By James Kelliher, CEO of Whiteoaks

There is still a widespread misunderstanding within business that PR is a fluffy discipline, incapable of delivering anything tangible.

The reality however, is that if PR is used in an intelligent, structured and targeted way, it can have a direct and measurable impact on increasing sales and revenue.

The key is to understand that PR campaigns need never be complicated, because there are only ever three objectives.

The prime one is to increase awareness among end-audiences in the target markets. The second is to increase positive perceptions around the business, its products or services. And the third is to ultimately change behaviour.

For most organisations, changing behaviour boils down to achieving more sales. That means existing customers buying more and competitors’ customers switching to your products and services. It happens because effective PR has made more people consider you relevant, useful, and understanding of their pain-points, where they were not doing so before.

Producing this outcome involves a classic right-to-left thought process, starting with the definition of the objectives and moving on to defining the target audiences. Here are some tips on how a PR campaign should be structured for maximum benefit:

• It is strongly recommended that priorities are set to determine who it is the campaign needs to engage with and influence. Who are the types of people or organisations that are likely to need or be attracted to your product or service?

• Setting priorities is important because there are always going to be limits to the budget and resources that can be devoted to PR. As a result, the campaign needs to focus on priority audiences – those who are likely to do business with you.

• The next step is to think about how you want those audiences to perceive you and what it is about your products and services that is different or better than what is currently out there in the market. How do you differentiate or make your business more attractive or compelling? Coming up with quick answers may seem daunting, but there are models and tools that definitely help.

• The final step in the strategic element of a PR campaign, is to think about messages that need to be communicated to create that different set of perceptions – what is it that you should be consistently saying to end audiences? These are messages that need to be relevant and grab their attention. It is vital your PR provider goes through workshop exercises with senior decision-makers in your organisation in order to define the right messages and agree on aims and execution.

• Once this strategic framework has been built, the PR team or agency should use the messages to identify and create content that will deliver the messages to the audience in a compelling way. That can be via a combination of news, endorsements or thought leadership content, using various tools and tactics.

• Next comes establishing which are most effective channels for reaching the right audiences. That can be a mixture of traditional media – including print, on-line and broadcast – or social media and other digital channels that facilitate direct engagement. Equally, it can involve face-to-face meetings with influencers or end audiences.

• The crucial step now is execution. How to achieve the intended goals of growing the business? This is done by referring back to the targets set at the beginning of the campaign. You need to deliver and measure against them on an on-going basis to ensure you are on track and make adjustments if you are not.

• And lastly, as part of a cyclical process, you must have regular strategic reviews that should allow for alterations as the needs and objectives of the business change over time.

Effective PR is about more than making noise, getting coverage and feeling good about your business – it is about achieving targets that are strategically and tactically aligned to business objectives. If properly executed it will help your business expand in the most important way – by increasing sales and revenue.