control. But, without a strategy, you will only be reacting.

a PR strategy cannot be the same as the marketing strategy

4 good, modern PR strategies

In today’s PR universe, there are many effective PR strategies. Here are some good ones:

  1. The most common, modern PR strategy is a top-of-mind strategy. It is where marketing and PR work closely together to get your message heard across the different media. Tactics highlight which media you need to target.
  2. An influencer strategy is a must, even if you are a B2B company (think: industry experts as micro-influencers). Increasingly, consultants are being branded as micro-influencers with a social media following. But unlike marketing, which focuses on product placement and brand promotions, PR pros need to ensure that they can shape opinions with their messaging.
  3. Not to be outdone, a WOM (word of mouth) strategy is still essential and effective. But today, social media plays a vital role in WOM. PR needs to get into the right conversations to create buzz for your messaging.
  4. PR can also have specific strategies, like getting third-party validation or getting validated by particular media. These efforts require their own strategy as they need focus and specific tactics. Often, these strategies demand close collaboration with marketing. For example, should you advertise in a particular publication for both leads and to be seen as a good resource for articles?
Challenges of modern PR strategies

Modern PR strategies have their challenges. One is, as mentioned above, the rising need to address crises more proactively. The traditional approach of wait-and-see is no longer working. Even negotiating a compromise deal with lawyers can blow up as people will see it as admitting guilt. PR needs to engage proactively to control the damage.

PR pros need to work closely with other parts of the company, like legal and HR. We’ve seen evidence of how this collaboration worked during the pandemic when all three areas came together to develop WFH and return-to-workplace messaging.

Another challenge is the rampant misuse of social media by some to say whatever they want without fear of being called out. Social media algorithms are designed to drive engagement (and more live users). It is why many accuse social media of causing the polarization of the nation.

Social media giants will never take responsibility as they see themselves as simply a platform. As such, PR needs to take the upper hand by factoring in the “facelessness” of social media in their strategies, making them more agile. This matters even more as the world continues to become increasingly mobile-first, especially as the polarization of communities continues to spread.

Distinct PR strategy from marketing is essential

Whatever the challenge, PR needs a solid, distinct strategy from marketing. Facing a crisis or when you are just generally busy, this strategy offers essential guardrails so that you can remain focused on the actual goals and not get sidelined by other demands.

Without one, you are opening yourself to a checkmate by your rivals.