Along with hundreds of people of varying age, shape, size and ability, I exercise fairly regularly at our local swimming pool. Apart from the obvious cardiovascular and related heath benefits, I find my pool time provides a great opportunity to think. During a leisurely early morning 1,500 metres this week I found myself exploring the parallels between swimming (or a visit to the gym, if you prefer) and public relations activity.
Watching others as we passed in the water I came to the conclusion that, unless one is engaged in competitive swimming, distance covered, speed and pureness of stroke are irrelevant. What really matters is progress towards achievement of personal goals and the 'feel good' factor this engenders.
Translating this into PR terms, it does not matter which mix of PR tactics one chooses to employ, or how they are implemented, providing they move the PR campaign in the right direction. Detailed measurement of PR results is always problematical, but in my experience most clients start to feel good when they know they are making progress: so much the better if there's a tangible result such as increased inquiries or substantial media coverage.
So what's the best way to swim yourself to fitness in the choppy waters of PR?
Your campaign needs frequency to build top-of-mind awareness. Remember that your target audience is constantly being bombarded by thousands of other messages. Don't assume that a single media release will be seen by everyone – it won't. To be effective, you need to parcel your messages in various ways so they can be used repetitively – but without obvious repetition.
At the same time, spread your PR tactics across a wide range of media, ranging from traditional print titles to newsy websites and your own in-house channels such as the corporate website, e-mailers, newsletters and your social media sites. Don't pump out the same message every time – make it varied, new and interesting. Don't waste time worrying about what you 'should' do – just get on and do something!
Measure what you can
Even the weakest athlete can benefit from keeping half an eye on the clock and counting laps. Similarly, in PR, some measurement is better than none – if only to prove to management that their investment is paying off. Your campaign should always elicit one or many forms of formal or informal feedback, all of which can be quantified.
… and feel good!
You should always get a thrill out of seeing/hearing your company's name in print, and on TV, radio, social media or websites. The more bases you can cover, the greater the chance you have to influence your target audiences. And there's no greater thrill than seeing target audiences responding positively.
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 16 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.