Year in Review: Evaluating Your PR Program

My mom always likes to remind me: it’s impossible to know where you’re going if you don’t look back at how far you’ve come. Because of this mantra (and because I’m a big fan of planning in general), I’ve held the same belief that a successful PR program must include year-end evaluations in order to plan for an even stronger year ahead.

Without looking back on your PR wins (and losses), your program might stay stagnant, or, worse, you may miss out on areas of opportunity and growth.

Here’s a four-step guide to working with your PR team (whether it’s in house or through an agency) to evaluate the wins and losses from the last 12 months and plan for the year ahead.

Placement Review

Begin your PR program review by looking back at PR wins from throughout the past year (your PR team should be able to put this together for you).

PR placements (articles secured by your PR team that mentioned or featured you) are the most important part of any PR program. After all, that’s why you hired a PR team in the first place: to get coverage in the publications that matter most to you and your customers.

It’s important to take a holistic look at the following areas when evaluating the success of your PR placements:

  • Number of articles. How many placements did your PR team get for you? Is that a “healthy” number? (The answer will depend on the size of your program, the audience of the placements, and your goals.)
  • Variety of publications. How many different publications covered your company or included quotes from your thought leaders? Do the types of publications have audiences you’re hoping to reach?
  • Trends in placements. What types of coverage did you get throughout the year? Consider both the type of publication (trade, national, local) and the type of coverage (thought leadership, news announcement, contributed article).
  • Distribution of thought leadership. Were a large number of your thought leaders interviewed and quoted throughout the year? Was that important to you?

What Went Well?

It’s a simple but loaded question. Think back on what worked and what didn’t by asking the following questions:

  • Which PR placements were “home runs” and why?
  • Did the volume of contributed articles, or perhaps one specific article, draw a substantial volume of inbound leads?
  • Did most of your PR placements link back to you? Does that matter for your larger marketing goals?
  • Did your PR placements convey target messaging to the target audiences?

Get more insight about how to measure the success of your PR efforts.

What Could Have Been Better?

Similarly, you and your PR team should be honest and transparent about what parts of the program could have gone better. For example…

  • Were there stories you wish the team would have placed?
  • Was there a lack of coverage in a certain type of publication (business, technology, etc.)?
  • Was there a thought leader who didn’t get as much attention as you wanted?
  • Is there a certain customer audience placements should target?

Planning for the New Year

The best way to evaluate a program and plan for its future is to sit down in the same room with your PR team, face to face. But don’t just bring marketing and PR together: bring in thought leaders, the CEO, and all other involved (available) parties. This will help ensure you’re on the same page as you head into the new year.

Some questions you can talk through as a team as you plan for the coming year include:

  • What types of stories are most important to the company as a whole?
  • What stories are most important for our sales teams and how can sales leverage PR wins in the new year?
  • How can PR support our marketing and sales teams’ goals in the new year?
  • Have customers changed or evolved in the past year? If so, what messages are most important to get in front of these audiences?

You Get What You Put In

Similar to your PR efforts and success, you get as much out of the review and planning process as you put into it. Remember, you’re trying to…

  • Get multiple stakeholders on the same page.
  • Identify what performed well in the last year and what didn’t.
  • Identify goals for the coming year (and being clear about how those goals will support larger marketing efforts).

All that takes time, effort, and thought.

To learn more about evaluating and measuring PR success, read our blog on PR measurement strategies to track ROI.