How To Measure Success of Public Relations

Ask most PR professionals and they’ll tell you that measuring the value of public relations is hard to express.  As a result, they’ll say, it’s hard to be specific about the value they deliver.  The return on your investment is affected by so many variables it is hard to be able to give you tangible outcomes.

It’s all a lie.  Here’s how to measure the success of public relations.  It’s all in the strength of the relationships build or maintained as a result of your PR activities. We do it every day in our private lives, so why do we find it so difficult to do it in our businesses?

Think about the most important people to your business right now.  Do you have relationships with them at all?  If not, they score a zero.

Of the people you have relationships with how strong are those connections?  Would they drop everything to help you if you asked them to?  Would they willingly do everything within their power to help your business overcome its current challenge?  Will they go to bat for you if you needed them to? Will they introduce you to people within their network that may have a need for your product or service? Will they testify to your credibility or vouch for the quality of your work?

If they would then score those relationships a 10.

If they’re not a 10 then you need to figure out where on the scale they are currently.

Perhaps they’re a new connection that will help you with advice, or will provide feedback on your product development.  They might be willing to introduce you to people that are potential customers or partners, but won’t provide a reference or testimonial.  They will help if they can, but you can’t guarantee they’ll come rushing in an emergency.  Would they help if they really were your last hope? What incentive would you need to offer in order to get them to help your business if you needed them to? Do you have direct access to them? Who are the people that you rely on to give you the access you need? Do you loose access to these people without the intermediary?

Make a list of the top ten people your business needs relationships with and score them, between 0 and 10, based on these criteria.  Having benchmarked the relationships that are most important to your business achieving its next milestone you can develop a PR programme designed to build, strengthen, or maintain these relationships.

Measuring the success of your PR activities can then be tracked, based on whether these relationships strengthen, weaken or whether you are able to maintain them until you have achieved your desired outcome.  If you reevaluate each of your ten most important relationships every 30 days you can quickly see the impact that public relations is having on your business.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: benchmark relationship strength and build a plan to ensure you have the ones you need in place.

Ask questions; start conversations | The THINK PR Espresso

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Next time you’re tempted to pitch somebody – whether it is a prospect, early adopter or a journalist – stop yourself.  Before you introduce yourself think of a question. Think of something you’d like to know about the person you’re about to try to engage in a conversation.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip:  Asking questions is a great way to start conversations and can provide you with information that could help you ultimately get what you want.  It is one of the best -and most overlooked – public relations strategies.

Things Can Go South On Social Media. Quickly!

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Earlier today I wrote a post about best practice on social media.  I should have known better!  If you want an example of how quickly perceptions can change on social media, check this out!

Having published my original post I tweeted, “We may disagree about PR but get’s social. You can learn from his example! [cc ]”.  It seems, however, that despite calling Shane out for best practice in social media, he wasn’t happy!  

You can read his tweets below [from the bottom up]. 

Social Media, Public Relations, 'Experts'
Everything can change in 140 characters

Apparently, he was concerned that I had outed his professional background in my piece because I had said he works in social media and, as he had admitted publicly to me on Friday, has no experience in public relations.  This, despite the fact that he’d written a piece that assumed publicity was PR – and that PR was dead.  For anybody that doesn’t understand the industry I work in this is misleading – and, having worked in the profession for 17 years, I feel justified in correcting this common misconception.

Here are my tweets from this morning’s exchange:

Public Relations, PR, Social Media, Publicity, THINK DIFFERENT [LY]Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.00.05 PM

If you want to read Friday’s exchanges then you can find them at @THINK_Lyndon

Why am I so passionate about this topic?

Let’s face it, my industry does a good enough job without help from uninformed commentators like Shane adding their misguided opinions that are based on an incorrect definition of what public relations is.  I have spent 17 years trying to help businesses to understand that public relations is not about publicity, but about relationships – despite the industry’s attempts to drive it in to the ground for a quick buck.

Shane, as you can see, disagrees!  He, after all, thinks you don’t need to be a singer to know how to sing! [his words not mine] I’m not qualified to comment on that, as anybody that has heard me caterwauling along to a Radiohead of Depeche Mode track will confirm!  But what I am qualified to talk about than him is public relations – I’m 17 years more qualified that Shane and, despite his claims that he’s open to being corrected, I’m not so sure!

I’m also not convinced that he really understands communication, let alone social, at all.

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Social Media Best Practice | The THINK PR Espresso

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Read this post, “Things can go wrong in Social. Quickly!” for an update on this post.

At the end of last week I read an article on Technorati by Shane Paul Neil, entitled, “Technology, self-promotion and the death of public relations.  It’s one of many to make this claim recently.  It’s also one of many written by authors that don’t understand public relations – confusing publicity with PR.

Had the article focused on publicity I would have agreed with most of the points that Shane makes.  The fact that it focuses on public relations means that most of his opinions on why he believes PR is dead or dying are wrong.  Just plain wrong.  The problem is that Shane doesn’t have a PR background: he works as a social strategist and while, when I questioned him on Twitter about his experience of public relations, he had the correct definition, his understanding of what that looks like is incorrect.

It’s a problem I’ve written about many times.  The majority of so-called ‘professionals’ working in the PR industry don’t know the difference and have done an excellent job at misinforming customers and complementary industries like marketing and publicity about what it is we do. It’s something I want to change and challenging people that write in, supposedly credible media outlets, when they get it wrong is the first stage.

Technorati, Public Relations, Publicity, Social Media

Having added a comment, which was in ‘moderation’ for almost a day [and which has subsequently been deleted] I took to Twitter.  What were the author’s PR credentials/experience? It turns out I was right – he has none.  But, what happened next is something that every company can learn from.  It’s an example of how to use social media to engage people.

My usual experience of trying to have a conversation about an article – where I have constructive criticism [OK, sometimes the constructive looks a lot like frustrated irritation] – is that I get no response.  Either that or I get a firm rebuttal or the digital equivalent of “f*@! you’ – people usually don’t like being asked to support their position with evidence or experience.  A social ‘conversation I’d had with AirPR earlier in the week was a prime example of this approach. I’d questioned the company’s position that PR is actually customer marketing [it fundamentally misunderstands the difference between PR and marketing]

This was different.

Public Relations, Social Media, Twitter

After an initial back and forth, a conversation broke out.  I went from irritation about the piece to appreciating the opportunity to have the conversation – to make and debate my opinion with Shane. What’s more – rather than trying to make sure that the publication didn’t see my comments, Shane got the Managing Editor at Technorati in on the conversation.  There was talk about a series of views on the topic because the original piece had highlighted passionate responses from a number of people and with a range of differing perspectives.

This is social media as it is supposed to be used. It’s not about publicity – self-or otherwise.  It’s not about broadcasting a message and labelling people that agree friends, while labelling those that don’t trolls.  Social Media’s value is about the discussion; the conversation; the opportunity to change perceptions in real-time. It’s an extension of the owned internet, where organizations and individuals have the opportunity to publish their opinions – and start conversations where all opinions are welcomed [unless you really are a troll!].

Shane showed that, while he doesn’t understand PR, he understands the power of social media as a communications tool.  I started out questioning whether he had anything of value to add to the discussion about the future of communications and found, where social is concerned, he does.  He probably understands more about PR than most ‘PR’ people.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: social media is about conversation.  The tools are just that – tools.  You still need the basic skills required to use them for best effect.

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How do I use storytelling and narrative | PR Espresso

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Almost every piece I read written by a PR or marketing company talks about narrative and storytelling.  What they don’t tell you is that you have to have an audience that wants to hear it.  You have to find an audience that cares about your story.

The conventional wisdom is that you use narrative to find an audience.  In reality, you have to find your audience and understand that parts of your story – or narrative – they want to hear.

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Is Public Relations Dead?

Public Relations, PR Strategy, PR is Dead

A few weeks ago I read a piece in PR week by former Edelman EMEA CEO Robert Phillips pronouncing that public relations is dead.  It’s something I’ve long said and Robert made some very valid points:

“PR is dead.  Its business model, dominated on the consultancy side by bloated networks selling bureaucracy over transformation and generalists over deep expertise, is broken. Its philosophy – rooted in selling stuff to consumers, rather than addressing societal needs – is exhausted. A transparent world exposes the tired deceits of message management and spin. “

I couldn’t agree more.  The industry’s business model – pay us a large amount of money on the promise of something we can’t measure – is done.  Sure, companies still line up to purchase, but retainer fees are falling – they have been for the last 15 years – and scepticism about the value is at an all time high.  The ‘PR’ process – [it’s actually publicity, but…] of press releases, media pitching, interviews and coverage [if you’re lucky] doesn’t work in the real-time internet world. As for transparency… who knows what their PR company actually does?

Had he stopped here, I’d have agreed wholeheartedly with Robert.  But he didn’t.  He goes on to talk about public leadership; a new, Robert claims, democratic form of communications strategy where everybody has a voice.  He is also co-founder consultancy that offers advisory  and transformation programmes around this new approach.  And, you’ve guessed it, a book that will be published later in the year.  I’m not sold on the new public leadership model and his argument starts to sound more a veiled attempt to disguise old PR tactics in new [Emperor’s?] clothes.

Then, over the weekend, I read a piece by Robert White, principal and founder of PR Matters that details 10 things that PR is NOT.  Dead is not one of them.  I also read Robert’s response to the other Robert’s PR Week article, entitled Why claims that PR is dead are dead wrong.  White makes some interesting points but I found myself disagreeing with many of the points he makes.

He starts by stating that, “In PR, we believe good communication (content) and a great reputation are built upon integrity, transparency, and evidence-based results – and that spin is bad PR, because it has no values or ethics.”

I’m not sure that communication good or bad is synonymous with content.  Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s not.  But this view does reflect the shift by many agencies away from media pitching and towards content.  The number of agencies now offering content marketing has grown significantly in the last year.  If you don’t understand the difference between PR and marketing, which many PR ‘professionals’ don’t, check out my definitions of PR, marketing and publicity for clarity.

Spin is next up for Robert White, offering three reasons why Phillips’ assertion that the industry needs to escape the association with the image of PR as helping to bend the truth is incorrect.  I’m not convinced that any of them stand up to scrutiny.  White states that, “PR professionals hate spin and what it stands for. Any self-respecting PR person, agency, or group will do everything we can to convince management of the dangers and tremendous risks to an organization’s reputation if they do try to spin.” 

Which sounds a bit too much like spin to me. While there are some like White [and Robert Phillips and me] that may consider it bad form, you only have to read the website of a PR company to see how common it is.  Pick any agency’s site that come up in Google organic search results and tell me I’m wrong!

I could go on, but I’ll spare you a blow-by-blow commentary of the two articles. You can read them yourselves and draw your own conclusions.  To use Robert White’s conclusion, quoting Launcelot [Gobbo] in The Merchant of Venice, “the truth will out”.  I agree.  And it may come as a shock to many PR ‘professionals!

White concludes by saying that, “public relations is and always will be an effective channel of communication to make sure this happens.” Of that I’m not convinced. I’m not sure many of the traditional industry’s customers are either – most of the people I talk with think that traditional PR is over-priced, a combination of smoke and mirrors, un-transparent and delivers little tangible value.

To apply one of the frequently-used adages of our industry, ‘perception is reality’ what we think is irrelevant.  If our customers believe it to be true then it is time the industry woke up to it.

For what it’s worth, I think ‘PR’, at least the way that the majority of companies sell it; charge for it; talk about it; define it; and deliver it IS DEAD.  Public Relations professionals that don’t see that remain blissfully unaware of this fact are, I’d argue the walking dead.

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Photo from Flickr User MonsieurCaron                                                      Creative Commons

Context. It’ll Be The Death of Social Media Platforms | The THINK PR Espresso

Public Relations Espresso

As a rookie PR I remember being told by a colleague that the only thing you can control when sending an email is the intention when it’s sent. You can’t control how the recipient interprets what you say. This has stuck with me every since.

It’s the same with public relations, marketing and publicity. You often have no control over how a message, a call to action or a piece of content is perceived by the person receiving it. A lot of the uncontrollable is a result of context. Context has been a recurring theme for me lately, particularly in discussions about social media.

A lack of context means that social and digital platforms have a real disadvantage to some of the more traditional delivery mechanisms used in public relations, marketing and publicity. Is a lack of context meaning your audience is missing something important from your PR, marketing and publicity messages?

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What is the value of press coverage? | The THINK PR Espresso

Public Relations, PR Strategy, ROI

Almost every entrepreneur I meet says that they need media coverage to grow their business. When I ask them why, very few have an answer.

The PR industry sells “awareness” as a solution to almost every business ailment – but it’s simply not true. Media coverage can be a very inefficient, expensive and indirect way to talk to the people that matter most to your business. You’re putting the opportunity to build your businesses most important relationships in the hands of a third party, that has to convince another third party to publish something. You then hope that the people you want to read about your product or service actually see it when the coverage appears.

With traditional media-based publicity – because that’s what it is, not PR – you’re effectively buying a lottery ticket. Let me explain. If we apply the 5% direct marketing rule to publicity look what happens:

The website has 300,000 uniques every month.

5% will see the piece [15,000].

5% of the 15,000 will read it [600]

5% of the 600 will be have a possible need for your product or service [30]

5% of the 30 will have a need right now [1.5]

5% of the 1.5 will… well you get the idea!

With traditional media you had weekly, monthly or, in some cases, quarterly publications – where the magazine sat on their desks for a week, a month or three. Compare that with a refresh rate of one story an hour – or, in the case of the likes of Mashable and other online tech publications, once every 15 minutes. So, not only are you hoping to attract the attention of one and a half prospects with every piece of coverage, the chances they will read your piece is one in forty every week compared to the days of traditional media. The number rises to 1/160 over a month!

So, you’re paying five to ten thousand dollars a month for ‘PR’. Let’s say you’re getting 10 pieces of coverage a month. You’re getting your message in front of 15 prospective customers per month [most B2B businesses would bite your arm off for 15 new qualified leads every month]. Lets say, for the sake of argument, 33% of these make contact with you – that’s 5 leads. Each one has cost you $1,000 if you’re paying $5,000 a month. In PR terms, that’s pretty good ROI. If 20% convert to a customer, you have one new customer for your investment.

But then there’s always the chance that you get nothing from it. Think what you could do if you identified 5 – 10 prospects and spent even $500 on each to capture their attention. $500 a month to start building a relationship with them that increases the chances of them converting to a customer. What if you could spend $500 and figure out how to make sure you delivered the right message to each of these validated customers, at the right time and delivered via the right channel?

In reality, you could spend a lot less and get significantly better results. So, do you still want to play the publicity lottery?

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