Strategic Communications: Planning your PR calendar for maximum impact

PR and Communications are fast-moving fields where a huge amount of flexibility is expected as standard. For some pros, our enthusiasm for what’s happening right now and our ability to chop and change at a moment’s notice has become so natural that strategic communications and forward planning often take a back seat.

Read on if you’re looking for an alternative to ad hoc solutions and last-minute planning. The PESO model, outlined below, is the way forward (and pssst – there’s a free gift at the end of this post!)

How can I get started?

The first step is to identify the audiences you want to appeal to. This could focus on:

  • Gender
  • A particular age group
  • Geographic location
  • Disposable income
  • Business segments (the SME market, governmental bodies, multinationals)

Once you know which audiences you want to target, you can tailor your PR and Communications activity toward them. As an example, a course aimed at young professionals might do well on LinkedIn, while a new lip gloss aimed at teen girls would be better suited to Snapchat.

Make a list of who your target audiences are, and which of your products and services are aimed toward them.

Read: How to measure the value of your Communications through analytics


Setting objectives

The next step is to set specific, measurable, achievable objectives. An increase in sales is the most obvious place to start, but how much do you think you can increase sales by, and in which markets.

  • “We want to increase sales” is not a useful objective
  • “We want to increase sales by 10% in the third quarter compared with last year” is a useful objective

Of course, you should set goals outside of sales as well. Managing reputation, share of voice, thought leadership, crisis management, and building affinity are also functions of the Public Relations department. A mixture of quantitative (stuff that can be measured in numbers) and qualitative (stuff that can’t be measured in numbers) measures should be used, for example:

  • “We want to see an increase of 25% in the number of people visiting the product page on our website.”
  • “We want to change how we talk our customers on Facebook so that we get more engagement and less negativity.”
  • “We want to see our CEO profiled in a national newspaper.”

Your objectives depend entirely on the kind of company you’re working for, so these are just some examples.

The PESO model

There are four main ways to get your brand seen by the public, as outlined by the PESO model:

A successful media plan should hit all of the above, bearing in mind that they will naturally overlap frequently, for example when you share your ‘Owned’ blog post on ‘Shared’ social media sites.

Let’s look at how this works in a bit more detail.

Paid media is guaranteed coverage and as long as you have the right budget, it’s relatively easy to implement. Simply find out where your audience is, create the kind of content they will engage with, and pay for it.

Earned media is the most difficult coverage to get, and that’s part of what makes it so valuable. To grow your business, you’ll need objective journalists to buy into your story. For insights on how to  build relationships with the media and pitch journalists, read this.

Shared media includes the big social sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, but there are also a lot of less obvious places to promote your brand. StumbleUpon is great for maximum exposure, but be warned – by nature its users are fickle and will move on quickly. Reddit is a great place to get feedback on your products and services, and to (subtly) promote your brand. Users are wary of being spammed by PR folk, so for this site, it’s important to spend time building a relationship first.

Owned media is great because you have complete control of the message. Your website is a great way to build up a relationship with your clients and customers – restaurants and cafes should blog about recipes, musicians can make videos for their fans, photographers can display their work, and so on. Even businesses with less obvious public appeal can produce behind-the-scenes videos about their offices or manufacturing plants, post How-To or FAQ articles for their customers, or do giveaways to increase engagement.

Creating your plan

Now that you know which audiences you’re targeting, what your objectives are and how you’re going to reach them, you’re well on your way to having a strategic communications plan that will make an impact.

Although you will definitely want to craft a digital copy of this, I recommend doing the next part on a hard copy 12-month wall planner in the first instance.

Get different coloured highlighters or pens and mark off the following

  • Important calendar dates for your consumers (Christmas, Valentine’s Day etc)
  • Important dates for the company (Product launches, big deadlines, budget cut-offs, awards you want to enter)

Now, pencil in how you’re going to hit each one. Maybe you’ll create a press release and post it on your website (owned media), send it to your media contacts to gain earned media coverage and share it on your social sites to hit your shared media audiences. Maybe it’s a really visual project, so you’re going to focus more on photography or video, or if there are lots of impressive numbers, you might decide on an infographic.

Make sure your plan includes coverage throughout the year, and that it hits each of your audiences in a few different ways.

Look at each project individually and keep asking yourself – what is the best way to reach this audience? Which medium will elicit the strongest response from them? What would I want if I was in their shoes? Don’t just stick with press releases – while they’re still a tool in every PR’s kit, the world has moved on and so should we.


The benefits of strategic communications

Why bother to take a 12 or 24-month view when things often change so quickly? Here are some important reasons this should happen:

  • Budget: If it gets to April and the annual budget is already spent because you approached your projects  on an ad hoc basis without looking ahead, you’re in trouble.
  • Integrated strategies: By preparing a calendar of PR activity, you can ensure all of your target audiences are hit in a variety of ways.
  • Capacity planning: Do you have enough people on your team to carry out the projects that are going to come up throughout the year?
  • Outcomes: A well-choreographed strategic communications plan will always deliver the maximum impact


There you have it. My take on how to approach day-to-day communications at your company.

Some of this may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many companies out there don’t do it. If you think your team needs extra support in creating a plan for 2018, get in touch and we can help you out.

Did you find this post useful? Anything to add? Leave a comment.


Katie Harrington is a Communications and Content Strategist based in Dublin, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including EY (Ernst & Young) Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on LinkedIn or follow her on Facebook for more articles.





27 thoughts on “Strategic Communications: Planning your PR calendar for maximum impact

  1. Fatima says:

    Well, that’s a very well written and detailed strategic plan and it reminds me of the days when I was studying strategic management at my business school. Such an interesting class it used to be!

  2. Emma says:

    This is fantastic! I am in business school and we had to do something like this for a project! Very well written post

  3. Tiina A says:

    Absolutely great and so useful post! It’s so important to specify one’s goal and start finding the solutions how to get there. I need to read your article a couple of times and learn of it.

  4. Joanna says:

    This plan is very similar with the social media strategy plan. In fact, they actually blend in together, as PR and marketing are well tied together. Dual communication is the way these days

  5. CourtneyLynne says:

    Oooo love this!!!! I’m all about my business these days so the more knowledge I can soak in the better!

  6. Louisa says:

    This will be very helpful for me to grow my blog and get more blog engagement. I’ll take these a step at a time and it’s also helpful that you’ve itemized how each kind of promotion helps.

  7. CG Akhila says:

    very practical and informative article. You know I used some of your ideas that you have mentioned here in my PR plan and was appreciated for this in my office. Expecting many more such articles by you……Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *