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Public Relations is a difficult thing to define – there are so many aspects and components – it’s hard to nail down one single all-encompassing definition, which makes it very difficult to define public relations success.

Public Relations is a difficult thing to define – there are so many aspects and components – it’s hard to nail down one single all-encompassing definition, which makes it very difficult to define public relations success.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,” and while I agree and think this definition summarizes public relations well, there’s nothing about it that’s tangible.

It’s not easy tying a company’s sales or revenue to public relations. Marketing seeks to do that by measuring campaigns and sales results, but while the ultimate objective of public relations is to boost sales and increase revenue – there are virtually no measurement tools that can say whether or not PR boosted sales. PR might boost awareness of a brand or product, and the foremost goal is to bolster the brand image and the public’s perception of a company or product, but to claim that PR efforts had a direct result on sales is not easily done.

Instead we look to define success in other ways. One of the primary functions of public relations is media relations. It’s very easy to see if a media relations campaign is successful. Is your brand or company featured in positive news articles and segments that showcase its expertise or products in media outlets where your audience will see it? If yes, then the media relations campaign is successful. If you can repeat this formula and garner many placements in outlets that your target audience reads and watches, then your campaign is VERY successful. The crux of a basic public relations campaign is media relations, and a successful campaign with quality (not quantity) placements will go a long way in making an impression on your desired audience.

Another critical part of a successful campaign is ensuring that it properly aligns with the overall marketing strategy. There must be synergies so that the public relations strategy is a complement to the marketing plan, otherwise your messages get confused and you don’t have the same impact as you would with a fully integrated plan. Domus regularly develops fully integrated plans for clients. For a successful communications strategy you really can’t have just marketing or just public relations or just advertising; all of these mediums must work together – we call it the marketing mix – and it varies for each client.

Public relations is not a hard science, however there are goals to be measured. If you combine your PR strategy with your social media strategy (as you should) you can easily measure media coverage, audience engagement and audience growth. Setting goals for these three tangible items will help you measure a level of success and allow you to tweak your strategy if those goals are not being met. To develop a strategy for setting PR goals or adjusting your current strategy to meet your PR goals, contact Domus for insight and an assessment of your current PR campaign.

Kate Toy is a Senior Account Manager at Domus, Inc., a marketing communications agency based in Philadelphia. For more information, visit http://www.domusinc.com/. For new business inquiries, please contact CEO and founder of Domus, Inc. Betty Tuppeny at betty.tuppeny@domusinc.com or 215-772-2805.

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