The Impact of Public Relations

When Peter Shankman sold Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to Vocus, I assumed we’d see more ads for Vocus in the three-times a day newsletter we get with reporter requests.  We do.  Overall, they seem to be good HARO “parents”.  The new editorial staff seems to be nice and funny and competent, giving Peter time to roam the earth, speaking at various functions.  (I ran into him, via FourSquare a couple weeks ago in Chicago.) But today’s ad in the early bird newsletter gave me a giggle.

“Struggling to showcase the impact of your PR campaigns? Try Vocus PR software. In a few clicks, you can track mentions and trends, monitor the tone of your coverage, benchmark against your competitors, measure your PR and social media campaigns side-by-side, and present your results to management. It’s the fast way to prove your impact and get the glory you deserve!”

When I am asked to “showcase the impact of a PR campaign”, Vocus PR software isn’t going to be that much of a help. It’s a start but that’s about it.

The impact my clients are seeking to understand is usually more directly related to leads, downloads and sales, and dollars raised.  Being able to measure mentions, tone, and benchmark against competitors should be able to help you be more successful in your work, but if you really want to measure impact, you are probably going to need more than just this kind of information.

You need to track where the sales leads are coming from.  Which ones convert into sales?  How big those sales are?  And are those profitable customers?  You need website analytics, a customer relationship management tool (CRM) or a sales database like Salesforce.  You need the sales team tracking where sales came from and what marketing “touches” made the difference along the way.  This isn’t easy.

When you start a PR campaign, or any marketing campaign, please start with your goals.  If sales are your goal, media coverage can drive sales, IF you are set up to convert leads and opportunities into sales but PR usually isn’t a complete answer. Measure the true impact of your campaign in actions taken by your target market and the outcome should be evident on your balance sheet.  There’s no glory unless the company is successful.

I know there is impact outside direct links, downloads, sales, actions taken.  The key is to measure that impact and not think your job is done with the measurement of the coverage you generate.

One thought on “The Impact of Public Relations

  1. Everyone has a different opinion on how PR should be measured. If we’re talking specifically about media relations, I like to use sales models to evaluate campaign success. On the marketing side of the equation, I consider media outlets to be “prospects”. Pitching media outlets is “outbound sales” – often telemarketing. With this model, each team member has a “sales funnel” with projected placements. Each “opportunity” is a potential close for the media relations professional, with each media target representing a different (albeit arbitrary) value. With this approach, status reports become nothing more than activity notes. The real value is in the organization’s ability to track conversion (call to close ratios) for their media relations efforts.

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