As a business owner you are likely finalizing your marketing plan and initiatives for 2016.  As you put together your outlines and budgets, we’d like to share a handy little checklist that will keep you on top of potential PR and communications opportunities for the coming year.  There is nothing worse than looking back on the year and wishing you, as opposed to your competitor, were the one on the “Top Family Owned Businesses” list, or made the front page for a story specific to your industry.  Here are a few tips to keep you organized and on top of any potential PR opportunities for the coming year.

1. Establish your goals.  What does success look like for your business from a communications perspective?  Devise quarterly goals and metrics with which to measure success.  Are you looking to increase traffic to your website? Do you want to amplify your standing in the community and align with a charity partner? Once you’ve outlined where you want to go, the road to success will be much easier to follow. Further, you’ll be able to build upon 2016’s successes and failures in the years to come.

2. Gather editorial calendars.  Most publications publish their editorial calendars in advance online. Research these calendars and find editorial opportunities that might be a good fit for your business or industry.  Be sure to reach out to the publications well in advance if you want to be considered for inclusion in their editorial coverage.

3. Build your own editorial calendars. For both social media, blogging, and press outreach, organize campaigns, content, and outreach efforts via a 12-month calendar.  Planning in advance will help you avoid last minute scrambles to find content and missed editorial opportunities.

4. Finesse key messaging.  Haven’t updated your website or boiler plate since you opened your business in 2009?  Now is the time for a facelift!  Add numbers and statistics; refine your messaging to reflect what your business looks like today.  Chances are a few things have changed over the years!

5. Look into speaking opportunities.  Find conferences, expos, webinars and other opportunities for experts in your company to share their knowledge.  Speaking engagements are a valuable part of PR and can help establish you and your business as an expert in your field.

6. Develop strategic partnerships.  One of the best ways to expand your audience and potential customer base is to develop strategic partnerships with other organizations.  Remember, a partnership means that both parties have something to gain from the relationship, so be sure to develop clear ideas on how a partnership can be mutually beneficial and define what each party has to give and gain from the relationship.

7. Update your media lists.  Journalists change roles, beats, and publications very frequently.  Make sure you are reaching out to the correct contacts at the correct publications.  Further, make sure your media lists are updated to include any new publications, blogs, and influencers in your niche.

8. Plan for the worst.  Every business should have an updated crisis communications plan.  Though you may never use it (fingers crossed!), it is crucial to have a plan in place should disaster strike.  Make sure this plan is updated every year, ensure employees and staff are trained on appropriate protocol, and that all contact info and procedures are up to date.  

Once you’ve gone through this checklist, be sure to create documents so you can measure and record your successes.  By recording what you accomplish in 2016, you’ll have a great baseline from which to build your goals for the years to come. Best wishes for a productive and successful 2016!  We look forward to seeing you on the front page.