2020 showed us all how unpredictable the business environment can be, regardless of what part of the world your startup is operating from. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to have a PR strategy in place in order to prepare for future bumps in the road, drive brand awareness, and position your tech startup for success in the year to come.

A powerful PR strategy incorporates several key elements. If done well, a fully developed plan can elevate a startup above established industry competitors by winning more share of voice, driving website traffic and even building the sales funnel.

From a team of global marketing experts to your back pocket, here are First PR Alliance’s best tips on how to create a PR strategy for 2021.

Review past PR activities

When planning a PR strategy for the future, it is important to look at the past with a critical eye, regardless of how well you adapted in 2020. Ask yourself questions such as, “What was successful?” and “What didn’t go according to plan?” Evaluating these key performance areas will give you a better understanding of what should be repeated and what should be avoided in the upcoming year’s PR plan. A year-end PR review is not a surefire way of shielding you from future unknowns — after all, who saw the Covid-19 pandemic this time last year? But it is a helpful tactic to gain information and perspective when shaping a PR strategy for the upcoming year.

Query key stakeholders

Before you can properly plan for the year ahead, it’s important to identify and interview all the key stakeholders (C-Suite, product marketing executives, HR, etc.). This step should not be overlooked as it helps shed light on what expectations they have of your tech startup’s PR investment. Without the stakeholders and their insight, an effective PR plan simply cannot be created.

These key stakeholders will lay the groundwork for any strategic initiatives your tech startup will undertake in the upcoming year. Stakeholders possess a unique perspective that is important to incorporate when formulating strategic vision and messaging that you or your international tech PR agency have to capture and articulate when developing media campaigns and executing media outreach across countries and even continents.

Include thought leadership opportunities

As PR continues to evolve, thought leadership content is now key to an effective PR strategy. Not only will positioning executives from your tech startup as industry experts drive ongoing brand awareness, but it could potentially bring in new business. The roles  best positioned to ideate and submit contributed articles to industry publications and mainstream media are key stakeholders. For example, contributing articles to the Forbes Technology Council would be ideal for CTOs with established social brands. Combine this with some speaking opportunities at conferences—which have likely moved to a virtual format in the upcoming year—and you have a solid thought leadership track to include in your tech startup’s 2021 PR strategy.

Reevaluate events

With the global unpredictability of current business affairs, it’s important to be flexible when adding trade shows to your 2021 PR strategy. Similar to many other aspects of business, events in the first several months of next year appear to be following the virtual trend. Top tech conference CES, for example, is moving to an entirely virtual format for 2021. Major healthcare conference HIMSS, on the other hand, is anticipating an in-person event but has moved their annual conference from January 2021 to mid-August 2021. It’s important to be flexible with these events rather than forgo them altogether as major events like trade shows are usually a time when your company will announce product launches, strategic partnerships, and other important news.

Prepare as best you can for any opportunities by planning for all options and adjusting your budget accordingly to avoid unexpected expenses. Start by working with your marketing team to make a list of all the trade shows and other sponsored events your tech startup plans to attend. Next, organize the list by prioritizing events based on the upcoming year’s marketing budget.

Come up with a budget

There is no denying that the task of how to create a PR budget is often a guessing game —  and 2020 made that especially clear. Still, when it comes time to create a PR plan for 2021, it is imperative to plan and develop a budget in order to adequately allocate funds to your important PR activities, especially if Covid-19 tightened your financial resources.

To start, take a look at the past year’s activities to gauge what the spending was like and create a line-item budget based on your anticipated 2021 PR plan. Some common line-item expenses include the cost of an outside tech PR agency, travel and lodging to an annual trade show, wire releases, media collateral, award nomination fees, etc. Incorporating a line-item system when building out next year’s budget will help make analyzing your year-end results easier.

Mark the calendar

The last step in creating a PR plan for 2021 is to make it official by organizing everything into a calendar. Take all of your key announcements and arrange them by month to give visibility to the upcoming planned activities. Useful organizing tools that are common in most calendar systems include color-coding and line separators for different activities. Some examples of activities include product launches, speaking opportunities, startup funding announcements, and contributed thought leadership articles.

You may even consider breaking the 2021 PR plan into H1 and H2. Take it a step further and break it down by quarter for a more granular view. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that a lot can change in three months. Therefore, giving your team or international tech PR agency a chance to review the PR plan and make changes each quarter and mid-year is a must.

About Savannah Burns: Savannah is a Business Development Associate for Swyft, which is a tech PR agency in Austin and Houston and a top digital marketing and PR agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft recently opened a satellite office where it offers tech PR in San Francisco. Swyft was also listed as one of the top tech PR agencies in Texas by the B2B services review site, Clutch.co.