What to expect when you’re expecting (PR success)

Setting and managing expectations is one of the most challenging, and important, parts of building Brand Protection PR™. Let's walk through how to set solid PR goals (and expectations!), measure progress, and know what to look for throughout the process.


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How to set smart PR goals (and expectations)


A goal is simply where you want to go with your business or organization. If you’re a CBD business, chances are, you want to sell more products. If you’re a brand-new hotel and spa resort featuring four fantastic new restaurants, chances are you need to hire a whole bunch of great new employees. If you’re a group of family-run farms and ranches facing potential new laws that could put your entire industry out of business, chances are you must to connect with as many people as possible to tell your side of the story.


You’ve guessed it, the first step in setting expectations is finding out what’s important to your business, organization, or your boss. It may take some time to get a really clear picture. I talked to a young PR colleague this week about a press release she was asked to distribute and I asked: what does your company want to happen after you send out this press release? She said I don’t really know, my boss asked for one but I’m not sure what he wants to see. I asked, does he want media coverage, donations, speaking opportunities? She brightened at the mention of speaking opportunities and said yes, my boss has talked about wanting to be a thought leader in this area. OK, now that we know that thought leadership is the boss’ objective, we can start developing a plan to put him on panels, write white papers and blogs, and be positioned as a go-to expert resource.


So let’s start with the first example: a CBD company that wants to increase sales. Brand Protection PR™ can help you establish a relationship with your customers and potential customers through a steady cadence of informative, interesting, transparent, and engaging content on social media. Remember-- only about 20% of your social media content should be about your products. The vast majority of your content should be about engaging your audience and building a relationship with them. It could be funny, lifestyle-oriented, behind-the-scenes content, education about what’s in your products and how they’re made, or posts about your hopes and dreams for your company. Things we can all relate to in our own lives- that’s engaging content.


Let’s take the example of a brand new, mountain-modern hotel and spa resort that needs to hire hundreds of new workers to staff its property. In this case, they need to hire hundreds of new team members. Here, you start to see how a strategic PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) based strategy works wonders to drive awareness of the job openings. Social media, print, and digital hiring ads are great ways to share the "we're hiring" message. Earned media stories about the available jobs, especially in the current troubled job market, can reach a lot of people quickly. And in the owned media space, digital applications make it easy for job seekers to apply.


In the case of a coalition of farmers and ranchers pushing back on potentially damaging new laws, the goals are going to reflect the multi-pronged objective to influence public opinion, build relationships with customers and stakeholders, and push back pending legislation. This project will require a much larger and integrated plan to achieve several goals. One might be building awareness of the pending legislation and what it will mean to our farming and ranching neighbors. This goal might be outreach to individual outreach to state legislators, perhaps through invitations to tour local ranches to understand the issue better. Another goal might be building a relationship with customers through social media, which you can measure through impressions, engagement, and sentiment.


Notice that none of these examples is a “one and done” project. One media article, one well-crafted and engaging social media post, one well-attended event is not going to move the needle and achieve long-term, durable change. Think about it-- what was the last “viral” social media post you saw? If you even remember what it was, what concrete action did you take after having a laugh and talking about it around the water cooler? Did you buy a product? Donate money? Call your legislator? Probably not. Most likely, you got a good chuckle and moved on. Going viral is a vanity metric and doesn’t have a lot of long-term value.


How to measure progress toward your SMART Brand Protection PR™ goals


The next step is making sure your Brand Protection PR™ goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Let’s take a look at the example of the CBD company's strategy to sell more products through building relationships on social media. How do you measure social media success over the course of a year? First, you set a SMART goal: in 2021, we will increase followers by 25%, social media engagement by 15%, and clicks through to our website to get more information or order products by 10%. Now you've got yourself specific goals you can measure against.


You can measure an increase in followers and engagement for free in each social media platform, so get comfortable with the analytics available on each channel. You can measure clicks to your website through Google Analytics or by using a service like Bitly. To get started, pick a baseline like the number of followers, engagement rate, and daily clicks on January 1, and check against that baseline each month throughout the year. We use a service called Sprout Social that gives us a high-level picture of performance across all channels with the click of a button, but you can do this measurement with a couple more clicks and a few more minutes for free each month as you track progress toward your goals.


Let’s take a look back at the hotel and spa trying to hire hundreds of new workers in Q1 and Q2. The goal here is two-fold: increase the number of people aware of the job openings AND increase the number of people applying for the jobs. An increase in social media impressions about the job openings on social media could be goal one. Goal two is getting people to apply, which you can measure through increased visits to the job application page, the number of people at the job fairs, and the number of newly-hired team members.


Again, you see how one social media post or one job fair or one media story about the job openings is not going to do the trick here: too many people who need jobs are going to miss one post, one article, or one job fair. The outreach must be consistent and constant to make a dent in this goal.


Back to the group of ranchers pushing back against bad legislation: one goal might be to drive awareness of the pending legislation and what it will mean to our farming and ranching neighbors, which you can measure with media coverage, impressions, and sentiment over the course of a year. You can do this by hand, but a service we use called Meltwater helps us monitor media coverage across the country, calculates impressions for broadcast, web, and social media coverage, and creates a sentiment score. A powerful custom dashboard for each client helps us tailor the metrics to each client's goals.


Another goal might be building a relationship with customers through social media throughout the year. What does this look like? Increase engagement by a set percentage each month through a constant stream of photos about family ranches and what it takes to build and maintain them. Video of feeding animals, caring for them during calving season, protecting them during bitter spring storms, putting them out to pasture in the sunshine-- you cannot possibly get better content that tells the story of the ranching life than a consistent stream of great photos, videos, and Instagram stories. You can measure the success of this social media strategy through an increase in impressions and engagement, and an increase in positive sentiment. This is a case where measuring change over the course of a year is a really good idea. It’s going to take quite a while to effect measurable change about a way of life most people have never considered before.


What to measure at different points in the PR long game (and why!)


When we say that PR is a long game, we encourage clients to think about at least a year-long plan. A year-long plan gives stakeholders enough time to become aware of your outreach. Remember that research shows us that the old marketing Rule of 7 still applies: a consumer or stakeholder must see your message seven times or more to take notice of it and take action. Let’s talk briefly about measurement at different points during a year-long plan.



We produce monthly reports for clients. We think of these as the thousand-foot view of a Brand Protection PR™ plan. These reports give us detailed feedback on individual tactics: press releases, social media posts, blogs, podcasts, and more. What these reports DON’T give us are the trends: are these tactics moving the needle toward larger goals? For that, we take a 15-thousand foot view in quarterly reports.


Each quarter, we review each SMART goal and report to clients on the progress toward those measurable benchmarks. So much can fluctuate on a day-to-day or monthly basis. For instance, we know social media traffic slows down this time of year. The weather is getting nice, and especially this year as we’re coming out of Covid restrictions, people are headed as far from their computers as they can possibly get. If you just measure April against March social media metrics, it will look like a disaster.


But if you measure the last 90 days against the previous 90 days, or even better, this April against LAST April (remember, Brand Protection PR™ is a looong game) you’ll be able to benchmark progress accurately. The same goes for social media followers, engagement, and clicks. A couple percentage point changes are very common from month to month, and it’s not until you take a wider view that you can really see the progress toward that 25% increase yearly goal. The quarterly reports are also a chance to change or update goals that don't make sense anymore or just aren't working.


The final report we put together is a full-year report. This is the 30-thousand foot view where you can see if we met or exceeded the goal of 25% more followers, 15% more engagement, and 10% more clicks to the website in 2021, in the case of the CBD company. Chances are, if you've developed SMART goals and tracked against them monthly, you'll make your goals with room to spare.


If you can benchmark several years of progress, you’re really playing a long game and you can see how far you’ve come thanks to a solid strategy and a constant cadence of content. If you’ve created strong, measurable goals and brought your client, boss, or colleagues along in the process by setting realistic expectations, you’ll be amazed at the progress you’ll make toward building Brand Protection PR™.