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Guest Opinion: Using PR as a Direct Response Tool

11 Jun, 2010 By: Matt Heinz Response

For years, public relations professionals have struggled with how to effectively measure the value of their efforts. A study by Delahaye audited the PR expectations of executives in a broad cross-section of corporate America, asking them to rank various PR value measurements based on whether they were meaningful and/or reasonable. Clip volume was seen as reasonable, since it’s so easy to count, but not very meaningful. Direct sales as a result of PR was seen as exceedingly meaningful, but not particularly reasonable.

But can that be true? Should we have no expectation that PR can directly lead to sales or customer activity in a meaningful and measurable way? Can’t PR be used as a direct response tool with measurable value?

Forward-thinking PR executives are already doing it. The Delahaye study showed that well-planned, well-executed PR strategies could deliver ROI up to eight times the initial investment based not on clippings or message consistency, but on sales.

So how do you create PR activities that deliver real and measurable value for your business? How do you turn PR into a direct response channel? Here are a few tips to get started.

- Make Your Message Relevant, Targeted and Unique

Too many public relations efforts are surprisingly off target. Just because it doesn’t cost much money to write a press release doesn’t mean that the release and surrounding strategy shouldn’t go through the same rigor that your best-laid television ad campaign goes through.

Consider whom you are targeting with a particular PR message or activity, what you want that target audience to do and whether your message, value proposition and/or request are unique in the marketplace.

- Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Do your PR efforts promote your business or product without ever asking your target audience for their business? Why not include an offer and call-to-action in your press release?

Ten years ago, this might have been a bad idea since press releases were only intended for the press. But today, direct press release readership is extremely high — thanks in part to the Internet, corporate Web sites, E-mail news alerts, search, RSS, Twitter and more. Some will read your story in the press, but many more will read the story as you initially wrote it.

By including a phone number, E-mail or Web address in a press release, news outlets can not only describe the news but also tell their readers how to take action.

- Repetition Is a Good Thing

Just like advertising, repetition is important to build momentum in the mind of your target audience.
Diversify the channels through which you tell your story. If you’re collectively using press releases, contributed articles, blogs, print and broadcast outlets, etc., you are accelerating the visibility of your message and offer.

- Isolate How You Track PR From Other Marketing Efforts

Do everything you can to isolate the performance of your PR activity from other marketing activities in the same market, via the same channels or to the same audience. That way you know that any activity on the part of your target audience can likely be linked to your public relations efforts.

Measuring PR isn’t about measuring every PR effort, but proving that PR has direct value to the bottom line. Smart public relations strategies will help you get more value out of your other marketing channels as well by adding an extra layer of credibility and awareness.

- Set the Right Expectations

Don’t train your organization or your executives to expect the entire value of PR to be direct response
related. Public relations is one of the most leveraged opportunities in a marketer’s toolbox primarily because it has the ability to drive significant credibility, momentum, influence and thought leadership for any company. The fact that it can also be more directly measured on an ROI basis should make stronger investments in PR even easier for everyone.

About the Author: Matt Heinz

Matt Heinz

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