Results are the Bottom Line

measuring tape wrapped around the word success

At the end of each term, the students in PR Campaigns, our capstone PR course, present their portfolio of work to a panel of professionals. It’s an exciting day, with lots of great energy and terrific feedback from our talented professionals who give anywhere from 2 hours to 8 hours to share their expertise with our students.

I had a chance to speak at some length with several reviewers this term at the end of the process and at the top of that feedback was that the students need to focus on the results of their work.

This is often hard to do for students (it’s often hard to do for anyone, let’s be honest). If you’re dropped into the middle of a campaign at an internship, for example, your work is often task-oriented – write this release, compile this clip report. But having a results-oriented brain will help tremendously and set you apart in the job search process.

Of course, to measure, you must have clear objectives.

Based on my students’ questions and reviewer feedback, here are some common “tasks” and how you might measure them. I would love to get your feedback and I’m hoping some of the reviewers will drop by and share their thoughts.

  • Scenario: I compiled media clips for my internship all summer. Clip books are not glamorous, but it’s a very common entry level activity and if you know how to do it (and why!), that’s important.
    Measurement: Media clips are an evaluation method in and of themselves. Talk to your account supervisor and ask what the goals of the campaign are/were. When you describe your clip-compiling activities talk about how this was a crucial piece of reporting to the client and were proud to help showcase your agency’s or department’s success.
  • Scenario: For a class assignment, I wrote a release/fact sheet/FAQ [insert tactic here].
    Measurement: Even for an assignment, you can still include information about how you would measure a particular written tactic. Think about how you would see that particular tactic through. The point of a release is usually to get media coverage, for example. Include a short blurb at the bottom of the release you include in your portfolio that describes how you’d measure.
  • Scenario: I created a blog.
    Measurement: Make sure you have some analytics available. WordPress.com has built in site statistics, Blogger and WordPress.org can run Google Analytics. It’s important to understand what these basic statistics mean, so do your homework. If you can dig a little deeper than per-post viewers, that will show a more complete understanding of the tools.

There are a thousand scenarios, of course. I think I’ll dig in a bit on a few in future posts and explore some more ideas about measurement and evaluation.

Remember that regardless of which stage in the process you got involved with a project or how little you had to do, you can always think about how you would measure, even if you didn’t have the opportunity to do so. Kaye Sweetster from University of Georgia suggested creating an executive summary report or a metrics report for any project. You can even do this if (gasp!) it wasn’t required! Focus on – what was the opportunity or problem, what was your approach and how did/how would you measure.

Tips for Monitoring the Media & Writing Coverage Reports

If you’re dreaming an agency career, chances are you will need to know how to monitor the media for coverage.

Often the monitoring doesn’t mean just collecting a bunch of links, but writing short summaries of the coverage so the busy executive can breeze through and read those pieces that are important.

The final product at the end of the quarter is a clip book.

When you put it altogether, the clip book is one measure of the value of the work that the public relations team is doing. It’s just one measure, but at the intern or account coordinator level, it may be the one that you have the most ability to contribute to.

Here are some tips for media monitoring and writing coverage reports:

  • Understand why it’s important. I can promise you that monitoring and putting together clip books is bor-ing. But if you understand the why, it helps relieve the tedium.

    Are you looking for any type of mention to stay on top of what’s being said on a daily basis? Or is it about looking for specific coverage to show your team’s success conveying the campaign’s key messages in key publication? Or maybe somewhere in between?

    Each scenario could result in a slightly different approach for monitoring and reporting. Ask to be briefed on the overall campaign and business goals.

  • Think strategically about how to find what you’re looking for.

    Client name? duh. Product or service? might be a good idea. Competitors? sure. All these are probably top-of-mind, but what about trends, issues, key individuals’ names, the company’s URL? Keep thinking. I’m sure there’s more. If you understand the objectives that the coverage is helping to meet, then you’re better equipped to be smart about your choices.

  • Learn to use the tools.

    Whether your agency has paid monitoring tools like Cision, Factiva or Burrelle’s Luce or you’re using tools like Google Alerts and Technorati, you need to know how to get the most out of them.

    If you’re using a paid service, request a training with your sales representative or customer service agent. Trust me, it’s in the job description.

    If you need to monitor on the cheap, Google Alerts can be set up for the Web, news, blogs, groups, video and a comprehensive search. Go to the Google Alerts home page and make your choice.

  • When writing reports, be empathetic. What would your supervisor and the client need to know about a particular article or piece of coverage? Focus on what’s important and even more specifically on what might require action.

Monitoring and writing coverage reports and putting together clip is a first step at understanding measurement. Proving the value of public relations generally, and media relations specifically, can be a tricky thing, but is vital to showing a return on investment.

I’m working with a group of interns to monitor media and report daily on coverage related to Eugene 08. I’ll be back with some specific examples as we begin that project.

For those readers who have been interns or entry-level folks and have advice to add, please do so! (I haven’t made a clip book in about 9 years!) 🙂

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