Setting PR Goals and Measuring Success

 In How-To

Measuring public relations has always been one of the biggest marketing challenges. From a big picture perspective, it’s important to know whether the investment in PR is worth the cost. More granularly, it’s important to be able to refine the PR program by abandoning tactics that aren’t working while reinforcing those that do.

The challenge is always mapping the various data points collected from PR to the program’s success. There are several analytics dashboard tools that make it easy to monitor and report these data points. But even with these tools, how does a company translate success from counting the number of articles placed in a given month, or from the number of new followers added to social media accounts?

The first step is understanding the company’s business strategy and integrating PR into its execution. The company’s goals are the PR program’s goals. Once the goals of the program are established and understood, measuring the success of a PR program becomes a lot easier.

Establishing PR Goals

Sometimes the tactical objectives of a program are mistaken for its strategic goals, which can lead to focusing on the wrong set of metrics.  A strategic goal is the purpose of the program, and the tactical objectives are the desired outcomes designed to achieve them. For instance, strategic goals might be to grow sales revenue by 300 percent or double the number of monthly customer visits, while the tactical objectives might be to place twelve feature articles or secure two speaking opportunities. If the program achieves fourteen article placements and five speaking opportunities but sales revenue decreases or customer visits fall off, it’s hard to make the case the program was successful. But it might look that way if the wrong set of metrics is used.

Start the PR planning by knowing why PR is needed in the first place. The answer to that question is almost always the same as the organization’s operational goals, as PR should be used strategically to advance them. These goals be can be far ranging, including growing revenue, hiring new staff, opening new geographic or vertical markets, or – as is often needed in the cannabis market – influencing a policy outcome.

Understanding that PR is a Process

As important as knowing what to measure is also understanding when to measure it. One transformative article may take many months to set up and execute, and by its nature may have an impact far greater than a dozen or more articles. Because there are so many companies vying for attention from a comparatively small cannabis media community, patience is truly a virtue in this market.

The PR program’s tactical objectives are easier to measure in the short term, and analysis of these objectives provides necessary data for the constant fine tuning of the program. But these measurements aren’t by themselves a window into the success of the program.

While some PR tactics could show some quick results, most need time to unfold. PR is a process that’s woven together with lots of other moving parts within marketing and beyond. PR provides both lift and acceleration to sales and marketing activities, which also need to be measured over time. However, one certainly should expect to see an impact from a PR program within a few months.

Determining the Right Metrics

Once the goals of the program are established and a timeframe for reporting understood, the next thing is to understand what the measurements are intended to demonstrate. Often PR measurement is used to determine its return on investment. For instance, if a business is using PR to help grow sales revenue, then sales revenue becomes the key PR metric. The sales revenue data collected prior to engaging PR or from before a change is made in the PR program sets the baseline; how future sales revenue compares to this baseline is a solid indication of the impact of the PR program and its ROI.

Even with this understanding, setting objectives and measuring success remains a challenge. Whether you’re writing a PR plan or selecting a PR agency, make sure you start by defining why PR is being engaged, when you require results, and what PR reporting should demonstrate. The team at The Cannabis Story Lab are expert strategists and recognized authorities on PR metrics, having written and spoken on the topic over the years, including at the PRSA World Conference. Contact the Story Lab to understand how the right PR program can make a strategic difference to your cannabis business.

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