The top four reasons your comms plan could be failing

Everyone at Missive shares a common belief in the power of PR and communications to create tangible business impacts. Despite a growing awareness of the importance of a robust measurement strategy, all too often, businesses fail to make the link between business objectives and comms. As a result, PR departments suffer, finding it difficult to justify spend or be taken seriously as ROI is hard to prove.


We’ve outlined the top four reasons PR and comms plans fail and what you can do to ensure you don’t fall into the same trap:


1. Unconnected to business objectives

Everyone in your comms team should know the business’s strategic objectives and what your PR programme can do to help achieve them. Everything you do should link back to these goals – every interview, byline article, social media post or stunt. If you need to hire talent or win new customers, what should your communications objectives and KPIs be to prove success? It’s no good securing a front-page feature in a favourite magazine, unless you know it will help you get the right result.


Start with your business objectives, gather research and insights to identify what needs to be done to achieve them and map your programme out from there. Think about what is and isn’t possible: you might be able to use your campaign to increase web traffic to a sales page for example, but actually closing those sales should fall to the sales team. In short don’t over-promise.


2. Not reaching the right audiences

After interrogating your business objectives, understanding the audience you’re trying to reach is fundamental to success. Perhaps you want to engage business owners in Edinburgh; this is quite a broad brief and here it’s important to explore your audience further to ensure you pinpoint exactly the right individuals.


You might decide that you’re particularly interested in accountancy business owners with between 5-10 members of staff and a turnover of more than £1m per year. That narrows the field down and you can use this information to identify audience demographics and other data that will help you understand what they’re interested in, which channels they interact on and the media they consume. All of this will inform the tactics and message you use in your campaign, so that your activity has the desired impact.


3. Lacking a clear message

What is it that you want your audiences to do or think as a result of your campaign? If your message isn’t clear, you risk failing to instigate the behaviour you’re investing so heavily to achieve.


Your message should, first and foremost, resonate with the audiences you’re trying to reach and might therefore need to be adapted to suit different segments. If you’re rolling out a big campaign, message testing – something that is all too often forgotten in PR – is a must.


The channels and tactics you choose should also be appropriate for delivering your message; if you’re encouraging an audience to apply for a job, LinkedIn may be the best platform. If you want to convey aesthetic beauty, perhaps Instagram is a better fit.


4. Business impact unclear

Assuming you have points one to three covered, demonstrating business impact should be straightforward, but only if you put the right metrics in place from the start. Proving the value of PR is a hotly discussed topic. Simply counting up the number of articles you’ve featured in is fairly useless without also considering where those articles have been published and what they have said about you.


The metrics you choose need to map back to your business objectives and show that you’ve reached the right audience with the right message. If your company is undergoing a period of transformation, securing coverage or social media mentions in line with particular messages will help show acceptance of this realignment. Alternatively if you’re going through a funding round, boosting your website’s position in Google search engines might be the way to show value, or through increased recognition among investors.


There is no longer any excuse for PR to be side-lined as a ‘fluffy’ or ‘nice to have’ profession. By taking the time to map out campaigns in line with business objectives at the start, identifying the right audiences and putting tangible metrics in place, successes will never be called into question. Think about how you can make your business impact impossible to argue with and you’ll safeguard your team for years to come.


– By Hannah Devoy, Senior Account Director at Missive.


Want to find out what can PR actually help you achieve, if done well? Read our top tips here


Missive is a Communications Consultancy for tech-driven businesses. It was established in 2015 to have a material impact on the businesses it works with. In 2017, it was named the UK’s Best Small PR Agency by the PRCA.