BMJ Stone
EZG Manufacturing
Federated Insurance
Fraco USA, Inc.
Hohmann and Barnard, Inc.
Hydro Mobile, Inc.
iQ Power Tools
Kennison Forest Products, Inc.
Mortar Net Solutions
Non-Stop Scaffolding
Pullman Ermator
Tradesmen's Software, Inc.
December 16, 2002 7:19 AM CST

The Secret to Success: Plan Ahead


One of the most successful and least costly marketing approaches to raise company awareness is through public relations, the science and art of accurately promoting your company and its mission, products and services to the media and related publics. With 2003 just around the corner, now is an excellent time to develop a plan for making public relations work hard for you in the next 12 months.

The following are four recommended phases to a simple yet typical PR plan:

Step 1: Complete Your Research and Company Self-Evaluation
The very first step is to compose a short, clear summary of what your business is about and what you want to accomplish in 2003. For example: "Maverick Masonry provides _____ and in 2003 wants to raise awareness of its service with its customer base."

With your mission in mind, conduct a solid assessment of your top competitors, including what their main messages appear to be, what kinds of customers they're attracting, and what they're doing with press releases, articles and websites that you might be able to emulate and hopefully surpass in 2003. Are they very active in association publications? Is their website full of customer testimonials? Are they participating at a lot of industry shows and seminars? Do they have a growing portfolio of photos from buildings they have done?

Next, compile a list of what future additional company services or products you expect to develop in the coming year, and their approximate time of availability.

Step 2: Assess and Compile Data on Target Market Events
Ensuring that your company is mentioned in feature articles usually means knowing ahead of time what publications best serve your market and when they plan to cover topics that directly pertain to your company's expertise. By visiting the websites of the key publications in your industry, you can find editorial calendars for 2003. Scan through these and prepare a list of all relevant editorial topics that the major publications are targeting in 2003. For example, the schedule of articles to be covered in Masonry magazine can be found online at

Develop a list of the key seminars, road shows or conferences that you want to attend and/or exhibit at in 2003, and in which months they occur. Offer yourself as a speaker, moderator or other presenter at one or more of the conferences that pertain to your field of expertise.

Step 3: Develop an Action Plan
Taking into consideration what you know your company will be rolling out in 2003, and what your corporate strengths are versus the competition, map those against the PR and event opportunities coming up in the masonry industry in 2003. This will help you develop a tactical list month by month, or quarter by quarter, so that you don't miss out on opportunities.

For example, if you know that Publication A has a focus on Segmented Retaining Walls in March 2003, and you have will be offering this service in February, March or April, you can make the publication aware of your timely introduction. Magazines are always looking for companies that are doing the things that the magazine is reporting on so they can get inside, "hands-on" information and quotes. Don't be shy; appearing in an industry magazine can be leveraged with your clients, architects, builders and owners to show that you are an expert in your field, not just in your region.

The best time to approach publications is anywhere from two-and-a-half to four months ahead of the publication date. Or if you know that you have a key service to be launched in the third quarter, you can make the announcement at an industry trade show closest to that date.

Step 4: Establish a Working Budget
With your completed list of tactics in hand, you can now prepare an estimated quarterly budget of what will be required to "get the word out" about your company and its products. Some components to figure into your PR-specific budget include:

  • Cost of any newswire distribution. Local and state wire distribution typically costs about $150.00, for example.

  • Letterhead and press kit folder costs. Do you need new folders for your press materials? While most PR information is sent via e-mail and PDF files these days, there is still some call for traditional hard copy formats.

  • Website content updates (if outsourced). Do you have an outside person whose website fees you need to include?

  • Press release writing services (if outsourced). Similarly, is there an outside PR professional whose annual fees you need to incorporate?

  • Fees for entering annual awards, competitions. Many programs require a fee in order to participate.

  • Travel to/from conferences and/or trade shows.
These represent public relations-specific costs, and are different from other marketing costs, such as advertising, direct mail, brochures, trade show booths, signage and so on. Establishing a plan and budget ahead of the New Year will help you identify opportunities in advance of the deadlines, and that is one of the secrets to successful PR.

About the Author

Linda VandeVrede is the principal of VandeVrede Public Relations, a Scottsdale, Ariz., company that serves clients nationwide. VandeVrede Public Relations offers expertise in public relations, crisis planning, issues management and analyst relations.


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