A solid PR campaign is an important way to grow your business; or at least spread a key message across your consumer base. Public relations can, of course, make or break just about any organisation: just ask Enron or BP. The last thing you want to do is unleash a PR campaign that boomerangs back on your company with devastating results, ala Pepsi's Kendall Jenner ad.
So the question becomes: how can you build a successful PR campaign? And then, how can you effectively measure its results? The following sections will provide answers to those questions, and give you some guidelines on how to move forward with your next PR initiative.
How to Build an Effective PR Campaign
In order to build a truly exceptional public relations campaign, it's important to implement at least 6 key steps:
- Know your objective. Any company executive who tries to deploy a PR campaign with no clear objective has a few roos loose in her top paddock. That's because if you don't know your "why," then you'll never get to your "how." Determine the ultimate objective of your PR campaign before even thinking about getting into the details: is it to spread brand awareness? Is it to drive sales? Is it to fight some recent negative press? Once you have a clear target to shoot for, everything else will fall into place.
- Target the right audience... with the right techniques. This requires a two-pronged approach: you want to reach the right consumer demographics, but you also want to partner with the right outlets to do so. You'll need to conduct some research into how best to approach journalists, editors, and other decision makers in the media, and which types of content will best align with their brand voice, tone, and values. For instance, one study found that 76% of journalists are keenly interested in a story's potential for social sharing, and 64% prefer follow-up on pitches via email rather than over the phone.
- Make your PR campaign easy to share and highly interactive. The best PR campaigns draw the audience in, and are designed to encourage readers (or viewers) to share the content with their friends and family. A PR campaign that goes viral can be a huge boon for your organisation; so make your campaign viral-friendly! Keep your content simple, memorable, and (most importantly) shareable.
- Be balanced in your brand positioning. You need to walk a fine line between pushing your brand too aggressively and obscuring it in the background. You want your content to be informative, entertaining, moving, or a combination of all three. Yet, you should never let the consumer forget who the narrative is coming from. If you find that perfect balance, you'll be able to seamlessly plug your brand without detracting from the user experience.
- Check every... single... angle. When it comes to PR, you absolutely must think everything through. The most well-intentioned PR campaigns can totally, hilariously, and catastrophically backfire. For instace, PETA's campaign to remove "speciesism" from daily speech (eg., changing "take the bull by the horns" to "take the flower by the thorns") drew scorn, ridicule and a fair amount of negative press from an exasperated public. To avoid making the same mistake, ask yourself questions like: "Could this campaign's message be misinterpreted? How would our target demographic react to this content? Is it translatable to other cultures or languages?"
- Determine how best to measure effectiveness. Finally, before you deploy your PR campaign you should have an established plan on how to measure its results. After all, if you can't measure your efforts, then you'll never be able to improve them. Which seques nicely into our next section...
How to Measure Your PR Campaign's Results
There are several ways to measure how well your PR campaign performed, depending on your initial objectives. Here are five common methods of measuring a campaign's effectiveness:
- Sales within a certain timeframe. For many B2C companies, this is the most important metric for any public relations initiative. You should compare sales prior to the campaign's commencement with sales at the end of a predefined period, and look for the rate of increase. In particular, pay attention to which sales channels showed the greatest spikes, as this can provide you with key insights for future campaigns.
- Social media reach. By calculating your brand's number of social media followers at the start of a campaign versus the end, you'll be able to determine with relative accuracy how well the campaign performed among that subset of your consumer base.
- Media impressions. This metric measures how many consumers may have seen your content, and how many times they did so per day, or in total.
- Social media listening. You can see how well your campaign is performing by monitoring real-time conversations centered around an ad you displayed, or an article you published. This is more of a subjective approach to measuring the results of a campaign; however, it has the advantage of yielding deep insights into your consumers' thoughts and feelings with regard to your content.
- Web traffic. One of the biggest objectives of most PR campaigns is to drive traffic to a desired landing page or website. Google Analytics and other tools can help you to identify any increase in traffic to your site as a result of a PR campaign. Likewise, you can use tracking links to ensure you understand how many people responded to your call to action/s and which worked most effectively. You can also look at where the traffic is coming from: for example, any change in the rate of "referral traffic" after a campaign begins is a typical KPI for your PR coverage.
Building a robust, well-received PR campaign takes a bit of sussing out and involves a lot of moving parts. And once you've begun executing your campaign, deploying efficient and trackable metrics adds on yet another layer of complication that must be sorted through.
Nevertheless, building and measuring an effective PR campaign will enable you to grow your business, expand your reach into new markets, and even counteract bad press if needed. By implementing some (or all) of the above suggestions, you'll find success in your endeavors, and reap the benefits that good public relations can bring.