The PR profession is in flux, and in response, we PR practitioners must learn to swallow a tough pill: the tried-and-true methods for communication don’t always guarantee the results we want anymore.
While many of the PR classics such as press releases and videos might still provide the information your public needs, it’s important for us to also adapt to a world of shrinking attention spans and constant social media usage.
Follow these steps to figure out which strategies to keep, which strategies to tweak, and which strategies you should consider discarding.
1. Take inventory
Take note of all programs, procedures and practices you have — no matter how big or small, complex or simple, obvious or obscure. I recommend using a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. Designate a tab for every individual task, and make sure you include the purpose for each. Include all staff, time and money it takes to perform these tasks.
By taking inventory, you’ll be able to get a strong, comprehensive understanding of all the work you and your team does.
2. Check your outcomes
Once you conduct inventory, take a detailed look at each program or procedure and perform an evaluation. This step is the most time-consuming and challenging, but if you do it right, you can save yourself a lot of time and money in the long run.
Evaluate everything on your list and measure your return on investment. Make sure you include a description of the program, monetary costs, all staff time spent on the program, goals (if established) and any results or feedback you have received from the program.
Make sure the programs are yielding the desired outcomes, too — not just the outputs. Outputs are tangible results, like how many times a story is shared on a social media platform, while outcomes are changes in the behavior of your clients and constituents. An example of an outcome is a customer loving your product so much, they not only buy it — they have no interest in checking out a similar product from someone else.
After compiling an inventory of your programs, make a case for whether to keep each of them based on your outcomes and outputs. Don’t be afraid to throw out ineffective programs, which you are probably already losing funds on.
3. Spruce up the old standards
While it’s important to stay in touch with the latest communication practices and social media platforms, not all time-honored methods deserve to be axed. If your company is still finding mailers to be effective, for instance, even as your competitors are going digital, then don’t change. Instead, supplement mailers with new delivery methods and test out the effectiveness of both. Do not eliminate worthwhile programs just to comply with the competition.
An alternate approach is adapting and reusing old materials. Methods of communication like press releases are timeless. These tactics can still be appropriate, but their delivery methods may be dated and unsuited for your audience.
Consider tweeting quotes from your press releases and posting them on Facebook to generate interest before the release, however, be careful when recycling old materials, as you need to make sure you’re curating every item to its intended delivery method. For example, if you want to tweet a press release, pull a quote and then link to the press release — don’t just drop a link without context and hope for the best.
And in the end, don’t forget: spring cleaning your PR tactics can be a big task. But it’s worth it to be prepared for the future of our dynamic profession.
Beatriz Martinez is the public information coordinator for the Clark County Regional Flood Control District where she runs their social media, community outreach program, and internal communications. She has worked in local, state, and the federal government doing community and public relations for over five years.