epic_failWoe is the deadly PR ghastly mistake. No. 2:
Not having a Strategic Communications Plan

PR cannot be narrow-minded.  You cannot think or execute half-cocked. Sending out just one press release, or exploiting a current news angle without proper aforethought could backfire in a big way…and is about as handy as a pocket on underwear.

Now, someone might think that you don’t need a strategy with PR, but I can tell you that you need a strategic communications plan like you need air.

idea-plan-action2You need to determine what you’re going to DO with PR before executing, because PR is very dynamic.  It spreads, it filters into the nooks and crannies of your prospective clientele and the people that they know, and who they know…and so on and so on…FAST!  PR is the TITAN – it does the job of changing minds so that that marketing can do its job. 

PR pervades.  It instills messages, over time, until people are thinking what YOU want them to think – many times without even knowing where they got that idea from.  Because of that, you need to strategize your public relations plan out well into the future – being too short-sighted is ghastly.

  • PR creates credibility first.
  • Marketing starts the sales process.
  • Sales seals the deal.

PR, Marketing and Sales work together.  You cannot get out one PR message and then change the communication on the marketing message.  You also can’t expect your PR to survive a marketing campaign that does not take the PR strategy into account.

Case in Point No. 1

Who the heck thought of this one?  The Mexican restaurant’s (Hacienda) billboard campaign which certainly caused a PR nightmare.  Public outcry and a beating from the press, Hacienda Mexican Restaurants was forced to end a (expensive) two-week-old billboard campaign in Indiana that featured a red cocktail and the headline, ‘We’re like a cult with better Kool-Aid.’

Hacienda_restaurant_kool-aid “In case anyone missed the allusion to the 1978 mass-suicide tragedy at the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana—where the cyanide was actually served in Flavor-Aid—the Hacienda signs promised that the establishment’s food is “To die for.”  A restaurant chain bold enough to associate itself with poison, misery and death? Yum, I’ll have seconds!” wrote Adfreak (AdWeek) blogger David Gianatasio.

Wow – where was that strategy???  Now, if their game was all along to create so much controversy that they would drive sales (and that does occur) then maybe it could have worked, but considering that they pulled the ad (after just 2 weeks) and ate crow publicly, well then no.


Case in Point No. 2

How about Italian Vogue’s latest fashion faux pas on “Slave earrings”??   Oh man.

slave-earringsThe description sparked criticism on blogs and social media, as angry readers accused the Vogue (Italy) of racism. The inflammatory name was re-labeled ‘ethnic earrings’— “though the text still bizarrely includes a reference to ‘the women of colour who were brought to the southern Unites States during the late 18th century,’” wrote Megan Gibbons in a blog post on TIME’s NewsFeed.

Why Strategy?

If you don’t have a strategy, at the very least you will fall short of what you’re trying to accomplish company-wise.  At the very worst you are cleaning up a mess!

  • What are your company goals?
  • What is the long-term vision?
  • What is your message?
  • What do people need to know about you to feel more comfortable  and interested in doing business with you?

Your PR strategy must take the above into account – and much more.  Sure, you can solve a short-term problem with PR, but you have to include “the long-haul” effects in every campaign.

Without a strategic communications plan, you won’t know what press to get, who to get to listen to you, where to find your target market…and you sure as heck won’t know what to say or how to get them to listen to you.  This is where “bright idea-itis” will creep in (like Hacienda) or “mistakes” (like Vogue).

Case in Point No. 3

gun_control_tshirtFor example, I spoke to a gentleman who was a very good marketer, but he was sour on public relations…more like bitter. He had gotten publicity in the past “out the yin-yang” on his expansive , multi-thousand acreage facility where he trained individuals in self-defense and the proper use of firearms.  He was a huge 2nd Amendment supporter and he had built up his business based on that particular target market, as well as law-enforcement forces around the country and even the world.

The PR firm he hired did indeed get him a slew of PR, but he was very dissatisfied with it because he said nothing came of his PR.  And he had no qualms about telling me that he would never do PR again (I wondered just why he was event talking to me!).  Well I found out why.  When JoTo looked at the plethora of PR he had gotten it was blatantly obvious no one created a strategy.

The press he procured was placed in the most left-wing, liberal publications and TV shows that you could possibly imagine!  These readers and viewers would be totally against guns and gun training of any kind!  In fact, these people were all about gun control and banning guns!  He would have been better off doing nothing.  This is what I’m talking about as far as a strategy – it’s not just that you get publicity…it’s where you get publicity, what you say and how you say it.

Just like he would never pay good money on a marketing campaign to promote to this particular demographic, why the heck would he allow a PR firm to put him in those publications to tell his story?  No wonder he got any benefit from his “PR.”  To those publications’ subscribers, those publicity stories probably just confirmed everything bad they already felt about guns. 

The Moral of the Strategy

You can liken Strategic Communications Planning to planning a wedding.  Gunshot weddings don’t work out very well, and neither does gunshot PR.   (No pun intended.)

Start figuring out your strategy – contact us for help.  In the meantime, quit “shooting from the hip!” (wink)

Karla Jo Helms

  1. Hacienda’s Jonestown billboard snuffed out By David Gianatasio, AdWeek Adfreak adweek.com/adfreak/haciendas-jonestown-billboard-snuffed-out-127039
  2. Fashion Faux Pas: Italian Vogue Promotes ‘Slave’ Earrings By Megan Gibson, Time NewsFeed newsfeed.time.com/2011/08/22/fashion-faux-pas-italian-vogue-promotes-slave-earrings/#ixzz2RoNswYO2