Public relations specialists encounter some obstacles even when they approach an assignment with excellent planning and foresight. For example, in most cases, your client is a nonbeliever: he or she is unsure about how much good your services can do. As always, you have to sell yourself as well as your services.
Coupled with this, of course, is the need for the communicator to know exactly what he or she is doing and to know how to market his or her results. Without this, a perfunctory reading of your public relations reports is going to get even more perfunctory. No matter one's lack of understanding about public relations, the efficient executive, above all, has a respect for clarity of communication. In many public relations firms, they use detailed flowcharts that are reviewed and updated constantly; the charts show objectives, publics to be reached, and the tools of communication that are to be utilized.
Analyze your results in terms of the desired goal or reach of the specific campaign. Check your computer, television, radio, and print efforts early and often to make sure that they are on target with what you and your client set out to achieve.
The most important use of clippings and other tangible results — other than to indicate to the client that the public relations person is functioning properly — is to stimulate the organization to great efforts. Such results have an emotional impact; they provide a successful consciousness that spurs people to greater efforts.
How do you measure results? You can hire a good research organization to do before-and-after studies, which ties in well with the involvement of management in setting objectives. You can also construct your own evaluation of your image and run surveys before, during, and after specific efforts. And, of course, don't forget the press. Ask key editors covering your specific field what they see as your organization's key image and what they see as problem areas. See if their assessment agrees with yours. If it doesn't, you may have to come up with a new objective.
Ask yourself what you're doing correctly? What is going wrong? What more should you do? Sometimes, along with good, objective advice, you get personal bias. Take that into account. The end result will be a greater capacity to see yourself as others see you—a necessary gift for all public relations practitioners.
For newcomers into the field, this discussion about measuring performance may sound a bit like putting the cart before the horse. However, I believe that by sharing some of my observations you may avoid pitfalls and become better practitioners of your newly found art than you otherwise would have been.