How to Best Measure PR Campaigns—Because It’s No Longer Optional

In my last post, I shared information on the components that make up a PR campaign. Setting measurable objectives was just a passing mention but measurement deserves a full post.

Before we dive into the “how”, let’s be clear—a myriad of industry leaders agree that measurement is no longer an option for public relations professionals. It’s a must!

Why should I measure?

Gini Dietrich, who you may know as the developer of the PESO Model, has said on many occasions to get over your fear of numbers!

Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR, the President and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) also an AMEC Academic Advisory Board member, has said we need to stop measuring just for the “purpose of proving our value” instead we “need to be more future-looking and purpose-driven… The time is now for the industry to embrace new technologies and methods.

Nicole Moreo, Ketchum SVP of Analytics and AMEC North American Chair has said, “Sometimes just putting out basic metrics can actually hurt your measurement program and not help management see the true ROI and efforts you are putting in.”

Alex Aiken, Executive Director for UK Government Communications, puts it tersely, “To not measure communications is lazy and shows a lack of pride in the work being done.”

If it’s not already clear enough why measurement (the right way) is so important, Wendy Marx, President of Marx Communications, summed up the numerous benefits of PR measurement on her blog:

  • Offers a better understanding of a PR campaign’s results
  • Shows the impact of your efforts across all your platforms
  • Allows you to compare the effectiveness of PR campaigns
  • Demonstrates investment value for your PR strategy
  • Allows PR professionals to prove their worth to an organization
  • Provides future direction

What you need

Let’s begin by recapping what you need in order to measure:

  • Understand your (or your client’s) key business objectives and how they align with your communications program.
  • Set SMART goals that align with your key business objectives. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-focused, and Time-bound. *Note that Johna Burke, AMEC Global Managing Director, says you should be SMARTERadding Ethical and Revolutionizing.
  • Comprehend strategies and tactics–understand the difference.
    • Strategy is the why: Why are you doing something?
    • Tactics are the how: How and what will do accomplish the goal, meet the objective and fulfill the strategy. How do they support your goals and objectives?
  • Assign KPIs (key performance indicators) that align with your strategies, tactics, and goals, which also align with your key business objectives.

Industry-leading measurement tools

In case you aren’t already aware, AMEC is the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication. It is the world’s largest media intelligence and insights professional organization, and currently has more than 160 members in 86 countries worldwide.

BurrellesLuce is an AMEC member, and as such, endorses the Barcelona Principles and the Integrated Evaluation Framework (IEF).

Measuring communications campaigns isn’t easy—there is no magic bullet. However, the AMEC framework provides you with explanations and examples of each step, making it easier to identify the areas where you need input from other members of management, other teams and your own team. It points out you’ll also need:

  • OutputsWhat you put out to your target audiences—these could be paid (advertising, sponsorships), earned (media volume and impressions), owned (web sites, partnerships, direct email), and shared (volume of social shares, posts, videos, etc.).
  • Outtakes: What the audience takes away from the outputs—what did they do after being exposed to your output? What action did they take—click through, subscribe, share, comment, etc.?
  • Outcomes: Impact of PR activity on the audience—was there a change in awareness, knowledge, attitude, opinion, behavior? What were your audience’s takeaways from your output?
  • Impact: Once this process is completed, you’ll have solid comprehensive data that you will then “use to tell the story of how the investment in PR and these communications activities all build to take consumers through the funnel and to your ultimate goal,” PR News Measurement Hall of Famer Marianne Eisenmann, explained during a past webinar that I reported on.

There are numerous resources available on the AMEC site, for example, a complete taxonomy of evaluation tailored to strategic public communication—in simple terms, it shows where things go and where they fit in relation to each other in the process.

As you go through your measurement journey, some key concepts to keep in mind are:

  • Embrace all data–even if it reveals poor results.
  • Use data as a tool for learning and course correcting.
  • Look beyond the numbers. Do not report data only!
  • Data without context is meaningless—tell the story using the data as support.

Where do I start?

And, finally, like many others, you may be unsure of where to begin with all of this. We highly recommend the AMEC Maturity Mapper (aka M3). This will help you understand where you currently are in your measurement and evaluation process (a benchmark) but will also help you map your next steps.

Now we would like to hear from you! Are you currently or planning to use analytics to measure your public relations efforts? How does this process compare to how you are doing it? Let us know in the comments.

*This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on July 16, 2019, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at  and is cross-posted here with permission. 

Strategic Planning: 4 Key Elements of a PR Campaign Plan

The PRSA St. Louis chapter recently held a PR Campaign Planning workshop, which I was fortunate enough to be able to attend. The event began with a brief recap of the typical organizational planning pyramid.

Business Strategy Pyramid

Good public relations plans are born from thorough research and planning. Nina Kult, APR, explained that it’s all too easy to jump directly into the tactics, skipping all the other steps. She covered some of the most common reasons we tend to do this. One is because we don’t have time or we get paid for results–not planning. Or the most common is that we luck into some early success leading us to think we don’t need a larger, comprehensive plan.

We have to remember that results don’t just happen. Success is almost always the result of lots of planning and hard work!

Planning sets the course for direction and keeps us on track. Arguably more importantly, it provides a way to achieve measurable results.

While the vision and mission are typically set by the organization, we need to know and understand what those are before we can begin planning the goals, followed by the objectives, strategies, and tactics of the campaign. We need to be able to connect our work back to supporting the mission.

  • Your goal is what you want to achieve, not how you’re going achieve it. It is the bigger, broader picture of your campaign or program, and should feed into and support the mission and overall vision of the organization. Goals are general, not specific and typically not measurable.
  • Objectives are the how to reach your goal and should be expressed in documented, measurable terms. They should be S.M.A.R.T. –Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
  • Strategies come next and are general approaches used to achieve your objectives. They should be actionable and show what you expect to accomplish. This is the “why” part of your plan.
  • Tactics are the specific ways you’ll use your resources to carry out the strategy and achieve your objectives. Tactics are the nuts and bolts. They are the activities that you and your team will use to support your strategy and are the most visible part of your plan—which may be why we tend to want to jump directly into the tactics.

Each tactic should answer what is the next step we need to take to achieve our strategy. These are the tangible activities such as sending a release, pitching key media, placing social media posts, creating a Twitter or Instagram hashtag, etc.

After the presentation, we broke into small groups and each group was presented with different real-life scenarios from past PRSA Silver Anvil Award entries and were asked to develop the goal, objective(s), strategies and tactics.

At the end, each group presented our plans and were critiqued by a panel of three of our chapter’s APRs who offered input—immediate feedback from the ‘cream of the crop’.

Regardless whether you’re just starting out in PR or have been doing it for years, a periodic refresher like this is a great exercise–to flex those strategic muscles in our brains!

Is this process similar to how you develop PR plans? What challenges have you faced? Are there things you’re doing differently or wish you could do differently? Please share your input!

*This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on June 6, 2019, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at  and is cross-posted here with permission. 

How To Improve Client Relationships with Phenomenal Onboarding

The term “onboarding” feels like it’s become a buzzword, with different meanings for different people in different industries. But whether you work at a service provider, a public relations agency, or integrated marketing firm, there really isn’t much difference when it comes to client onboarding. Heck, even accounting consultancies, financial advisors, and law firms do new client onboarding!

Sure, the actual steps will vary, but the overarching idea is the same. You may not even call it onboarding–it may be your ‘welcome process’ or something else. Whatever you call it, it is absolutely essential to set your client relationship on the right track.

Develop an Onboarding Process

Think about it.  Your business development or salesperson has worked their tail off to land this new account, but if the client onboarding isn’t handled properly, that business may be fleeting—and, that costs money. (Keeping existing customers is much less expensive than acquiring new ones.)

It’s called customer turnover or churn.

Hubspot defines customer churn as “…the percentage of customers that stopped using your company’s product or service during a certain time frame.”

In its simplest form, to create growth in any business, there must be more business coming in than going out.

Successful client onboarding increases customer retention and reduces “voluntary churn”, when clients up and leave you for someone else. And let’s face it, no one wants that (not in our professional nor personal life)!

People genuinely want to feel good about their decision to work with you and your firm.

The onboarding process offers an opportunity for you to demonstrate you understand (empathy goes a long way here!), and most importantly, prove your value from the get-go.

Where to Start

New client onboarding typically begins with a welcome and thank-you to the client for trusting you with their business.

Proactively reaching out to the new client and scheduling a time to have a thorough and open discussion is next.

You ask questions, and you LISTEN. Your questions may vary depending on your situation and the nature of the work, but one of the things I find beneficial is to ask why they chose you or how they see you helping them. This helps you quickly grasp what problem they needed to solve.

I’ll repeat it—listen and listen very carefully to the responses.

Often a client will tell you the steps they want to take, or what they do not want. It’s up to you to peel back the layers and understand their end goal.

Only then, are you able to demonstrate the path—or “means goal”— to get them there.

Marching to the Beat of the Same Drum

If you’re a small firm or solo consultant, you may already be privy to your client’s end goal. After all, you were probably involved in pitching and/or winning the business.

However, in a larger agency or service provider, that’s often not the case.

Regardless of whether you think you know or not, you should ask, verify, then reiterate it back to them. Be absolutely certain everyone is marching to the same drum.

Don’t Let Issues Linger

Should anything come up that’s unexpected, or requires corrective action, you should handle this immediately, and communicate back to the client when it’s completed.

Essentially, this first new client-partner or agency-client exchange ought to be a positive one.

This is what many call making the client relationship “sticky”.

To some companies, onboarding a new client is a continuation of the sales process—finding your client’s pain points, and demonstrating how you will relieve that pain, and make their lives easier. In other organizations, it’s the beginning of the client success journey.

In my case working for BurrellesLuce, a media monitoring service provider, onboarding is a bridge from sales to client services.

After all the sale details have been re-confirmed, I ensure they received their login credentials, and schedule a training/education session with them, so they’re confident in using the web portal and tools available to pull the data and analytics they need.

Also, I make sure they know who and how to get additional help or extra training, if needed. Sometimes that even means counseling clients on best practices in media relations—they aren’t all PR pros.

Once I’m confident they have no other initial issues or concerns, then I do the hand-off to their dedicated client services manager.

The Bottom Line

Client onboarding is about setting a standard level of expectations and understanding.

Your client should feel confident they’ve made the best choice for them, and that you’re in their corner. I believe this is the most critical aspect of onboarding a new client. No “buyer’s remorse” here!

From a personal standpoint, you should know that I am a highly sensitive person (HSP). Yes, that’s a real thing. In short, it means not only do I physically feel empathy but also process things deeply and am able to pick up on subtleties that others often miss.

Trust me. This can be both a blessing and a curse in a client-facing role.

It’s a curse, in that I can truly feel their pain and frustration, especially when they’re talking about past experiences (with other services, of course). 😉

I have to be very careful that I don’t absorb that as baggage and carry it with me—which is easier said than done. Sometimes I’m unsuccessful, I’ll admit.

It’s a blessing because I can rapidly pick up on their voice inflection, temperament, and communication style–even over the phone and often even in email.

This trait helps me hone in on what others are really saying and what they need to hear. Plus, it allows me to reassure them that I understand. It makes it second-nature for me to mirror behaviors and adjust my responses in real time.

And, this is exactly what makes me pretty darn good at my job! 😊

Happy Clients Equal Referrals

Regardless of your specific scenario, once onboarding has been completed, the real work begins to continue to earn that business—and retain it.

Happy clients are more apt to stay with you and to recommend you to their network.

A frequently quoted statistic to note from a 2012 Gartner Group survey states that as much as 80 percent of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers.

Word-of-mouth referrals and client testimonials are powerful—especially in the PR and marketing world.

Does your organization have a dedicated onboarding specialist? Do you follow a different process? I want to hear from you!


*A version of this post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on April 11, 2019 on the Spin Sucks blog at and is cross-posted here with permission. 

Public Relations Today

past-present-futureI was recently interviewed by Sword and the Script Media founder Frank Strong (via email) for his blog.  Normally, I wouldn’t make a point of mentioning it or posting here but in this case it’s apropos to a speaking gig I have coming up. The key topic of the interview was how PR has changed over the years. Has PR become harder in the digital age?  I posit that the entire communications field is rapidly evolving, and tactical options seem to multiply faster than one can keep up with, but at the core are still the same, solid PR strategies. [Read the full post here:]

I will be speaking more about this at the PRSSA 2016 National Conference, the largest congregation of public relations students in the country, next month. My session is entitled, “Public Relations in the Digital Age,” so you can see how the two are related!  I will discuss more on keeping up with all those rapid changes at the conference.

Stay tuned. I’m sure to write a wrap-up post 😉.


New Resource (Book) for Millennial Job Seekers


Photo Credit: Bolla Photography

As a PRSSA professional adviser and PR student mentor, I often get questions about job searching, professional networking etiquette, cover letters, interview preparation and follow-up, and résumé writing (as well as personal branding).  Those questions are typically prefaced with “how do I …” followed by “will you read what I wrote and give me feedback”.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I get incredible joy and satisfaction from helping and mentoring PR students and gladly do so; however, I can’t count how many times I’ve thought that I should write this stuff down so I could just send a ‘canned’ response to some of those frequently asked questions—just to save time.

Last Fall, I was contacted via Twitter by Danny Rubin who had just completed a book called, Wait, How Do I Write This Email? and subtitled, “Game-Changing Templates for Networking and the Job Search”.  He knew (from my bio and various social media activity) that I do a lot with PR students and thought it might be helpful. A free book? Um, yes, please! Then I completely forgot about it until a couple months later when the book arrived in the mail along with a personal note from Danny. After skimming through, I knew within minutes that this book is as good as GOLD to, not just students but young pros or really anyone—especially those who’ve been out of job search mode for some time.

Around that same time, I was planning the PRSA St. Louis annual Career Development Day and thought this would be the perfect opening keynote topic. Fortunately, we were able to bring Danny in for the event to speak and do a mini-writing workshop and it was so helpful I wanted to share with you a few takeaways.

Use the power of storytelling in your cover letters , bio, etc. (even during the interview) to make you stand out from the crowd.

  • Lead with a compelling personal story—an anecdote that you can relate to the job skills required.
  • Stories, told properly, will capture the reader’s attention and keep them reading.
  • Unique details matter!
  • A personal story will leave a more lasting impression and makes you more memorable.
  • Starting and ending on the same story (a technique that professional journalists use) demonstrate that you “get it,” and that you know how to apply these tactics in a real-world setting.

So how do you do this? I’ll share an excerpt from Danny’s book (Chapter 9: The Power of Stories) where he steps the reader through the six parts of a storytelling cover letter.

Danny’s outline for the storytelling cover letter:

  1. Open with a line that places readers into the story. Grab their attention and make them think.
  2. Include concrete details about the story. The more specific you are, the more colorful the anecdote, the more memorable you will be. Quantify your results—provide hard numbers when appropriate.
  3. Demonstrate how the story applies to the job by referring to the job description—making sure the anecdote reflect the person the company is looking to hire.
  4. Show you did your research and understand how the company fits into the marketplace by explaining how you will help the company grow its business and make it more successful.
  5. Share more of your qualities as they relate to the story. Again, referencing the job description, touch on qualities you know the company admires and show how you would be a good cultural fit.
  6. Mention your story one final time and bring the cover letter full circle.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, Danny offers up more than 100 templates demonstrating various scenarios and taking the guesswork out of applying these techniques.

*This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on March 31, 2016, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at and is cross-posted here with permission.

How can PRSSA help you?

PR, Communications, Marketing Students: This is a GREAT post by Stacey Howard, SIUE PR instructor, with excellent points on how PRSSA can help you.

My Causerie

Photo Credit: brainpicker via Compfight cc Photo Credit: brainpicker via Compfightcc This image has been cropped.

Not interested in a career in public relations? So maybe you think there is no reason to join a professional student organization like the Public Relations Student Society of America? Think again. Membership in a professional organization like PRSSA can help you enhance your education, broaden your network and launch your career…and that’s not just marketing mantra talking!

According to Stacey Cohen, founder of Co-Communications Inc., personal branding is critical for college students, CEOs and everyone in between.

Cohen says, “In a sea of sameness, the need to develop a strong point of difference to progress to the next round is non-negotiable.”

The job market is fiercely competitive, and as I have often reiterated to students, you have to do more than just get the piece of paper. Everyone who crosses that stage on graduation day is doing…

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Public Relations 2015: Top 100 Influencers & Brands

Recently, Onalytica was interested in seeing which PR professionals and brands were leading online discussions. They analyzed some 700,000 tweets mentioning #PR and a few other pertinent hashtags to come up with this 2015 Public Relations Top 100 Influencers and Brands list.

I’m incredibly honored to have been included (in the top 15–w00t!) along with some very high profile professionals whom I consider virtual mentors! Check it out for yourself by clicking on the image below or my badge (on the right sidebar).

Image credit: Onalytica

Image credit: Onalytica

Onalytica’s Disclaimer: “As ever with these lists, it must be stressed that the ranking is by no means a definitive measurement of influence, as there is no such thing. The individuals and brands listed are undoubtedly influential when it comes to driving discussion in PR.”