With 2017 just around the corner; it’s important to be prepared for the year ahead. Why not incorporate PR and marketing into your business plan?

Here are some tip tips on how to do so:

1. Have a plan

Take a few steps back and try looking at where you can see your business in six months or one year from now; or more importantly where you’d like to be? Create yourself goals to reach in the specified time frame, for example to become active on social media or to get stories published in key media for your sector.

It’s important to define your target audiences too, research their interests and concerns and know how to reach them to ensure that you’re creating a targeted strategy that will create results. Research what your competition is doing on and offline, look at what they’re doing well (and not so well), and how you can learn from them, i.e. are they creating engaging content? Are people engaging with them? If time is an issue, don’t overwhelm yourself with too much activity and goals that are not attainable. Why not create three easy aims to achieve by a certain time, for example set up a Twitter account, tweet once a day and upload a blog at least once a month. Remember to establish a USP that will define you from your competitors and incorporate that into your PR activity.

Be sure that you evaluate your work regularly, and continually look for ways of improvement and be prepared to adapt your plan to varying circumstances in your sector.

3. What’s your story?

Whether you’re seeking to improve your social media awareness or create a positive public image, you need a strong story to tell. One of the best ways to plan PR content is to stay on top of all calendar events throughout the year, and think about all the positive stories to promote, such as new appointments or new business win press releases, advice pieces and features. Research the best titles for your sector and target them with strong stories.

You may want to try a more direct approach and send regular e-shots/ or monthly newsletters to customers who have ‘opted’ in to receive regular updates from your company.

You could also look out for any new publications launching that could suit the products and services you’d like to promote.

Be sure to engage with the media, bloggers, potential new business, existing clients and even competitors on social media, as this is another opportunity to portray a positive image, potentially grow business, and discover extra press opportunities.

4. Get visual

A press release or post accompanied by a good picture increases the chances of being covered by the press or shared online. According to a recent survey by Xerox, using coloured visuals ensures your post is 39% more memorable. Be sure that your PR budget incorporates professional photography to help showcase your products or service.

Additionally, small things such as refreshing your logo, amending your strap line or updating your website will give your company a revitalised feel, and also makes for good publicity on your own behalf.

5. Get social!

With around 30 million users on Facebook and 12.4 million on Twitter if you’re not yet on social media, now is the time to get interactive. You may be surprised at how many of your clients and competitors are already on top of it too. Research each channel – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram etc. – individually, and ensure you’re using the ones that are right for your company, and engaging with your audience will be easy.

Be careful not to make it all about you, as this is a complete turn off, and you will soon find potential customers becoming disinterested, make sure you have a healthy mix of content and don’t always go for the hard sell. And remember it’s about quality, rather than quantity.

Be sure to update your website on a regular basis too, this keeps information fresh and up-to-date and will increase your search engine optimisation (SEO) rating to encourage more visitors to your site – adding a ‘news’ or ‘blog’ section and updating it regularly is an easy way to do this.

6. Think long-term

There’s nothing better than looking back on a piece of copy and thinking ‘yeah, that still looks great!’, and that’s something you need to aim to do for each publication that you will be mentioned in. This may mean coming up with a content plan so you have a general structure to fall back on if you’re running short on ideas. By creating copy that suits various publications and websites, you are creating a content hub of press releases, images and articles that you can submit to editors throughout the year. You may also want to think about ‘sprucing up’ old releases, updating them with new products and re-submitting them. Of course, fresh content is always best but there’s nothing wrong with re-cycling from time to time!

By Davina Consoli, junior account executive, Alexander King Associates Ltd