From the President’s Desk: Measuring Effective Public Relations

Robert Simpson

Robert Simpson

President & CEO

For the last 20 years, Robert has specialized in strategic communication and public relations, focusing his passion for storytelling to help organizations achieve greater impact. As PR Associates’ leader, Robert plays a role in collaborating with clients and our teams to develop strategies and create experiences that deepen audience engagement.

What keeps me awake at night is that our clients are getting a return on investment (ROI) for their public relations dollars, and how we can do a better job showing them the results.

Public relations is one of those services most people know they need, but aren’t always sure about what to expect in return. We hear from potential clients all the time they want us to get them a story in the Globe and Mail or on the National News, but when we what they are going to do with the media coverage, it often draws a blank stare and we get answers like we just want them to tell our story while expecting that readers will flock to their website and pull out their wallets.

Over the years I’ve learned that public relations is only one of the tools in a company marketing or communication strategy, and successful media relations needs to be closely aligned to a strategy that anchors the public relations efforts. While a story in the Globe and Mail or a National News outlet may feed the CEO’s ego, and that may be enough for some, the media coverage as part of a holistic campaign will have measurable impact, dive sales, encourage investment, increase credibility or cultivate qualified leads.

In my view, an effective PR campaign is measurable. In our upcoming Guidelines for Measuring Effective Public Relations Programs Worksheet (Available exclusively to Newsletter Subscribers)we’ve identified that setting measurable objectives is critical to public relations programming, it is also among the most commonly overlooked.

In every business case – whether the organization is large or small; for-profit or non-profit; local or global – there needs to be an objective. Our research has indicated the most effective public relations programs are rooted in research which is used to set objectives, develop strategy and design tactics. The research foundation continues to be applied as one moves to program execution and concludes with the research-based evaluation needed to assess the extent to which the program met or exceeded the original research-based objectives. 

While each component of the public relations process is essential for success, the initial stage of objectives-setting research is the basis for the entire PR program. It provides a framework for strategy, execution, and evaluation. 

Our upcoming Guidelines for Measuring Effective Public Relations Programs worksheet will be available exclusively for newsletter subscribers (Subscribe here); where we also provide strategies on how to link your PR Objectives to Organizational Objectives which is one of the most vexing challenges in proving the value of public relations.  For most businesses and organizations management’s first question is what returns were generated from the investment in public relations and what evidence is there that the communication activities have helped achieve the business goals. This starts with aligning the public relations goals with the business objectives.

Management guru Peter F. Drucker said, “Objectives are not fate; they are direction. They are not commands; they are commitments. They do not determine the future; they are means to mobilize the resources and energies of the business for the making of the future.” 

In many cases, I think public relations professionals agree to work with indeterminate goals in order to avoid being proven a failure. But by doing so, we disallow ourselves demonstrable success.  Here at PR Associates, we always begin with setting clear and measurable objectives that clearly align with business objectives, making us accountable for our work and ensuring we can meet your business objectives.


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