By Christopher Biddle, APR
Even well-educated and otherwise sophisticated CEOs will say “more publicity” or “visibility” when asked why they want to engage a PR firm. That’s like going to a fine restaurant and asking for “food.” Good luck with that.
However, if it is pure, unqualified publicity you seek, try getting arrested. The New York Times will find a place for you on page one.
Truth be told, public relations is a practical discipline that, with a dash of creativity, can help your company achieve its bottom-line goals. But to get there, you and your PR advisers together must take five steps that are essential to every successful PR campaign. These steps focus on your business goals, target audiences and measurable outcomes.
Here’s the five-step approach:
- Ask Why – Ask yourself why you want publicity. Keep asking why until you have clarified your thinking. Who is it you want to reach and why? What do you want them to do? What tangible outcomes do you seek? If you haven’t thought this through, and your PR adviser doesn’t pepper you with why questions, find another adviser.
- Align Campaign with Business Goals – Next, clearly identify the bottom-line business goals—financial or otherwise—that you would like the campaign to achieve or support. It’s essential that every PR campaign be closely aligned with your company’s business strategy. This exponentially raises your chances of success.
- Analyze Target Audiences – Now closely analyze your target audiences and your relationship with them. Whom do you want to reach and why? What kind of relationship do you have with them now? How are they important to your company’s success and survival? What’s the best way to communicate with them? What messages do you want them to hear and why? How do you want them to respond to those messages? What actions do you want them to take?
- Set Measurable Objectives – Step 4 is all about outcomes, and it lies at the heart of every effective PR campaign. What specific outcomes (think audience re-action) do you hope to achieve? How can you measure those outcomes? When will the campaign begin and when will it end? (All campaigns should be time constrained.) In this step, you will also decide which communications tactics and media to use to reach your audiences, and how to craft messages that will engage them. The tactics and media you select will determine what measurement tools you can use in Step 5.
- Measure Outcomes – During the campaign, and at its conclusion, measure outcomes by analyzing data collected with your chosen measurement tools. At mid-campaign, determine if the campaign is having the desired impact on your target audiences. If not, adjust the campaign to whatever extent possible. At the campaign’s conclusion, find out if you achieved your measurable objectives. Here are a few examples of measurement tools:
- Conduct identical pre-, mid- and post-campaign surveys of target audience members.
- Measure email click-throughs, open rates and pages visited.
- Create web pages unique to a particular campaign inviting visitors to take a specific action (sign up, request information, etc.).
- Use Google Analytics to find out who is visiting these web pages and when.
- Optimize your website for searches, and check your search-engine rankings.
- Measure social media engagement (many, many tools available)
- Measure and rank the quality of earned news media: Did you win an exclusive feature? Did you make the front page or a section front? Was your CEO quoted stating your main message?
It’s no longer enough to “get visibility” through media “hits and impressions.” That’s an old game that has outlived its usefulness in an era where plenty of tools exist to measure real outcomes.
Biddle’s Bottom Line: If you want your PR campaign to succeed, identify your target audiences and seek measurable outcomes aligned with your business goals.