Yesterday, Richard Edelman wrote about the changing landscape of public relations and its relationship to advertising.
I have long advocated a holistic approach to public relations, rather than one that is driven by its tactics and specialties: Media Relations, Government Relations, etc. Another comment by Michael Sommermeyer of Wordy Mouth in a post I made last week about the feminization of public relations, also made me realize that my position is that PR can't be a purist practice. It needs to be messy, to get down in the trenches and provide real business results, versus some ego-boosting clips for the CEO.
We need to use the tactics that best fit the situation and if that includes an advertisement or something else traditionally considered part of marketing, then included it!
The four-step process for a public relations campaign is a good start to determining what tactics actually belong in our communication with stakeholders: Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation.
First, survey the business or social landscape. Do the research to find out where you stand. Some organizations and companies have rich data in the marketing department that the public relations department never taps into. Shame on you if you don’t!
I was talking with a colleague a few days ago that needs to reach a certain, well-defined population. However, this practioner isn’t tapping into a ready-made database that could be mined to find out exactly what this population needs and why they aren’t responding the way the organization would like.
Look around you and open your eyes to the research you can access right in your own organization. It doesn’t have to be costly and it gives better direction to the next step, which is…
This is the stage where many people start their work in public relations. It seems we are always planning something, doesn’t it? That big event next month, the annual meeting of your stakeholders, and it goes on and on. Even here, where it could be said public relations is very strong, we often get it backwards.
The steps should go as follows: (GOAL-POST) Define your goals; identify, segment and prioritize your publics or stakeholders; Set measurable objectives with business outcomes; map out your strategies to reach those objectives; and assign appropriate tactics or channels to assist with those strategies.
Did you notice that tactics come in dead last? A tactic is a newsletter, press release, VNR, advertisement, direct mail piece, a media pitching campaign. Dare I say it? A blog and other social media tools. As an aside, Ike Pigiott and I where able to meet briefly when I was on my trip in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. We discussed the idea that social media tools were not quite a strategy and not quite a tactic, but something in between. Ike coined a new word, “Stractic,” to describe it. I thought it was a good compromise.
This should be the easiest part of the plan since most of the work should have been completed in the planning stage. Here you will assign responsibilities, set timelines, and adjust as you go to meet the objectives.
This is where you need to determine if your plan actually worked. Evaluation is tightly pegged to your measurable objectives. In a post by John Wagner earlier this week about the language of the C-Suite, I left a comment with some commonsense ways to measure if your tactics are working.
I offer a list of ideas to measure your public relations program here: track web traffic after a particularly good media hit (not causal but impressive and likely), use unique URLs in contact information given out in PR materials and track the people who come through that URL and all the way to purchase or request for info, do a pre and post survey for a campaign to gauge change in attitude, set monetary objectives for events, use unique e-mail addresses for more information and use different ones on different collateral (tactics) to see which nets the most leads, etc.
So, now, let’s hear from you. Are there other ways low-cost ways to evaluate your work? How often do you set measurable objectives for the tactics/channels that you use to communicate with your publics? Do you agree or disagree with the idea that marketing and advertising should be included in a holistic PR plan?
(Update: Todd Andrlik, a fairly new blogger, has a great post on PR vs Advertising. I higly recommend you read what he has to say)
Photo by Andrea Weckerle