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Updated: September 26, 2022 How To

Develop a story arc to guide your PR strategy

Public relations is so much more than just blasting out a press release and hoping for media coverage. One of the best ways to ensure that your PR efforts are effective is to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. It can be tempting to let your PR plan ebb and flow as you have big news to share, but a proactive approach can tell a more comprehensive story and result in meaningful, lasting coverage. For this reason, we often think of our communications as taking a story arc format. It’s long-term thinking that assures your short-term successes are supporting your larger messaging goals.

Why we start with strategy

head shot of woman with dark hair
Courtesy / Fluent IMC
Marnie Grumbach is the founder of Fluent IMC.

You need to understand what your end destination is before starting out on this journey and plan for any stops along the way. Think of your favorite serialized TV show as an example of why strategy matters when developing a story arc. As a viewer, you recognize that each episode is building out a larger storyline that will culminate in some sort of conclusion at the end of the series, but the plot of each episode is what keeps you entertained along the way and lays the foundation for the “big reveal.” Without well-executed storytelling in the lead-up episodes, the finale can be kind of a flop, rather than something that generates a lot of buzz.

Your PR strategy works in the same manner. Let’s use the example of a company that’s planning to announce the retirement of its current CEO, who will be replaced by promoting an internal candidate at the beginning of the year. You already know that there’s a lot of work that goes in behind the scenes to prepare for this transition, but think about how you can also leverage external messaging during this period to set the stage for your announcement.

What are the elements

1. Identify your timeframe: Your larger announcement will give you a goal to work toward, and planning your timeline in advance will help ensure you’re not oversaturating the market with your brand messaging before that point. You want to strike a balance between raising visibility and being sure media outlets are still excited to hear from you when it’s time to share your news. This is one of the reasons why we don’t recommend blasting out press releases without thinking about the bigger picture.

2. Key messages: Your brand might already have these in place as part of your larger marketing planning, but consider how to incorporate any campaign-specific messaging alongside your overarching key messages. This might include referencing current industry trends, addressing timely factors, or establishing your brand’s authority on a particular topic.

3. Cast of characters: The current CEO and successor are obvious choices, but are there other promotions happening at this time, or other key players who are spokespeople for the brand? Before starting any sort of PR outreach, know who your spokespeople are and identify what topics each is best suited to speak on. This will help you in brainstorming media opportunities, but also ensures you know who to direct any specific media requests to on different topics.

4. Big finale & supporting storylines: Work backward from your big announcement. Consider how to boost your incoming CEO’s reputation leading up to introducing them as the head of your company. Are there opportunities for authored content, speaking engagements, or interviews that will demonstrate their authority in your industry?

5. Know your audience: Having your key audiences in mind is helpful as you’re thinking about messaging and the types of media outlets you’d like to pitch. It can be helpful to identify your audiences first and then consider the type of messaging that might best resonate with each specific group.

6. Keep the momentum going: Once you’ve made your big announcement, don’t lose steam! PR is an ongoing effort, and after laying the foundation for your big announcement, you should be well positioned to keep your brand in the spotlight in the months ahead.

Marnie Grumbach is the founder of fluent imc, an integrated marketing communications agency. She can be reached at

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