How To Make Sure You Don’t Do Worthless PR

As is the case with many professions, PR is worthless when pursued incorrectly. And the best way to achieve worthless PR is to have no clear idea what you want from it.

“I just want a big splash. That’s it.”

That statement right there, friends, is not a North Star we ever want to chart our PR course by. However, at some point in our careers — probably points, plural — we’ll hear something like that from a client or company management.

It is our job as PR practitioners to combat that sentiment. Or, better yet, flesh it out. Because I’ve found that if you dig a little deeper, few people really “just want a big splash.” They want that splash to yield benefits.

Sometimes those goals haven’t crystallized in their minds yet, sometimes they have. Either way, we need to work to get those desired results on paper. If we don’t, we’ll be haphazardly chasing PR (translated in most cases as “earned media”) for little more than sheer vanity points.

But if we do have clear objectives, then we can construct a concrete, meaningful, PR plan and definitively measure success.

Higher quality PR plans always start when we…

Set measurable PR goals

Admittedly, this is easier said than done at times, but we’ll not only be doing ourselves a favor by setting measurable PR goals, we’ll also better help the entity that pays us.

How we measure our efforts will vary by situation, but our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) — whether they be site visits, business leads, backlinks for SEO — need to be explicitly established, tracked, and reported.

Everyone else in a business has to show, using metrics, their worth. PR pros are no different. But to be truly useful…

Those PR goals must support broader business needs

At the start, middle, and end of the day, our PR pursuits must tether to the specific needs and goals of the business in general. If they are not, we are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Yes, just like Travis Tritt spelled it.

It’s not uncommon for people to wonder what PR is or does, or doubt that it’s all that necessary. The best way to dispel notions like that is to deliver quantifiable results that make life easier on our non-PR work peers.

For example, one time a former COO of mine needed help attracting a legion of seasonal workers to help manage the company’s pending busy season. The number of workers required varied by city, but in many locales, he anticipated needing to onboard up to 100 people. Together, we crafted a media outreach strategy and settled on what we thought was a baseline number of applicants, by market, that would point to a campaign success.

Long story short, we attracted heaps of applicants, the company was well-manned for its busiest time of the year, and there was no question about the role PR played in our staffing win.

How to know if we have worthless PR

One of my favorite articles — recently shared with me by my pal Teddy Bennett at Muck Rack — that highlights worthless PR, tells how one company used a press release wire service to land over 500 media mentions that delivered absolutely zero benefits to the company.

That’s right, zero. Nada. As in nada dang thing.

No real site visits, no business leads, not even an SEO boost.

Sure, they appeared on hundreds of sites, but there was no business perk other than the ability to say, “We were on 500 sites.” Which, isn’t much at all. It’s just an empty metric.

That article reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine who once used a similar service for a press release. He was supplied with a spreadsheet of 40 “news hits” across the country, but when I asked if they’d gotten any calls or email queries, he joked, “Oh yeah, the phones are ringing off their hooks. Just kidding, it’s quiet.”

Ouch. Talk about worthless PR.

If we don’t set measurable goals, our PR attempts will likely be in vain. And if our efforts yield silence or no lift for the company, well, let’s just go ahead and work on our résumés.

Actually, how about this?

Let’s set some quantifiable goals based on specific company needs, then let’s build and execute a strategic plan around those needs. And once we’ve delivered the goods, we’ll report the numbers that show the effectiveness and usefulness of our efforts.

Yeah, that sounds better.

Let’s do that.

David Martin is the founder of Heed Public Relations. You can reach him at