High-Impact PR Planning that Drives ROI & Supports Demand Generation

Public relations and marketing professionals face heavy workloads and hectic schedules as the scope of their work has expanded to include social media, content marketing and the constant demand for relevant information in the digital age. In this environment, it’s easy to overlook the valuable role that press releases can play.

If you’ve relied on mundane headlines and a sea of stale copy in the past, your number’s up. Today’s successful releases are much more dynamic and incorporate images, videos and social media to capture readers’ attention and encourage sharing. These modern press releases support their companies’ branding and promotional efforts, and they do so much more than catalog new products and personnel changes.

Now that releases are more sophisticated, they also require more planning. A company needs time to not only create copy for a release, but also develop compelling blog posts, images and videos to reinforce the message.

The first step of the planning process is to determine the stories and messages the company wants to share. It’s also important to identify the best platforms to use for communication (earned media, social media, etc.). The next step is to create a calendar and map out the launch dates for each piece of content that supports the message or promotion. It’s also important to determine ROI goals and integrate ways to measure the effectiveness of communication.


• Identifying Stories to Promote

• Choosing Content Platforms

• Developing a Content Calendar

• Setting Goals for ROI

• Establishing Performance Measures

Identifying Stories to Promote

The goal for this stage is to find compelling messages and stories that will intrigue the media or consumers. If a company employs solid storytelling, audiences will more likely pay attention and share the message.

  • Realize that releases can do much more than announce a new chief marketing officer or the latest earnings report. Use them to promote new products, new and interesting content and services and to share broader branding stories. Any time you can provide a unique angle on a newsworthy story, you increase the likelihood of your content being shared.

  • Identify which stories—and how many different stories—the company wants to promote within a certain period of time.

  • Identify the target audience for each message, including members of the business community, certain media or consumers.

  • Convert owned content, such as industry research and surveys, into infographics, blogs or other assets that address industry trends and can be shared with other industry or media websites.

Choosing Content Platforms

In this stage, you’ll budget time and resources for visual storytelling, social media coverage and earned media coverage.

  • Assess all available assets, including images, video and text, to determine the best distribution approach. Remember, there’s no need to construct a complex infographic or demand Pixar production values from a video when a simple, compelling visual will do. Opt for a simple tool that helps viewers grasp your story quickly.

  • Plan for production of visual storytelling, which is crucial. In 2013, 86% of news releases did not include visuals, but almost half of the top-performing releases that year did include visuals, according to PR Newswire.1 Remember, visuals should be simple and don’t need to be expensive and or highly sophisticated. Nix the overly branded videos, which are less useful to journalists who need to publish objective content.

  • Plan for social media, which isn’t necessarily free. Set a budget for social media promotions—who will produce video and images, and how much will these elements cost?

  • Develop a plan and budget for paid social media tools. When you’re hosting a live event, consider sponsoring a hashtag using Twitter’s advertising/sponsoring options. With product launches, determine whether you should carve out budget for social media advertising or for promoted tweets.

  • Locate opportunities for earned media coverage. Identify media outlets that regularly need industry data and infographics. Track issues breaking in the news that company experts can comment on in releases and blog posts.

Developing a Content Calendar

In this step, you’ll establish a schedule so the team has adequate time to produce content and knows exactly when it will be published.

Don’t let a hectic work schedule limit your promotions. To ensure ample production time, set up a content calendar showing when each press release or other type of content will launch.

  • Determine which messages or themes will be communicated each week and how many social media messages, blog posts, etc., will be produced. Build themes and messaging around a consistent storyline across channels.

  • Earned media isn’t a happy accident that occurs as a byproduct of your other efforts. It must be integrated as an important component of the PR and marketing calendar.

  • Images and videos take time to produce, so plan these elements well in advance of the release date. Make clear assignments and follow a production schedule.

Setting Goals for ROI

The next step is to decide what you want to achieve with the campaign and identify key performance metrics, keeping in mind the importance of organic growth.

  • Set overarching goals as well as intermediate, campaign-to-campaign goals.

  • Identify the key performance indicators and metrics that company leaders are seeking, such as query volumes, conversion rates and search ranks for specific web pages.

  • Understand the importance of organic growth for your company’s message. Consider that Google search parameters emphasize authentic earned media, social sharing and implied links.

  • Be flexible with goals and allow room for adjustment, because unexpected insights can help reach audiences in unexpected ways.

Establishing Performance Measures

The goal of this stage is to plan the methods to track traffic and measure the reach of communication.

  • As you plan promotions, work with web analytics personnel to develop the best ways to track traffic around press releases, blog posts and social media.

  • Employ tools like special tracking URLs and dedicated landing pages to measure where the hits are originating. By setting these up in advance, measurements will be much more successful.

  • Take advantage of YouTube and other video hosting platforms that offer effective ways to measure the reach of content. For convenience and efficiency, establish one dashboard to show performance across all networks.

  • Work backward from your company’s preferred results to determine the best tracking tools. If you’re rewarded for web traffic, for example, create a dedicated landing page or build a press release ID tag into the homepage URL to measure how much traffic you’ve generated.


  1. PR Newswire, “The key to press release success: multiple visual elements,” June 26, 2014