How to write a good PR brief

I remember being a very junior account executive at a PR agency, many (MANY) years ago, where one of the director’s favourite questions was “What’s the strategy?”. She would throw this question at us – quite loudly – on a regular basis.

The trouble was, we had no idea. She’d never TOLD us the strategy. And stupidly, we were too scared to ask. So we would just nod in agreement before doing as we were told and running back to our desks to ‘phone-bash’ journalists (oh, how strategic).

It was only when I moved to another agency that I realised (read: was trained to know) what she meant.

All PR needs to start by creating a proper strategy. And a good PR strategy is created in response to a good brief. Without that approach it can be a bit chaotic: coverage for coverage’s sake, without looking at the bigger picture and the reasons why.

So if you are looking to create a brief to send to a PR agency or freelancer, here are the main things to consider, to ensure that the professionals you approach can create a good strategic, creative campaign for you.

What are your business objectives?

Are you a startup looking to gain investment? A food manufacturer hoping to get some listings? A catering company planning to target the wedding industry? Whatever you do, and whatever your aims, your business plan and your goals need to drive all of your marketing objectives.

What are your wider marketing objectives?

These will come from your business objectives. So for example, if you are a startup looking to gain investment, you need raise awareness of your business and its aims. You can do this by sharing your startup story through your local business media, your trade media and nationwide startup media – and by targeting events that attract investors. If you are a food manufacturer hoping to gain listings, you need a programme of activity that will target those retailers, through trade media coverage, events and partnerships. And so on. By starting with your business objectives you can work out what your marketing needs to do pretty quickly – this will then lead to a programme of PR tactics.

Who is your audience?

This is vital. So many PRs I know have been asked to generate coverage in high profile publications that are not really relevant to the industry or audience. It’s exciting and flattering to see yourself in the media, but if it doesn’t get read by your target customer or stakeholder, then it might not have been the best use of your PR’s time. For PR to make a difference, it needs to target the right media in the right way. It is the job of your PR to know, or get to know, your media – and advise on how to generate coverage in that media to convey your key messages, in order to reach your marketing objectives and help with your business objectives.

What is your product / service / story?

People buy into people – and good PR is telling a story. This could be the story of how your founders met, or how you came up with the business idea, or the way in which you are disrupting your market – you may need a good chat with a PR to get to your story, but there will be something there. By including any stories or interesting personnel in your brief, along with an overview of your service or product, it can be factored into your PR strategy and activity plan and potentially generate more coverage.

What is your budget?

This really should need clarifying from the start! It can be added to of course, and amended over time. But a guide on minimum PR spend really does help. I do offer to provide a ‘shopping list’ of tactics sometimes, if a potential client is unsure of their total spend – but with budgets outlined from the start, a comprehensive campaign can be created that will cover off all areas, working as a whole to generate the right level of coverage and connect different channels for maximum impact. That budget will need to cover the PR time (the fee) and expenses (travel, media costs, photography etc.) – and the proposal you receive should itemise all costs as well as break down fee into days or hours.

What other marketing actions are you planning?

Your PR is probably one element of a wider marketing programme, which could include advertising, email marketing, flyering, social media, events and digital. It’s important to communicate all this along with the brand messages and tone of voice, so that the PR can work alongside all the other tactics. Those tactics should work hand in hand wherever possible. I work with lots of marketing agencies and freelancers specialising in other disciplines to ensure we are all joined up, get the best reach and get the most out of the marketing budget!

Do you have any targets?
These can be planned in partnership with your PR, who will know from experience the levels of coverage that can be expected from the tactics they propose. But if you have an idea of the media you would like to be in, or some quantifiable targets that you would like the PR to help you reach, do include them in your brief. The more information the better. With the right planning from the outset, a more strategic PR campaign can be formulated from the start – that uses the right tone of voice and talks to the right audience. This strategic PR campaign will mean a bit of forward planning, but it will mean a more organised approach that delivers consistent results. It can still be creative and fun, but it is PR with purpose.