Wikipedia defines public relations as ” the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics.” A public relations campaign, then is defined as “building rapport with employees, customers, vendors, or the general public” in a positive manner.  If a small- to mid-sized business were to engage in a public relations campaign, it needs to approach the strategic planning of this campaign, using one of Steven Covey’s principles, “Begin with the end in mind.”  So how do you measure a successful campaign?

Looking into the future - Is your PR campaign successful?
Looking into the future - Will your PR campaign be successful?

It helps to follow these steps when developing your plan:

  1. What is your time frame? PR for the sake of public relations is not effective.  A company needs to be realistic in the time fame for PR marketing to work, but a campaign can be a small part of the overall strategy.  You may decide that your public relations campaign will only last 1 quarter, and after that time, you can truly evaluate whether you have been successful in accomplishing the milestones you established early on.
  2. What type of media do you want to target? Is is local, regional, or national?  Some companies value local publicity in mass media paper, TV, and radio, but others only value media placements in trade publications.  It helps to categorize these publications in “Must have”, “Nice to Have”, and “Not Really that Important, but still nice to have.”  You or your PR consultant can then work on the “Must Have” reporters and set a goal for placement of quotes or stories in that media outlet.
  3. Change your strategy if it’s not working – A reporter has a story to tell in order to appeal to the audience.  A story about you or your business needs to be compelling and most importantly, of current interest.  Trying to pitch a story for your PR campaign that is considered “old news” will have a low probability of being picked up.

Measuring a public relations campaign is easier now than in past years, due to the rise of social media.  You can use Survey Monkey, Google Alerts, or a website like Social Mention to track engagement.  There are also more sophisticated (and expensive) social media engagement tracking services available as well.  The important thing is to lay out a plan, evaluate the plan, and change the strategy if it is not working!