Reprinted from PRNews

Since I wrote 6 Steps to Create a Comprehensive PR Plan in 2014, the public relations and communications industry has gone through a transformative time.

The speed of communications is ever-increasing, and new channels are constantly emerging. There’s also a greater need to micro-target messages using interconnected cross-platform campaigns to create a continuous story experience. But getting the basics right still applies.

Here are 5 steps to consider when starting your campaign:

Challenge your goal. What outcome do you want to achieve from the campaign? A change in behavior, a change in perception, increased sales, increased awareness? Brainstorm with your team to delve into the outcomes required from the campaign. Challenge assumptions and think differently. This is where you determine whether a campaign is a go or a no-go, which will save you time and money in the long run. Is it the right strategy for your brand right now in the current market context?

Know your audience, know your platforms. The details are in the demographics. Determine which individuals you need to move to achieve your goal. Know how they interact and receive information about your brand. Where do they get their news? What platforms are they most active on? Who/what do they rely on as a trusted source? Who are they influenced by? How influential are they as a whole? A marketing research agency can help you segment your audience, while focus groups, surveys and polling can help you find answers to the questions above. UberConference can be used for focus groups with ability to monitor who is on the call, while SurveyMonkey offers a selection of ready-made marketing surveys.

Let your data speak. Continually mine your data for insights. Consider social media monitoring software such as nuvi.com to help you listen in and see what others are saying about your brand, the industry you are in or the perception you want to sway. If you have the budget, you can work with a digital agency; if not, be resourceful and use the data you have available on your channels. Avoid the temptation to mass-market your campaign due to lack of data access.

Create your storyline. Analyze other campaigns that are targeting similar audiences to see what is and isn’t working. What content is your audience responding to? What content are they creating? Review your agreed-upon goals for the campaign and brainstorm 3-5 storylines with your team, keeping the outcome in mind. Test your top storylines with a selected segment of influencers and revise, revise, revise based on input. You can release test storylines onto your social platforms to measure performance in terms of reach and spread across your audience segments or select influencers you are familiar with to participate in an online, closed focus group.

Determine your channel mix. Your campaign story can determine your mix. Maybe you start with a consumer Instagram Story which ties into promoted brand content on media platforms. That Story ties to an event launch for your brand, and is followed by your brand story promotion. Think of multiple ways to lead and position the story, connecting within your public and consumer audience from the beginning.

Truth, reputation and reliance are mainstays—make sure those key attributes are anchored in your approach and are reflected in your selection of media partners and influencers.

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