To succeed in Public Relations, you must apply what you learned in the previous year to improve your odds in the New Year. We recommend a PR Landscape Analysis as the best way to catalog, evaluate, and improve upon your situation. The analysis answers such questions as: What is the current environment? What place do we hold within this environment? Why is this so? Is it likely to continue? What do we need to know now to improve our position? Even if you think you know the answers, the current atmosphere indicates a need for each of us to consider such an analysis to reassess our current communications environment.
What is a PR Landscape Analysis?
The PR “landscape” of which we speak reflects your business landscape. It is comprised of external actors, like your customers, competitors, shareholders, regulators, journalists, social media influencers, and politicians, as well as local community groups in cities where you conduct business. It also incorporates the changing business, cultural, and societal norms that dictate what it takes to be an admired organization and preferred brand now. The “landscape” also includes internal stakeholders such as the senior executives who allocate funding for PR and evaluate PR programs, as well as employees and peers to address in-house factors such as new developments and other marketing communications initiatives within your organization.
A PR landscape analysis enables the communicator to:
- Assess strengths and weaknesses versus existing objectives, competitors, and past performance
- Detect and evaluate the viability of new PR opportunities
- Accurately forecast potential risks and opportunities
- Set objectives that are meaningful, reasonable, and measurable
- Adapt strategies and tactics to markets, trends, and stakeholder priorities
- Identify ways to differentiate your value proposition
- Reaffirm understanding and gain direction among internal stakeholders
- Evaluate competitors, opposition, and aspirational peers
Planning Your PR Landscape Analysis
To begin, you must fully understand your senior executives’ expectations, preferences, and values as they relate to public relations: what do they value most and least? And how do you perform against these priorities? To succeed, you must also uncover the specific metrics by which they choose to measure PR success (and yours). You must also reaffirm the professional attributes they consider most and least important, as well as how well you perform against those preferences. In a way, this may amount to initiating your annual performance evaluation early but, once you uncover their attitudes and preferences towards PR and your ability to deliver on their priorities, your path becomes very clear.
Five Steps for A Successful PR Landscape Analysis
The PR Landscape Analysis involves research and analysis to set the stage for what comes next: objectives setting, planning, activation, and evaluation. To accelerate your PR Landscape Analysis in pursuit of a fresh start, here are five basic steps to achieve your goal:
Set Your Objectives
The first step in the PR Landscape Analysis requires you to clarify your objectives for doing it in the first place. The most essential step in any discovery process is to know the purpose of the endeavor. What do you hope to learn? What questions must you ask and among which stakeholders to achieve your goal?
Define the Scope
The second step reflects your need to specify the scope of your analysis. Once you set your objectives for this endeavor, you must determine the breadth of your research. One meaningful factor to consider is the priorities of your organization. Does the organization aspire for some greater purpose beyond just “sales?” You must also factor in the priorities of your internal and external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders include executives with influence over PR funding and the evaluation of the PR function as well as employees and peers in adjacent departments.
The analysis should reveal the degree to which your messaging aligns with the objectives of your organization as well as the priorities of external stakeholders both domestically and internationally. What’s more, aim to gain new insights into your competitors’ activity and the extent to which they’ve succeeded or fallen short in reference to your objectives.
Understand Your Stakeholders
The third step in the process requires you to identify what you need to know about each stakeholder. For every group, you must seek to learn what’s important and how you’re performing on what’s important. For example, with media coverage and social media activity, assess message frequency, reach, tone, and the degree to which you delivered the intended message (as well as “unintended” and critical coverage). For customers, demographic and firmographic information helps to identify the media your stakeholders favor. Media analysis, social media listening, and surveys reveal the answers to these essential questions.
Start Your Research
Step four involves “digging deeper.” Once you understand the objectives, scope, and data intelligence you need, it’s time to conduct the research and probe the data with a variety of research tools and methods to gather insights and produce the analysis. You must also answer the essential quality-related question of “what’s good enough?” The research methods you employ can vary from free conference room brainstorms and Google searches to the use of secondary research, surveys, and media analysis. With the benefit of tools and research experience, you may conduct the research yourself or, if you have the resources and expect big changes in the upcoming year, you may hire an independent communications research provider who may be more objective and experienced in the process.
Analyze Your Data
Step five involves synthesizing and analyzing the data to uncover insights and explore implications. To generate additional insights, consider engaging colleagues from marketing and human resources before finalizing since they target similar audiences and may be working toward the same business outcomes as you. Only after thoughtful vetting, you should present to senior leadership to discuss findings and recommendations along with implications. Your leadership’s buy-in enables you and your communications team to proceed with minimal risk. Catalog any conclusions drawn from the PR Landscape Analysis meetings with top executives and get final authorization before executing the recommended steps.
PR Landscape Analysis for Better Communications
We operate in challenging times, but research and evaluation equip us to make better decisions under difficult circumstances.
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Mark Weiner is Chief Insights Officer for PublicRelay and the author of “PR Technology, Data and Insights: Igniting a Positive Return on Your Communications Investment.”
Originally published in PRNEWS January 2021 issue.
Editor’s Note: At PublicRelay, our quarterly Benchmark report conducts an in-depth analysis of the communications of some of the world’s leading brands. Check out our Communications in Context series for insights into the PR landscape and a sample of the key insights from our latest Benchmark report!