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Essentials to an Effective PR Strategy

This article was contributed by wedding PR expert Meghan Ely.

When you've got public relations on the brain, it's natural to want hit the ground running, but just like a well executed wedding, it's vital to set yourself up for success with the appropriate essentials first.

Below you'll find the top four "must have" components as you embark on your public relations campaign:

1. Your Target Audience: When starting a public relations campaign, it’s important to narrow down your "publics," that is, a group of people tied together by a common purpose. To many, the clear cut answer may be "brides," but now is the time to get more specific and decide who qualifies as "your bride." Where does she live? What is her wedding budget? How old is she? What tools does she use to plan her wedding?

Your audience may not even be brides at all if you are looking to implement public relations strategies to build your reputation as an industry leader among your colleagues. If that's the case, give thought to who this may include- whether it be key influencers at the national level, industry conference leaders or board members of a particular association.

An effective PR strategy is one in which you've researched your preferred targeted audience in advance to ensure sure that your subsequent campaign is successfully executed with them in mind.

2. Your Calculated Message: One of the top goals of public relations is to share a particular message with your intended audience and while the instant (and inevitable) answer may be "hire me!," you may want to think again. The fact is, the goal of increasing your business is often better suited for an advertising campaign, which allows you to buy time or space to give brides a controlled message about your services.

Public relations, on the other hand, is meant to draw awareness to your brand by delivering a clear cut message as to how you'd like to be perceived.  Your message instead might highlight your years of experience, level of expertise, or your presence in a particular region. Before executing any public relations strategy,  fine tune the message you intend to send to your audience.

3. Your Intended Media: A "can't miss" step is taking the time to study prospective media and narrowing down your initial media wish list to a set that promises to be the best fit.

Not sure what to look for? First, revisit your public relations goals and ask yourself who you can align yourself with to reach your target audience. Next, research the appropriate media outlets to learn their web traffic, circulation and general social media influence (try, to see how far your publicity may reach.

Trying to promote your services in a particular location? Make sure the media outlet has readers in the desired areas. Are you looking to attract a particular type of bride? Review the media's branding.

Anxious to get the proverbial show on the road?  Look for any guidelines they give on average response time and publishing cycle to find out how long you might have to wait to get an editorial decision.

In the end, an arbitrary list of media outlets is of little use to you so focus your energy on fine tuning it until it truly meets your needs.

4. Means of Assessment: You should evaluate all your efforts, including advertising, marketing and public relations, on a regular basis to decide whether it's worthy of continuation. For your PR program, take time now to determine which key performance indicators you're going to track to measure success once the press hits start rolling in. Factors to consider include your web traffic, social media engagement and number of prospects, although this will vary from one organization to the next.

Far too often, one may decide to abandon what could have become a successful public relations campaign on anecdotal evidence that it's not working.  Commit to an evaluation that includes quantifiable results over several months to ensure that any future decisions are informed ones.

Public relations strategies are fantastic for building value for your services and will also help you stand out from your competitors. By including these essentials, you'll no doubt be starting your public relations campaign on the right foot.

Screen Shot 2012-12-31 at 1.29.26 PMMeghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding PR firm OFD Consulting, which specializes in getting wedding professionals their brides. She is a highly sought after industry speaker and serves as a Public Relations adjunct professor for Virginia Commonwealth University. (photo credit: Poppies & me)