This is a question I often ask myself when evaluating the results of a public relations campaign for a client, colleague or a friend or family member who is interested. There is no one right way to measure success. In fact, there could very well be multiple ways to measure the success of a single campaign.
First, you have to identify the original goals set during the planning phase of your campaign. Was the goal to secure X number of placements? Was it to secure feature coverage in a specific geographical area? Or did you set out to achieve a specific business milestone?
Success cannot be measured without first identifying your benchmarks. Let’s take a look at some different models of analyzing a campaign:
Quality of coverage
From my experience, many people think more coverage is better coverage but that is rarely the case. It doesn’t matter how many placements you secure if you’re not reaching your target audience. True success is a story in a publication that reaches the intended audience. When pitching a client’s story, you want to first identify journalists and publications that appeal to that audience.
Example: If you are trying to showcase how a new customer relationship management (CRM) software improves customer service and position the company as a market leader, then targeting trade publications specializing in that industry might be a good approach. If this is the case, securing one feature story in a leading trade publication will be more valuable than mass coverage from irrelevant outlets. More times than not, quality trumps quantity.
Support of business objectives
Whether your business is selling a product or cultivating potential donors, a PR campaign should always align with the business plan. A common mistake is the belief that a campaign’s success depends solely on earned media. It’s important to remember, public relations is an extension of a business’s operations.
Example: The Salvation Army account team at Franco supports the Red Kettle fundraising campaign to increase awareness of the nonprofit’s services, cultivate relationships with potential donors and ultimately secure donations. In this scenario, it is important to secure extensive coverage across many interest areas from community news to business outlets. But, it’s imperative to remember that it doesn’t end with placements. When measuring a campaign, it is important to analyze the outcome by how it helped achieve company goals. In the case of The Salvation Army, did the campaign result in increased donors in the pipeline? Did it result in increased donations? These are the numbers that matter most.
In the end, businesses are seeking a return on investment (ROI). How has public relations supported the business plan? Do the results outweigh the cost of public relations efforts? These are questions that should always be at the forefront when planning and implementing a strategy. And, in order to achieve a positive ROI, you must understand the desired results and tailor a strategy to best achieve them.
So, how do you measure success?