December is here, and hopefully your public relations and content marketing planning for 2016 is well underway. However, if you’re like a lot of manufacturers, you probably still have a lot of work to do this month. I’m not talking about long-range planning that sits in a drawer 99 percent of the time each year. I’m talking about a no kidding, get stuff done action plan.
If you struggling with your new year planning efforts, here are a few helpful tips to get you going in the right direction:
Step 1: Determine where your content is coming from
New Product Innovation
Sit-down with your product specialists and identify what new product innovations are going to be released in the next 12 to 18 months. Usually, research and development is a bit of a moving target, but it’s important to understand approximately when you can expect new products to hit the market. If at all possible, you will want to spread out the announcements to last the whole year.
Customer Driven Content
Next, spend some time with the sales team. Find out what questions customers continue to ask them about your company’s products and services. Make a very detailed list. You’re going to use this list for editorial ideas to pitch editors and to fuel your content marketing efforts.
While you’re at it, ask them for a list of happy customers that using your equipment, products or services in a unique or interesting way. Testimonials generate a lot of public relations coverage and are great to use on your website and literature.
This area is a little tricky because it’s hard to plan for company news. However, it’s a good idea to sit down with the management team and discuss the type of company events would be of interest to customers and the industry. If they have a good grasp on what is considered newsworthy, they will likely do a better job of communicating with you when news happens.
Step 2: What channels can you use to distribute content
Media kits and editorial calendars
You should have a list of the magazines that your customers are reading. You need to spend a couple of days collecting media kits and going through them. This will give you a better understanding of the qualities of each publication and help you work with the editors. Also, you will want to spend a lot of time reviewing editorial calendars and the timelines that the publications work under.
To make the rest of your year a little easier, create a master editorial calendar that includes the topic, ideas to pitch and any editorial guidelines of the magazine (you don’t want to assume you’ll remember in six months).
Media go to tradeshows for two reasons: 1) To generate advertising and 2) to produce interesting content for their readers. You should take the time to meet with the media to discuss both those topics.
Do you have a blog, newsletter or direct mail program? If you don’t, you should. Don’t worry about what you’ll include, you already have the ideas…remember that the list of topics you worked on with the sales team? Take those topics and make a calendar of when you will produce and publish content on those topics in the new year. And be sure to include who needs to do what! If you need help from someone outside of marketing, let them know and give then a deadline way before when you need it.
Step 3: Set benchmarks and goals, and revisit them often
If you want to make 2016 a banner year for your public relations and content marketing efforts, it’s important to establish benchmarks and goals. You may not reach all of them, but you need something to keep you and your team accountable. For example, you may have an editorial goal of getting 20 placements each quarter. If you fall short of a benchmark, don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, figure out why you didn’t reach that goal and make changes in your process to reach the next one — or change your goal if necessary.
Your goals shouldn’t just focus on quantity either; you need to have timing benchmarks as well. If you’re going to produce a monthly newsletter, strive to ensure it goes out on the same day each month. Too often, marketing teams start with good intentions and then fail to stick to a timeline. Remember, unexpected work and life events are going to happen throughout the year, so give yourself plenty of time to get stuff done.
A note on strategic planning
If you haven’t already, you should spend time either creating your long-term strategic marketing plans or reviewing your existing one. However, don’t spend too much time planning and not enough time taking action. If you fall into that trap, you’ll wake up a year from now wondering what you spend your time doing.