Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Two misconceptions about public relations

If you have a college degree, it is probably a bachelor’s in science or art. You may have a BFA in fine arts, a JD- Juris Doctor, an MBA (management).


On sites like Linkedin, people want to make public relations its own category.


Sorry but as painting, dance, pottery, sculpture, photography and more falls within the arts, public relations fall under marketing.


Marketing includes most things that drive an organization; sales, advertising, market research, product development and public relations.


Anyone practicing marketing who does not know Theodore Levitt’s 1960 marketing manifesto, “Marketing Myopia,” is not that dedicated to the field and probably aren’t delivering results those of us who eat, breathe and sleep marketing do.


ROI – Return on Investment

“Any new theory is first attacked as absurd," said author William James. "Then it is admitted to be true but obviously insignificant. Finally, it is seen to be so important that its adversaries claim that they, themselves, have discovered it.”


During my MBA studies, I developed a formula for measuring public relations coverage. Any MBA-ed person will explain, if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t mean… anything.


During that time, people were taking a newspaper circulation, and saying if a newspaper had a 100,000 circulation, 300,000 people saw the article because of the pass around factor. Right. If that article was in the back, maybe 30, not 300,000 saw it.


My formula – and let me admit it is over 20 years old and archaic, but revolutionary in its day. PR practitioners attacked my methods; today they call it – wrongly – ROI.


My formula was this. You took the publication viewership/audience/circulation and measure it against the public’s you want to reach. An example is we had enough impressions at the Heart Association to reach every man, woman and child 26 times in a year. Did we? Doubtful.


Added to that was taking the column inches of a story and multiplying it times what it would cost to advertise in that publication with that much space. These formulas were put in a college textbook as a case study.


Here’s where we get in trouble. Remember the adage figures lie and liars figure. Agencies took this formula and started calling it “return on investment.”


Here’s a way to explain this askew perception. I had a regular column in the Arizona Republic. If I had paid for this placement, it would have cost $1,300. So agencies mistakenly call this “return on investment.”


Run like hell from any agency proposing this way of measuring results. It is a strong indication they don’t know business and don’t know what they are doing.


If I was getting that $1,300 for each time my name was in print, I’d have a house in Malibu.


Return on investment means if I put $1 in capital investment, like a machine or computer, that computer should return X in revenue to the company. Those magazine or blog mentions aren't doing it. Marketing, and the public relations subset, is an ongoing endeavor like the body builder must continually go to the gym to get in shape to compete.

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