The biggest mistake smaller companies make with their PR

Would you like better results from your public relations? Well, there is a principle that is essential to making sure your PR activities work well. But is is frequently forgotten.

PR consultants often like the dodge talking about it. And smaller companies, doing PR for the first time, might well think about the principle, but are not sure how it would work in practice.

What is this principle? It is that if you can’t accurately measure the effectiveness of each of your public relations activities, you won’t be able to manage them.

By measurement, I don’t mean a tally of how many media mentions you get. After all, not all coverage is equal. How useful is a press clipping from a publication that your buyers don’t read? Probably not very much. And if you are quoted in a magazine on a topic that’s irrelevant to your business, will it get you customers?

Good measurement concentrates on how effective coverage is in achieving proper business aims. Smaller companies probably won’t want to use the complicated econometric modelling used by firms such as Procter & Gamble. What they can do is use:

  • opinion polls of awareness and favourability towards a brand, taken before and after a campaign;
  • microsites (dedicated web pages) for those who’ve seen particular coverage, so you can track how people found you; and
  • the good old-fashioned question “How did you hear of us?”, asked when people buy or join an email list.

What good measurement frequently tells companies is that the publications and types of coverage they thought were helping most actually are not the right ones. The most hyped publications and websites in your sector might not actually be the ones that sell the most. Sometimes even respected publications don’t do much for sales directly: they are useful only because they give you something impressive to quote in other forms of marketing.

And frequently the results can be surprising. I recently ran a PR campaign where a major generator of sales was a email newsletter, of all things. It’s just that there were 25,000 directly relevant people receiving the email, which ran an interview that mentioned the product heavily. If you can persuade websites or email newsletters to link to microsite, or add some form of tracking code to the end of your product’s webpage, you can track how useful a media mention was in terms of sales.

Alex Singleton is author of The PR Masterclass, out now from Wiley

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