Public Relations

How to Set PR Goals?

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How to Set PR Goals

When developing a PR strategy, it’s easy to confuse PR goals with PR metrics. For instance, an organization seeking out PR services may be doing so with the ‘goal’ of having their product or service featured regularly in the news. While their PR strategy can certainly include a target number of media mentions of that product or service, these mentions are PR metrics that should be in pursuit of a larger goal

Before deciding that a specific amount of press coverage or a feature in a particular publication will determine the success of your PR campaign, take a step back and think about what you are hoping to accomplish with those results.

Are you looking to increase sales of a product or service? Outrank a competitor in search results for a particular keyword or phrase? Build a reputation around your spokesperson or executive? Boost traffic to your website? Get your brand in front of a new audience? 

Without clearly defining these goals from the start, companies may find it difficult to show the bigger value of their media coverage beyond the media coverage itself. 

(Still not sure what makes a PR goal a PR goal? Check out our blog post: PR Goals, Tactics, and Strategies: A Comprehensive Guide).

Setting PR goals is a crucial step in developing an effective communication strategy for any organization or project. Here’s a step-by-step process to help set PR goals.

Step 1: Know Your Business Goals

In order for PR to move a company’s business goals forward, these goals should be the primary focus of the initial PR planning process. Depending on the scope of the PR project, these goals may be for the business or individual as a whole, or for a specific product, service, line of business, or even a short-term or seasonal campaign.

Pernod Ricard, the world’s second largest wine and spirits group, for example, brought us on specifically to bring awareness to its CSR work through its Responsib’All Day initiative, wherein its 19,000 employees take the day off to volunteer at one of many regional philanthropic initiatives across 70 different countries.

Although they may not be involved in the implementation of the PR strategy, it’s never a bad idea to involve founders, executives, or other visionaries in the conversation about business goals. These spokespeople will often be able to provide a higher level overview of their mission, whereas others within the organization will have a more intimate understanding of the individual nuts and bolts that will get them there. 

As your business goals change, your PR goals should evolve alongside them. Once a company has brought visibility to their brand among a particular consumer or business audience, their goals might shift to center around engagement rather than awareness.

Step 2: Understand the Audience You Want to Reach

Influencing audience behaviors is critical to most PR goals—whether that’s getting them to purchase a product, changing their opinion about something or someone, or generating awareness in a previously unknown topic.

To do this, companies need to first define what audiences are most important to their campaign. Rather than simply defining whether the campaign is B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer), PR strategies should instead focus on specific groups including customers, employees, investors or the general public. 

Beyond identifying these types of audiences, PR goals should specifically identify key personas within that audience. With consumers, for example, is there a particular demographic that your brand wants to target? Specific markets or regions that are more important than others? Do they fall into a specific income bracket? 

From there, companies can more easily build their understanding of how their target audience thinks including what’s important to them, where and how they consume information, what drives their purchase decisions, and more. 

Step 3: Check Your Strengths & Weaknesses

Dedicating the appropriate resources to a PR project or campaign will directly influence companies’ ability to set and meet their PR goals. This requires knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and evaluating where you may need to improve before moving full speed ahead into launching the campaign. 

For example, your PR campaign may be based entirely around building a brand around the company’s founder. If this individual isn’t comfortable speaking with the press, however, they could jeopardize the campaign. There may be another spokesperson who is stronger in public speaking and can handle live and in-person media opportunities, while the primary focus of the PR campaign can shift to written and recorded opportunities for the founder.

This is just one of many ways that companies can determine how best to play into their strengths and minimize their weaknesses in order to make the biggest impact on their PR goals. Here are a few other areas to evaluate before getting started: 

  • Is your company already known in your target market, or do you need to build additional awareness first?
  • If you’re pushing a product or service, is it ready for market?
  • Do you have any examples of your work in action (e.g. customers who are willing to talk about their experience with your brand, case studies, or other external references)?
  • What else is happening in the market that could positively or negatively affect your campaign?
  • What does your competitor landscape look like, and how differentiated do you need to be?
  • Does your target audience need a better understanding of a particular topic or subject in order to understand your offering?

Step 4: Set Clear Goals

Chances are, you’ll be measuring the success of your PR strategy long after setting your goals. This is why it’s critical to make PR goals as specific and measurable as possible in order to evaluate how well you’ve accomplished what you initially set out to achieve.

A B2B PR goal might look something like: Tell these five stories with these types of media outlets and reporters, and make sure that at least 70% of our talking points appear in the coverage.

A goal for a crisis PR campaign, on the other hand, might be to generate a 75% increase in positive mentions of a company in the next six months. 

When in doubt, remember the SMART acronym when setting PR goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Step 5: Decide What’s Most Important

In order for companies to make progress towards their highest priority goals—like increased sales or revenue—they may find that it’s more important for PR to start with shorter-term outcomes first. Without first developing a baseline level of awareness in the market, for instance, companies won’t see PR contribute to a noticeable increase in their market share right away.

In addition to considering the importance of companies’ internal business objectives, PR goals should account for major happenings in the larger market. 

Because PR is dependent on the news cycle, it’s important to consider how external events or trends may influence the success of your PR campaign. For a retailer, a major upcoming shopping event such as Black Friday might make it more important to focus PR efforts around tried-and-true ‘giftable’ items rather than a brand new product. 

Step 6: Assign KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

There are many PR KPIs that companies can measure aside from the sheer number of media mentions they secure. For example: 

  • Sentiment of the coverage (positive or negative) 
  • Resulting website traffic
  • Number of leads driven 
  • Percentage or number of talking points that appear in the coverage
  • Quantity and quality of executive quotes included 
  • Standalone story, or mention in a larger piece
  • Whether or not competitors are mentioned in the coverage
  • Audiences reached (geographical, industry-specific, etc.)

Keeping a balance of both quantitative and qualitative KPIs helps ensure that companies aren’t just driving results from PR, but meaningful results that influence their business goals. Especially with the growing dependency on digital channels such as traditional web, mobile and social media, tracking media impressions alone is no longer a substantial (or accurate) measure of PR success.

Step 7: Match Your PR Goals to Your Business Goals

Once companies have defined their PR goals and determined how they’ll measure against them, it’s time to (one again) evaluate how these goals will influence bigger business goals. 

If companies have taken the proper initial steps to set their PR goals, this might feel redundant to the work they did in the beginning to build their PR goals around their business goals.

It’s not uncommon for companies to get halfway—or to the end—of a PR project before realizing that they’ve strayed away from their original intentions. Losing sight of the final destination in the journey to get there, though, is one of the bigger disservices a company can do themselves in their PR program.

To avoid this, cross-check your PR goals with your business goals as often as possible to ensure that every result achieved gets you one step closer—or more—to your overarching mission.

Step 8: Measure Your Current Situation

In order to see how far they’ve come, companies need to be able to visualize where they started.

For example, if your PR goal is to outrank or outperform a competitor, take inventory of where that competitor stands in the media relative to your brand. Are they appearing more often in the press than you are? Getting coverage in the outlets you want to be in? Aligning themselves with a particular concept or idea that you want to be known for? 

The same exercise can be completed for any PR goal, whether it’s growing market share, increasing product awareness, acquiring new customers or improving a brand’s reputation. 

Analyze your current situation with as many measurable details as possible so that you’ll have benchmarks to measure against as your PR initiatives take off.

Step 9: Plan How to Reach Your Goals

Every PR goal needs dedicated tactics for achieving it. These tactics are the vehicles for delivering companies’ messages to the market, including press releases, newsjacking, thought leadership, award wins, research reports and analyst briefings.

Each of these tactics serves a different purpose, and should therefore be matched with the appropriate goal. If a company is looking to build awareness around a product launch, a press release is likely the best way to get the most important ‘who, what, where, why, and when’ into the market. Thought leadership, on the other hand, is a better approach for educating the market about a particular topic or subject that is important to a company’s mission. 

While it’s not necessary to have every single type of PR tactic reflected in a communications plan, it’s important that the plan includes a thoughtful strategy for each and every goal.

Step 10: Figure Out What You Need

Each tactic also needs its own mini-strategy that outlines the resources needed to produce PR content and deliver it to the public. 

With a press release, for example, companies will need to set a plan into motion for gathering the information that will be included in the press release, writing it, having any executives or spokespeople approve it, and, of course, sharing it with journalists to have it covered in the media. 

Hiring a PR agency can help streamline these processes, but at the very least, companies should have a dedicated individual or team to oversee the implementation of their PR goals. 

Step 11: Create a Timeline

While a PR strategy can encompass multiple goals, it’s impossible to achieve all of these goals at once. And by attempting to accomplish too much at once, companies can ultimately end up cannibalizing their own efforts.

PR is based on earned media coverage rather than paid placements, which means that PR strategies need to account for the time that is needed to build relationships with journalists, set up interviews with them, and then allow them time to prepare and publish their stories. Laying this groundwork before an announcement even makes its way into the market can often take a week or more. 

Assigning specific timing to each goal and its supporting tactics ensures that companies will give themselves the time they need to make all of their PR goals a success.

Step 12: Regularly Check Progress

As companies begin seeing the results of their PR efforts, they may find that some are more effective than others in meeting their goals. It’s important to check in regularly for candid feedback from key stakeholders on how PR is helping reach bigger business goals, and adjust efforts as needed.

For example, a company may finally secure a feature story in their dream publication, only to realize that it didn’t move the needle as much as they imagined it would—or it didn’t move the right needle. Instead, they might see a larger impact from a story in a publication that they hadn’t previously given much thought to. 

PR strategies should be fluid, allowing for frequent opportunities to evaluate where efforts are headed and recalibrate when and if things get off track.

Remember: outgrowing your PR goals is not a bad thing as long as you regularly evaluate and evolve those goals alongside your company’s evolution.

Step 13: Report & Communicate

With PR its easy to fall into the trap of measuring the number of press hits or the amount of impressions, but it’s far more impressive if these reports provide an overview of the goals you set out to achieve, and then leverage those press results and other KPIs to paint a clear picture of how you’ve achieved those goals. 

In an ideal scenario, every single press result will reflect one or more of your overarching PR—and business—goals. 

This is another good time to bring company stakeholders and decision makers into the conversation to demonstrate the role that PR has to play in business development. Showing these positive results is also a good opportunity to justify further investments in PR. 

Conclusion

Ready to set—and exceed—your PR goals? Follow these steps: 

  1. Know your business goals
  2. Understand the audience you want to reach
  3. Check your strengths and weaknesses
  4. Set clear goals
  5. Decide what’s most important
  6. Pick KPIs
  7. Measure your current situation
  8. Match your PR goals to your business goals
  9. Plan how to reach your goals
  10. Figure out what you need
  11. Create a timeline
  12. Regularly check progress
  13. Report and communicate 

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