PR measurement always makes PR pros cringe. As do mathematics, unrealistic expectations and crazy deadlines! But there’s one word that makes PR professionals even queasier… Goal.
It’s not because we’re afraid of setting goals per se, it’s just that there are too many unknowns in our profession that affect the delivery of key objectives, especially when these goals are set six or 12 months before the beginning of a campaign.
The longer you’ve been in PR, the more unknowns you’ve seen. From the crises that pop-up unexpectedly, the reporter friend suddenly quitting their job, the last minute announcement; to the client changing their entire strategy overnight. It’s not surprising that many PR professionals feel that success is predicated on too many variables for realistic goals to be set and for accurate PR measurement to take place.
These unknowns that pop up create an additional factor to be added to the mix… fear. Quite reasonably, the PR pro ends up becoming concerned that their clients might think they haven’t done their job correctly if they are unable to reach agreed goals, regardless of the unknowns that have come into play.
Taking this into account, PR measurement can be viewed as being the weather and the PR pro the meteorologist. If its stormy one day when sunshine is expected, invariably it is the weatherman who is held responsible, despite their best predictions.
However, although there may well be unknowns, these don’t change the fact that PR strategy follows trends. Ignoring these trends increases the likelihood of failing to meet goals. Experienced PR pros are aware of this. They identify these patterns and base their recommendations accordingly.
The first step in setting goals and creating PR measurement is establishing Key Performance Indicators and keeping track of the specific variables your work; such as: who you pitched to, how many follow-ups were made, the total time spent on a specific activity… and so on.
Try this with two or three campaigns and you’ll start to see a healthy set of patterns before you know it. They should start to tell you what mix of variables yields the biggest successes. Your data will build organically very quickly, helping you predict the future by looking at the past. It’s important to note here that trends really are consistent in public relations – there’s no such thing as a fluke. While some failures or successes might seem mysterious, there will always a reason behind them, even if not immediately obvious. Once you begin collecting data, these reasons will be revealed.
In a fast-moving industry such as PR, we can’t afford to let any kind of misstep go on for too long. It’s our job to spot the gaps, close them and keep moving towards that ultimate success that keeps our clients coming back for more. By monitoring trends, predicting results and creating better PR measurement, we become better, faster and more successful, which at the end of the day is what makes our clients happy.