Posts Tagged ‘PR measurement’

Failure to Meet PR Goals and Expectations: Why It Happens; What Can Prevent It

October 9, 2012

This month marks the eighth anniversary of my firm, Bridge Global Strategies.  Anniversaries are a good time to reflect on what’s gone well, what hasn’t, and why. We’ve had some tremendous successes for clients, but also a few instances where we haven’t achieved what we had hoped. Failure to meet expectations, whether our own or a client’s, always keeps me awake at night.

As an anniversary exercise, I surveyed industry colleagues about failure to meet PR goals and expectations. I emailed the survey to people I know and posted it in several LinkedIn groups on public relations and corporate communications. There were 53 responses.  While the methodology and number of responses may not provide statistical validity, I think you’ll find the responses informative and thought-provoking.  The survey obviously resonated with many of the respondents, as there were a surprising number of open-ended comments in addition to responses to the multiple choice questions. I sense a lot of frustration by PR professionals (whether in-house staff, or PR agency practitioners) in working with their clients.

Who responded

All survey respondents work in PR, either in an agency, a corporation, a non-profit or governmental organization or as a freelancer.  Most respondents were very experienced:

  • Over 94 percent had 10 or more years of experience
  • More than 67 percent had more than 20 years of experience.

Have you ever failed?

Asked, “After working very hard and making a huge effort, have you ever failed to meet your company’s or client’s PR goals and expectations?”

  • 85 percent admitted to having failed at one time or another.
  • 100 percent of those with 20 years or more of experience said they had failed at some point.

What are the biggest factors contributing to failure?


Respondents were asked to select the top three reasons for failure to meet PR goals.

  • #1 (56 percent): “The budget was too small (the client wasn’t paying us for enough hours to accomplish the goals).”
  • #2 (54 percent): “My client (or company) saw itself (or its product) as really unique, but it turned out that it was not very well differentiated from competitors.”
  • #3 (15 percent): “My client contacts (or internal executives if you work for a company) were not available enough to us and/or didn’t cooperate.

The role of goal-setting

“Was the failure tied in any way to not setting any PR goals (or setting unrealistic goals) at the start?”

  • Yes: 57 percent
  • No: 43 percent

There were several comments about this question: one person said the biggest problem was clients’ unrealistic expectations; another said clients often define success differently than the PR team.

Could you have avoided failing?

When asked if they could they avoid failing in a particular instance, if they were able to go back and start over, 47 percent answered yes, 33 percent said no and 21 percent didn’t know.

Lessons learned from failure

When asked to comment on how failure could be prevented, or why it couldn’t, more than half of the survey respondents had comments about lessons learned, and ideas about how to prevent future failure.  Here are just a few of the comments:

  • It’s crucial to set clear goals with measurable criteria, and agree on them at the start, to help manage expectations. We need to fight harder and not agree to unattainable goals
  • PR professionals need to educate clients about the PR process and help them understand the media landscape and be aware of factors that could prevent achievement of goals.
  • Sometimes failure is due to the mediocrity of a client’s product. It’s especially difficult when a client misrepresents the quality and doesn’t inform the PR team about problems.  The PR team needs to conduct advance viability research to find out if the company has a realistic impression of itself and its products, and of the levels of interest of its audiences.
  • We need to insist on a big enough budget so that adequate time and effort can be spent.


  • There is considerable frustration by PR professionals in dealing with clients. Most of the comments made by respondents revolved around unrealistic expectations by the clients, and inability of the PR team to manage those expectations.
  • The majority of respondents felt that failure was usually tied to not setting any PR goals or creating unrealistic goals in the beginning. It’s easy to declare the results a failure if measurable objectives and goals weren’t established from the beginning.
  • However, it’s often difficult to get agreement on the desired outcomes. Clients with the most unrealistic expectations also tend to have the smallest budgets.  Agencies need to fight harder to resist going along with unrealistic expectations, and to make sure that budgets are commensurate with goals and expectations. If the budget is insufficient, the agency shouldn’t accept the assignment.
  • While survey respondents seem to blame most failure on clients, almost half felt that if they could start over, they could prevent the failure. Comments pointed once again to agreeing on goals from the start and managing client expectations.
  • Sometimes the only way failure can be prevented is by not accepting an assignment when you sense that a client doesn’t understand the overall PR process in spite of efforts to educate them.  As one respondent commented, “Sometimes as PR people we are optimistic that we can be successful even [in] a no-win situation.”

My next blog post will include more of the many comments made by survey respondents.

Lucy Siegel



“16 Candles:” Illuminating Online PR Measurement

May 6, 2011

Research results announced last month by B2B Magazineshow that 93 percent of B2B marketers use social media in some form, but only 25 percent of them measure the return on investment (ROI) of their social media marketing efforts.  To me, this isn’t that surprising, despite the mantra from C-suites everywhere for ROI metrics. The fact is, most people feel it is too difficult, not affordable, or not practical to measure social media results. 

Even so, the discussion about measurement of PR results online, and of online influence, gets louder all the time.  This topic has become more confusing as it grows more complex, and is especially difficult for small and medium-size businesses without large internal resources and budgets for communications. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve exchanged emails about online PR measurement with several colleagues and clients, both here in the U.S. and abroad, who want affordable and practical methods for measuring online PR  results.   

In an effort to organize useful information on this topic for both my own sake and to help readers of this blog, I’ll summarize some of the resources available to help with online PR measurement as well as current thinking about it by industry leaders.

Why measure online activity?

How do you measure online PR activity? A lot of marketing consultants, software companies, authors and conference sponsors are making money answering this question! However, before it can be answered, you have to ask why you’re measuring. Companies measure online PR activity to obtain a couple of types of information:

*The ROI from online PR

*Data about online PR and promotion programs that will help improve those programs

*Data about trends, market needs and competitors’ activities that will help in sales and marketing decision-making

Barcelona Measurement Principles

A few years ago, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication ( was formed as the global trade organization and professional institute for agencies and practitioners who provide media evaluation and communication research.  Last year IAMEC published “The Barcelona Measurement Principles,” the result of several international public relations associations working together to come up with seven universal principles of PR measurement. (The bullet points below these points are mine.)

1.   Importance of goal-setting and measurement

  • What to measure depends on the goals one sets for online activity

2.   Measuring the effect on outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs

  • Example: the number of Facebook fans accumulated over a certain time period is much less important than the effect Facebook fans have on sales or on brand reputation

3.   The effect on business results can and should be measured where possible

4.   Media measurement requires quantity and quality

  • Example: the number of Tweets about a product aren’t as important as what those Tweets say

5.   AVEs [advertising value equivalents] are not the value of public relations

  • PR agencies and in-house departments used to provide ROI numbers by figuring out what each piece of media coverage would have cost if it were a paid ad. This is not appropriate, since advertising and so-called “earned” media via public relations are apples and oranges, serve different purposes and should not be compared to each other.

6.   Social media can and should be measured

7.   Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement

What to measure

Here are a few examples of what you could measure to help determine the ROI from your online programs:

  • Company website visits coming from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog or other focus of online PR activity
  • Coupon use tracked to a specific online program
  • Change in awareness of a company or its products or services, measured with a survey
  • Both quantity and quality of online media coverage (quality = tone of articles, blog posts or Tweets; delivery of company’s key messages)
  • Search engine rankings pre- and post-campaign for online campaigns


6.      Katie Delahaye Paine, who had one of the first PR measurement companies and is a communications measurement guru, wrote “Measure What Matters: Online Tools for Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships,” available from Amazon.

 7.      The Institute for Public Relations, a non-profit industry organization that encourages research about measurement, publishes papers and articles on this topic on its website

8.      Hubspot, a company that sells “inbound marketing software,” provides access to a webinar on measurement of social media at its website:

 9.      Sinickas Communications is a company that provides consulting services on PR measurement as well as offering training workshops for do-it-yourselfers.

10.  You may find this article about measurement useful. It’s written by a former accountant in the UK who is evidently about to launch a new PR measurement tool


Here are a few online tools that measure specific types of online activity:

11.  Klout Score –a new tool (free) that measures the online influence of an individual (or company). Klout’s software uses 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score. Rumor is that LinkedIn variables will be added shortly.

12.  Twitalzer – similar to Klout, provides an analysis of the Twitter impact, engagement and influence of a brand or a person.

13.  Twitter Counter – tracks the number of followers you or a brand have over time.

14.  Hubspot offers a free Website Grader that scores your blog or website on various criteria and lets you compare your site with competitors’.

15.  Compete has a free tool for measuring the number of unique visitors to a website.

16.  Radian6 is a comprehensive social media tracking and measurement tool that was recently acquired by

 I hope these are useful to some of you. If you have a good tool or resource not listed here (especially if it’s free!), please comment and let the rest of us know about it.

Lucy Siegel

%d bloggers like this: