Measuring PR success
by Melissa Barreca
Measuring PR success
How well your company handles public relations depends on what you expect of the PR department
Melissa Barreca is public relations manager at Ameristar Casino St. Charles in St. Charles, Mo.
She can be reached at (800) 325-7777, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathy Callahan is director of communications for Ameristar's corporate office in Las Vegas.
She can be reached at (702) 567-7053, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
While the question is deceivingly simple, the answer can be incredibly complex. In fact, many companies couldn't begin to formulate an answer because they lack an accurate mechanism to gauge the effectiveness of their communications function.
PR departments, whether they consist of two or fifty people, can fall into the trap of measuring results based on criteria that might offer little value to the company. And they often miss the mark when they detail activities in terms of the number of media clips created, or worse, the number or press releases sent out in a given time period.
While this type of information can be important to show the general productivity of a department, it does nothing to contextualize activities and show results that tie back to company objectives.
In the effort to add value, the most important step is to identify the goal. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going." Only with an identified sense of purpose, can you make notable progress and add real value to your organization.
Know where you are going
Public relations should be held accountable to equally quantifiable measures focusing on outcomes instead of output. In the end, it doesn't matter that your company issued 100 press releases last month if only one of them got picked up by a publication. It doesn't help that PR fielded 50 media calls if most of them resulted in negative exposure. Media clips have little value if they didn't reach the right people with the right messages.
Effective PR is not just about reaching your audience. It's about seeing behavioral change: inspiring people to patronize your property; to speak positively about casino gaming and its benefits; or to invest in your company.
If your PR department's activities aren't adding real value, it's time for a change of focus. Not only should PR identify the activities that add value to your organization and align with your business objectives, but it must also quantify that value and share progress with decision-makers.
Identify value of PR programs
The first step in any measurement program is identifying goals and objectives. Find out what is important to the company. What are senior executives' goals? What are the goals of the property? How can communications help achieve them?
What are the desired results that will create value for your organization?
Communications can play a key role in any corporate initiative. If you're expanding into new markets, communications can help with building brand awareness. If you're undertaking a major initiative to improve guest service, strategic communications can maximize the effectiveness of the program.
From overcoming regulatory hurdles to increasing profit margins, communications can help-as long as the communicators are focused broadly on achieving results instead of narrowly on day-to-day activities.
Quantify how value is measured
Once you've identified goals, it's time to determine the markers on the road to success. Take stock of the current measurement practices. Is the department currently sharing results? If so, in what form (media clips, regular reports of department activities, etc.)? Some of these reporting traditions can and should cont-inue. Others may need to make way for more strategic measures.
Look at the goals you've established. Determine the milestones that will get you there. If your goal is to defeat a proposed tax increase, milestones might be (1) exposing a certain number of voting legislators to your messages, (2) getting commitments from a majority to support your position and (3) winning the final vote. A recap report at the end of the program can detail the tactics employed and their success in regards to each objective.
Each and every PR program should be viewed under the microscope of similarly quantifiable objectives.
Share results with decision-makers
The final step in creating accountability for your PR function involves regularly reporting progress. Your company probably already has established time periods for analysis of results and planning for the future. Public relations should be held accountable to the same timelines and expected to present results in turn with every other department.
Results can take the form of original research or it can utilize research conducted by others. Whatever the form, taking time to complete the process is an invaluable part of effective communications.
Strategic measurement provides a mechanism to improve your communications programs, achieving greater focus and greater results. When this happens, public relations becomes a "secret weapon" in your company's arsenal and an incredibly strong tool in the ongoing battle for market share and competitive advantage.