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Making PR Work

Is your PR not doing its job? Perhaps it's time to revisit your strategy.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: AlthoughI've invested a lot of time and money, I'm not sure if myPR strategy is really working. How do you suggest I evaluate itseffectiveness?

A: TroubleshootingPR is almost the reverse of planning your PR. Think of all thosethings you would do in a public relations campaign and seewhat's working and what's not. Once you understand thesecomponents, they can be isolated, changed if necessary and thenretested for contribution significance.

Usually when you feel that PR is not providing results-or atleast the results you had hoped for-it's due to one of fourprimary components. The four components to isolate, analyze, fixand test are as follows:

  • The message: Although sometimes subjective, you mustcheck to make sure your message is clear, concise andattention-getting to your audience. Does it clearly say who, what,where, when and how in the first few sentences or paragraphs? Isthe message newsworthy or a blatant promotional message? Does themessage relate to you, your company, product or service, or does itrelate to the challenge that you're offering the solution for?If all is in order-and if the message is persuasive, newsworthy andunique-consider one of the other components.
  • The headline: We all know the importance of a headline.Not only is the headline in a news release important, but ifyou're communicating via e-mail, the headline or subject linein the communication is just as important. Think about how you reada newspaper or magazine. You look at the pictures first and theheadlines second. If the headline doesn't grasp your attentionor really interest to you, you skip over it. Writing a craftyheadline can entice a reader to read on, whether there'sdistinct interest or not. Don't forget about sub-headlines aswell. A large majority of press releases do not use sub-headlines,which can be a second chance at grabbing a reader's attention.Test different headlines using e-mail or reworded releases.
  • The editor: Editors get hundreds of press releases eachweek. They have one job, and it isn't to please everyonesending in a release. Their job is to please their readership.Knowing this, releases and other PR should be directed at this oneobjective. Put yourself first in the readers' shoes. Second,put yourself in the editor's shoes. Ask the same question theeditor asks in regards to pleasing his or her readership.

    Having a relationship with an editor can increase theprobability of positive PR. Showing an editor that you're areliable source of information on certain subjects can be veryvaluable. This does not imply schmoozing or overbearing follow-up,but it does require a proactive communication strategy. Editors arethe gatekeepers. They hate promotion. Give them news, a uniqueangle or a story that is of local interest, and you'll havesuccessful public relations.

  • The target audience: We've all heard the sayingabout what is heard if a tree falls in a forest and no one is thereto hear it. The same anecdote can apply to PR when it comes to thetarget audience. You could have the best message ever and the bestvehicle over and over, but if the right potential buyer doesn'treceive your message, nothing gets marketed and no one acts.

Putting yourself in front of a potential buyer is the key tomarketing and selling. No potential buyers? No selling. The righttarget audience might be the right segment, the right niche withina segment or the right people within a niche. If you are marketingto banks, are you targeting the bank president or the branchmanager? If you're marketing to manufacturers, are youmarketing to the operations department or the purchasingdepartment? From a PR point of view, this means targeting the rightpublications. What do your prospects and customers read? Where arethey most likely to see you? What media do they pay attention to?All this has to do with having the right target audience for yourmarketing. Just as a side note, don't forget about currentcustomers as part of your target audience. Even breaking up currentcustomer segments into different targets may be more effective foryour marketing. Find the people to populate the forest and let thetrees fall.

If all the above is in order and deemed to be effective,don't fix anything. If all the above is in order and PR isstill not being effective, then you need to revisit your overallmarketing strategy. Hopefully, before any campaign, you havestrategically evaluated your product, distribution, pricing,promotion and advertising. Troubleshooting means not only trying tofind out what the problem is, but also what the problem is not.With these four components outlined, you can differentiatewhat's working and what's not and increase the probabilityof a more successful PR campaign.

Alfred J. Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PRconsultant, direct-mail promotion specialist, principle ofmarketing consulting firm Marketing Now, and president and owner ofThe Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton,Illinois. Visit his Web sites at and, or e-mail him

The opinions expressed in this column arethose of the author, not of All answers areintended to be general in nature, without regard to specificgeographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied uponafter consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

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