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 Tracking Publicity Success and Public Relations Effectiveness
Tracking your publicity success and effectiveness

By Paul J. Krupin

How do you define publicity success or failure? How do you measure public relations effectiveness?

Many publicity seekers hope to produce significant financial success -- wild profits off one single news release.

They create a startup business or write a book and think that one news release will jumpstart their efforts to phenomenal riches, fame and success.

I call this “unrealistic expectations”.

Get real. You probably won’t get rich off one news release. You’re chances of getting famous are just about as slim.

Remember what you are doing when you send out a news release. You are communicating to try to produce a specific result. You are targeting a specific group of people to get them to take a certain action. You are creating and tailoring persuasive messages specifically designed to influence the media perception and behavior. You are then hoping that their publication of information will further produce behavior or attitude change in the public.

Initially your success hinges on getting the media to do what you want. Second, you hope that the message is persuasive and produces a second set of actions by those who see the message.

You are paying for specialized communications. You are paying for the ability to reach the media via the telecommunications vehicles you have chosen. Typically, you pay your public relations specialist for expert copywriting to craft the persuasive message and you also pay for telecommunications to get the message delivered.

You seek to offset those communications costs by getting publicity. You are hoping to ultimately receive sufficient money to recover those costs.

There is a saying: “advertising is paid for, publicity is prayed for.” It is generally accepted that the advantage of publicity is that the exposure is coming from a media -- an independent respected expert source that consumers view as objective and, therefore, credible. So advertising costs and publicity costs are not viewed the same. Publicity results are believed to be of higher value. That’s the theory anyway. You still need to pay the bills. In spite of what some people have written, publicity isn’t free. There are the communications costs.

Most people are fully satisfied with the publicity results only when the "reach, persuade and move-to-desired-action" process produces sufficient visible actions on the part of those people you wish to influence. However, it may take several weeks or even months for this to occur.

There are five key measurement points you should use to determine your level of satisfaction with the effectiveness of your publicity efforts.

1. The first point is when you transmit the release. Do you feel like the costs of performing the publicity outreach are reasonable? Do you feel like the service has been responsive to your needs?

2. The second point is immediately after the release is distributed and you can identify the number and quality of the media responses to your news release.

3. The third point is when articles are actually published or when your interviews have been conducted.

4. The fourth point is when you determine whether enough of the right people respond to your message.

5. The fifth and final point is sometime later still, when you are finally able to somehow determine the overall benefits of your outreach effort and experience. It is only now you can truly ask “Was it worth it?”

At each of these points you should ask yourself: “What is really happening here?” Real data should be collected objectively and evaluated without prejudice. The actual numbers of tangible events can be tallied. The actual costs can be surmised. Only then can you ask yourself “How do you feel and why?”

It is crucial that you recognize the importance of measuring the value of publicity in clear financial terms at each step in this process. However, you must realize that this will not be easy to do.

On one time publicity efforts, you might be able to break even financially on step four within a few weeks of sending out a news release, especially if the release goes to newspapers, radio and TV. But with magazines and trade publications that require longer lead times, it may take seven to ten months to reach steps 4 and 5.

You may also need to continue to maintain your publicity outreach, say on a month-by-month basis. If you do not break even on a news release, what should you do? Stop or continue? Do you use the same publicity materials and media list or change them?

The answers depend on your specific goals, and your specific finances. Some publicity goals are financial and some are not. You may have the resources and commitment to go for a long distance. You may not.

You might not want money as your goal. You may simply be seeking publicity. You may simply want to get the word out for the purpose of informing and educating the public to a serious and important issue. You may need a specific type and quantity of media coverage to achieve this goal.

But if you are in business, you are far more likely to be solely interested in enhancing the bottom line. You are seeking to use publicity as a means to achieving sales. To you publicity is an essential part of your marketing plan and you very simply seek a positive return on investment. If that is the case, every dollar counts and you must document and tabulate your expenses.

Let’s make some simple assumptions and demonstrate how to analyze your success.

Look at your investment and compare it to what you need to break even on your investment.

Let’s assume you make $5 for every book you sell. Let’s assume that a single one-time publicity effort requires $500.

So very simply, you need to sell 100 books to cover the costs of a $500 outreach effort.

Let’s assume that you need ten articles because each article only produces ten sales. You might be aiming at radio talk shows so instead of articles, now you are talking about interviews.

So that’s your breakeven goal: ten media hits. More books per article means less articles will satisfy your needs.

Let’s assume that $500 allows you to send a news release out to 2000 media.

You can expect a 0.5 to 1.0 percent response:

· a 0.5 percent response will result in ten (10) articles or interviews;
· a 1.0 percent response will result in twenty (20) articles or interviews.

You may think this response rate is low. It is. Nonetheless, experience shows this response rate is typical.

This level of response parallels the experience people see in direct marketing and indicates that the media respond the same to a new never seen before publicity pitch the same way the uninformed public respond to a direct marketing pitch.

The key question, despite how low this response appears, is: “Is it worth it?”

Obviously the more you make on an individual sale, the fewer media articles or interviews you will need to break even.

If you repeat the effort you may find out that the response rate increases. This is because the media are getting a repeat message. It acts as a reminder and drives more people to respond the second time, when they didn’t respond the first time.

So multiply your monthly costs by the number of months you maintain the effort.

The effect of repeat publicity is thus cumulative. The more times you send out a news release, the more publicity you will receive.

But the low numeric response per effort is what you should expect.

You simply have to be realistic and understand that while you are wildly interested in the topic, it may not have the broad general public interest that you have for the subject.

If you wrote an article that has local interest and you expect national media to pay attention, think again.

If you want to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show, then you’d better pray because chances of doing it off one news release are very slim, near zero in fact. Oprah is very, very picky.

Get real. If she calls, then congratulations are in order. But don’t count on it.

You should also know that even if she calls, many people have not watched sales soar in response to an appearance on Oprah. You may be one of them.

Now, if you wrote a news release that was really a request for free advertising and you wanted a story and interviews that promoted your product, don’t be surprised if the only media to call is the advertising manager offering you a package deal. Sometimes you get exactly what you ask for.

The nature and quality of the coverage is important.

If you get lots of snappy one-liners where you provide expert commentary, but the contact information to your business is lacking or the article focuses on something that’s not relevant to your bottom line. So publicity like this has little value to you.

What you want is quality time and precise detailed coverage that motivates your specific targeted public to take the action you want. This is the publicity that counts the most.

One or two quality media responses may be what you want or need. If you get that, it’s a success.

One article in USA Today may out perform ten articles in small dailies and weeklies in the mid-west. It may not if it’s just a quick pithy quote from you with nothing relevant and motivating about your business.

One tiny little timely blurb with critically important intelligence in a targeted publication to the right interested audience will most definitely outsell a broad rambling feature story in a large general interest publication. The right message in front of the right audience makes a big difference.

One quality 30-minute interview on a well-liked talk show on a radio station in the middle of nowhere will outsell a five-minute interview on an Arbitron rated radio station in the middle of the morning talk show in a major metropolitan area. This is because in the middle of nowhere, people have few choices – they are captive audience. They also are listening and paying real attention to what you say. The people in the major metro area are stressed to the max, have limited attention spans, and are flipping channels to find entertainment, struggling to stay awake on the way to work while driving in heavy traffic in the middle of the sprawling metropolis.

There are several ways to identify and quantify media response to your news release.

As a general rule, the majority of the responses for information or interviews will come within 72 hours of a fax or an email news release. You want to get as many of these as you can of course.

Offer the media incentives. You can gauge initial media response to a news release from the number of requests for information, media kits, review copies or interviews. This assumes that your news release offers the media such items.

Place your website on the news release. You can also track direct sales and traffic off of a web site as long as this is the only place people can go, and the publicity is the only activity to cause or trigger a sales increase at a known certain point in time.

Add other links. You can transmit a release and incorporate hot links that actually monitor and track media click-throughs right off your news releases.

Offer free information. If you build an offer for a free report into your news release, and if the media runs with it, you will know immediately as requests from readers will start coming to you. If you key these by title, you’ll know which news release it is coming from, and you can identify the media publication.

If you hold a news conference, the measure might be the number of journalists who attend. A second measure might be whether you make the local evening news, and on one, two, three or all the major networks, and a third might be whether your message was indeed broadcast the way it was designed, and a fourth might be how the message is being received and what the public reaction is to it.

If you run a media campaign to change public opinion or address some negative issues, the goal might be the number of favorable articles.

If you are selling product, you must be able to monitor your sales closely. You also need to be able to identify when, where and why sales are occurring.

You can monitor a book ranking on Amazon and watch the rank rise and fall over time.

You can have automated mechanisms tell you that sales are occurring if you design them into your business system and incorporate them into your publicity outreach process.

If you don’t have these types of systems in place, you may need to simply ask customers a question as they make a purchase, “How did you hear about us?”

What is difficult is to track is the influence publicity will have on longer-term sales. The effect of some publicity efforts will be transitory – they’ll produce a spike in sales. Daily newspapers, radio talk shows, TV appearances – all these will produce a transitory interest you can follow if you place the appropriate mechanisms in place. Some of these will produce longer lasting impact than others.

However the effect of a continuous publicity effort is cumulative. It’s like pushing a snowball up the hill. When it reaches and goes just over the top, it starts moving by itself. Sales increase as you spend more, and then after a while, sales increase without spending much more at all. It goes by itself. That’s because media publicity begets media publicity, and once you start people talking in a nation that has 294 million people, well, word gets around.

This also illustrates why not all media are created equal – some media are simply more important than others. This is because of the effect they have not just in terms of how many people they reach but how they affect and influence other media. The value of a media event may also not be apparent to you until later.

For example, it is very clear that many media rely on the Associated Press. If AP covers your story, it is logical that many newspapers will pick it up. How many will actually vary because each newspaper pays for the privilege of running the AP story.

Here in eastern Washington State, there is a commonly held view of the Seattle Times and the Portland Oregonian (which are the big city, west side newspapers), which is this: “We read the Tri-City Herald.” (A little known but extremely well run paper in eastern Washington, with some very talented, and highly regarded, investigative journalists and reporters). On a daily basis, the big city papers grab their news out of the little east side paper.

The lesson learned? If you want to ultimately see an article about you in the major newspapers in your state, get a really good feature out in the sticks first. The value of the initial media coverage is of crucial importance to the follow on publicity. It establishes credibility, demonstrates the newsworthiness of the issues, and allows the news to roll forward to other media with confidence. So start local, think global. Leverage what you get to carry it up to the next level.

Depending on the publicity you seek, you can monitor how much news coverage is generated as the weeks go by after a news release goes out.

Use News Search Engines. Monitor the mention of your name, book, product or company in the news. The news search engines monitor various types of normal and online news sources in near real time. You can even create news alerts that send you an email whenever your particular event happens. These search engine tools give you a glimpse of current breaking news events but are by no means complete. They monitor only a selected set of media.

Monitor Internet Chatter: Search newsgroups, forums, mailing lists and web logs for talk about you. Evaluate how the public perceives you.

Hire a clipping service. You can also use a more classical clipping service to capture articles that come out. This will enable you to evaluate the number of articles, the volume, nature and depth of news coverage you are acquiring. Clipping is best conducted four to six months after you send out a news release. If you do it too soon, you won’t catch the articles that required a four to six month lead-time.

But even with a clipping service report, you may not be able to track and correlate directly with sales and sales causing events. They tell you what came out and when, but you then have to compare them and correlate the publication dates with sales figures for a concomitant period of time.

Use your publicity: Take your articles, duplicate them, and give them to prospects. Use them to bolster your credibility and to substantiate your value in the eyes of your customers. Derive the benefits that you sought and make sure your prospects see the publicity you have acquired.

Bottom line:

More times than not, there’s no easy way to identify the effects of media publicity. Very simply, the results are goal dependent.

With single books and single outreaches, a relatively simple evaluation over a four to six month period will provide the necessary data.

With multiple repeat publicity projects more complex branding efforts, it is necessary to track cumulative costs, cumulative publicity acquired, and related them to overall sales over time. A systematic outreach and tracking effort must be carefully designed, implemented and maintained. It may take up to a year to develop the necessary data.

The bigger problem is distinguishing the effects your public relations efforts are having in comparison to all your other direct marketing efforts.

Can you determine how each of your multiple efforts affects your bottom line? Are you really able to document and track the individual contributions of each effort?

Direct financial impacts may produce improved sales, and greater profits and/or improved cost savings. Indirect financial savings may produce good will and improved reputation.

Direct non-financial impacts may be to introduce you to new people that produce new ideas and critical business intelligence. These can result in refined higher goals and objectives, totally new initiatives, better alignment of your people and other organizations, internal and external collaboration and even contractual teaming or partnership opportunities.

Publicity may improve your operational effectiveness simply because you are receiving more outside scrutiny. Your people may pull together and form a more professional, more efficient and effective team as a direct result of the pride they are experiencing in having received such wide-open visibility and public recognition.

Indeed, this last benefit may be the most important effect publicity can have on your total business performance.

Paul J. Krupin is the author of the book “Trash Proof News Releases” and creator of Direct Contact PR a personal publicity service that transmits news releases to custom targeted media lists via fax and e-mail His website is packed with articles and a comprehensive media jump station. The 244 page first edition of “Trash Proof News Releases” is available as a free pdf file download or via email upon request. Email him directly at 800-457-8746 509-545-2707

Paul J. Krupin Targeted Publicity, Copywriting, Strategies & More …
Direct Contact 1-800-457-8746 509-545-2707

Transmits your news releases to custom targeted media lists via fax and e-mail

Available in 1,000 word version upon request. Headshot and review copy of “Trash Proof News Releases” available on request.


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