Determining The Success of PR

By Sheldon Baker

Success for corporate and product public relations can be highly subjective. For years, the public relations industry has attempted to develop a standard for measuring the success of its work on behalf of clients.

I call the key to creating meaningful public relations plans–Precise Objective Programs or POP. For example, developing and disseminating 12 news releases in a six month period can be measured; writing and placing three articles in specific publications or increasing editorial coverage from 10 to 20 mentions within targeted publications can also be documented.

In addition to the POP program, two other measurement programs are available–qualitative and quantitative measurement.

Qualitative measurement can be quicker, but less accurate. Well-known forms include focus groups, and polling and survey panels. While qualitative research is useful, it is not necessarily comprehensive or accurate across all marketplaces. Sample sizes can produce inadequate or non-specific results.

Quantitative measurement is usually more time consuming and costly to administer, but can more accurately document important attitude and opinion changes. A primary form is the public opinion survey, which can be administered before and after a public relations program commences. Other forms of measurement include reader interest studies, content analysis of media coverage, call-in telephone or email feedback, questionnaire mailings and in-person polling.

Other Techniques

Many companies and public relations firms use a variety of measurement techniques. While methods of evaluation vary considerably, you may also want to consider these recommendations.

  1. Media content analysis

  2. Media reach

  3. Press clippings

  4. One-on-one interviews with target audience

  5. Attendance at conferences and events

  6. Web site and call center contacts

To accomplish the first three points, I highly recommend contracting with a news clipping service. News clipping services work on a local, regional and national level and can locate editorial coverage that may include your company’s name or refer to your products or services. Often, this editorial is generated by the actions of your public relations representatives.

The Time Factor

Everyone wants immediate public relations success.

They want to see their product on the cover of TIME magazine, portrayed in a positive light on 20-20 or included in a

Wall Street Journal marketing story.

Time and your story value are key factors to meeting the measurement goals of any public relations program. Expect to budget one year to achieve your marketing and public relations goals.

Creating media public relations vehicles can encompass two-to-three months. Publicity placements can add a minimum of another 30-to-60 days. Then you have to wait for a publication to print the story or a television station to edit, schedule and air your piece. Patience is not only a virtue, but can often be the key to success.

Public Relations Value

Public relations value is interpreted differently from one company to another. While the measures may be constant, such as frequency, reach, quality of coverage, awareness and comparative advertising value, the relative value of these measures and the extent to which they reflect the goals of a company, can constantly be in a state of change.

Public relations strategies come in all shapes and sizes.

It is interesting to think about the nutritional industry and observe the variety of strategies each company is implementing.

Once your strategy has been developed, company resources should be utilized to promote that strategy. The strategy is the foundation of the company position statement, and helps define company image and brand awareness.

The key to unlocking the return on your public relations investment often lies within your company amongst your senior executives, brand managers and sales team who are often able to evaluate whether public relations is working.

Of course, this method can also be very subjective.

Past experience has shown feedback from our clients can determine the success of a public relations program. While meeting goals that included increased media exposure, sales teams have noted that the number of product inquiries has also risen as a result of those product mentions or articles. In turn, inquiry calls have resulted in actual sales, thus increasing company revenue.

When No History Exists

For many young or small companies, the creation of a public relations program can be as foreign as adding a new ingredient to a product formulation. Still, measurement tools must be created. While you cannot judge yourself on a past performance similar to other companies, you can generate a certain amount of news stories and placements in a specific time period.

In addition to press releases, we can include radio and television interviews, corporate mailings to prospective customers, development and mailing of company newsletters, and the creation of promotional events. These are all definable public relations measurements.

What Do Those Guys Do?

There are also many indefinable measurements in the course of public relations development. That’s because the success of public relations is also based on time. By its nature, publicity is time intensive. The following publicity vehicles are often included in a corporate marketing strategy.

Media Contact

From the onset, trade media contact with key editors, writers and producers is essential. Your public relations group should have a media database to keep abreast of all print and electronic media in the U.S. and can easily target a specific media representative, create a list or contact them directly by telephone or email.

Media Training

Media interviews are an obvious and important component of our public relations campaign. Designated corporate spokespeople must understand the nuances of speaking to the media during interviews. They must be able to carry key product messages that reflect your corporate business philosophy. A public relations firm can work with your spokespeople to enhance the way they deliver their message.

Press Kit Development

You must have a cohesive set of news-style editorial documents incorporating complete company and product positioning that can be used for press events, media tours, trade shows and special events as well as marketing and sales materials. A typical press kit includes many of the following documents that we will research, draft and produce.

  • Presentation

  • Corporate/Market Backgrounder

  • Product Backgrounder/Data Sheets

  • Fact Sheet

  • Press Releases

  • Study/Abstract

  • Charts/Graphs

  • Camera-Ready Corporate/Product Logos

  • Executive/Product Photos

  • Brochures

Video News Release Production

A vital part of a public relations program can be the production of a Video News Release (VNR), featuring your product, for television media distribution. Since more than 800 commercial television stations will have the opportunity to download your news story, be aware that your company may receive an overwhelming amount of consumer telephone calls. Over the life of your public relations campaign, a large amount of consumer calls will be generated regarding product sales information. This is also a measuring stick.

Other Media Contact Production Elements

A Press Conference/Web Cast featuring spokespeople involved with a product or study, as well as an independent medical doctor or representative from an advocacy group is an effective and exciting venue for generating a ‘buzz’ about the company and your work. Your PR group can also produce video streaming for the press conference through an Internet web cast. They can notify journalists of the press conference via a blast fax. A PR firm usually handles the following press conference services including coordination at the event site, audio/visual production, caterers, confirmation and follow-up, spokesperson training, question and answer preparation. They need to determine an appropriate room well in advance of an event. They may also be responsible for complete web cast services such as:

  • Cameras

  • Up to two hours web cast – live and archived versions

  • Custom web interface for the web cast – featuring your logo and web colors

  • Embedded video window

  • Up to 100 PowerPoint slides synchronized with presentation

  • 500 concurrent user sessions at speeds up to 120 Kbps

  • 30-day on-demand archive

  • Live interactive question and answer, both via e-mail and telephone call-in

Still other video production may include:

Radio media tour by telephone for approximately two-to-three hours.

Satellite television media tour produced in studio for two-to-three hours.

B-Roll is news video that pertains to your story with a variety of visuals and sound bites television news stations can use to produce their own story or use in conjunction with satellite interviews of our designated spokesperson.

All of the above public relations elements can help produce media exposure and add to the success of your public relations program. Overall, there are a number of ways to determine how successful your public relations campaign and representatives can be.

Sheldon Baker is a senior partner with Baker-Dillon Public Relations. He can be reached at (800) 570-1262 or by email at [email protected]

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