Was the effort worth the PR outcome?

One of my guiding principles of PR is to constantly question whether all press is good press and whether each media outreach effort is worth the return we’ll see from it. I feel strongly that PR should as directly as possible support the business goals for the client, which is usually to sell more of something or get the attention of a potential new client.

For example, if the client is a construction firm that builds cool-storage warehouses, do they care if my elderly grandmother reads about them in her small local community paper? Sure, the paper has a circulation of 10,000 people, but how many of those eyeballs are peering out of the heads of people who have the authority, funds or need to hire a construction firm to build a cool-storage warehouse? Likely not many.

In my opinion, the time and energy pursuing that media opportunity would have been better spent on something more strategic, like a warehouse manager trade magazine story or something aimed at packaged foods manufacturers.

A while back in The Dallas Morning News, there was a HUGE front page story in the Metro section about a performance event that took place in downtown Dallas, including a very large photo of acrobats flying through the air while repelling down the side of a skyscraper. Good stuff…or is it?

The event was a promotion for an energy company that’s launching a new service, but which energy company? The article doesn’t mention it. And the event just happened to take place in a park immediately across the street from former headquarters of TXU Energy, one of Texas’ largest electricity providers. Was it TXU’s event? It would be reasonable to assume as much, but the truth is that it wasn’t. I only know that because I saw the real company’s name, Reliant, published in a blog post somewhere.

Back to my point though, was the time and energy spent producing such an elaborate and certainly expensive event worth the media coverage they secured? I didn’t see the TV news last night, but based simply on the coverage dedicated to the event by our area’s largest, most influential newspaper, I say no.

Simply put, if the name of the company or product isn’t part of the coverage secured, then the coverage didn’t achieve its desired effect. At the same time, it’s important to note that PR people have little control over what actually makes it into the news. (If you want control, buy advertising.)

What’s a PR person to do? In most cases, I think events and parties are both a waste of time and money. Usually they attract people whose attention or business you already have (you invited them). That’s not always the case, but I think that it’s largely true. Launch parties are for the people who already know you, love you, work for you, buy from you, etc. If your goal is to feed and entertain those people, then go for it. If you’re trying to reach new audiences, try something else.