Measurable Benchmarks

by Chuck Meyers

Enhance the value of your public relations program

Credit Union Management’s online-only “PR Insight” column runs the first Thursday of every month.

Much like any business investment, the only way to determine whether a public relations plan is successful is to set benchmarks and make sure you are meeting or exceeding them. Studying your measurable results, you can optimize PR efforts to better focus your plan and increase its effectiveness.

The real challenge many credit unions face, however, is that there is little certainty about what kind of PR benchmarks to set. This article identifies several factors used by public relations professionals to measure PR’s impact—most of which are relevant to the credit union industry.

Common Benchmarks

Here are some of the most common benchmarks for measuring a PR program’s success:

  • number of news releases distributed;
  • time spent pitching news stories to media;
  • number of interviews conducted between your spokesperson and the media;
  • number of inquiries referencing coverage in the media; and
  • spikes in traffic on your credit union’s website in conjunction with coverage.

Let’s examine each benchmark.

Number of News Releases Distributed

News releases regularly distributed to the media can offer a wide variety of information. When releases go out sporadically, they generate sporadic coverage, which undermines any serious PR effort. Keep an eye on the distribution schedule and make sure your news release pipeline is maintained. News should go out consistently in a well-planned process rather than in a random manner that most likely never gets picked up by the media.

When coverage does come out, are you generating the quality of coverage you expected? It is important to be realistic about how much attention a news release can garner, but if it does not show up in any of your targeted media outlets, you may have to re-evaluate how news is sent and whether your topics are newsworthy enough. If you have a good relationship with local reporters, you may be able to ask them what kind of news is most important to them.

Time Spent Pitching News Stories to Media

Generating good coverage starts with pitching news stories to the media by phone, email or face to face. It is not enough to put news in your newsletter, publish it on your website or post to a wire service. The number of hours spent pitching is often a clear indicator of how many interviews your spokesperson can get. When the number of hours spent pitching goes up, so does your volume of interviews. Be aware of how much pitching occurs. Lots of relevant pitching is a sure sign of a healthy PR program.

Number of Interviews Conducted Between Your Spokesperson and the Media

The volume of interviews is important, because it is a sign the media takes you seriously and is giving you opportunities to impress them enough to get into their media outlets. Participating in many interviews generates more coverage, so they are very important.

Each interview needs to be analyzed to determine what key messages are printed and the prominence of your credit union’s spokesperson. If a spokesperson is being interviewed but is routinely left out of the finished story, this is a sign he or she is not saying anything newsworthy to the reporter. In this case, consider spending more time preparing your spokesperson before each interview.

Number of Inquiries Referencing Coverage in the Media

The next step is to measure the impact of the coverage you are generating. Member-facing staff should be alert for people referencing recent articles they may have read about the credit union and make sure this information is passed on to the public relations professional. Important feedback can include:

  • Is coverage positive, negative or neutral?
  • Do members recall seeing the credit union’s key messages?
  • Is there a perception the credit union is regularly showing up in news stories?

If awareness of a public relations program is low among members, review the primary media targets the credit union is reaching and consider expanding the list. It is likely members are using a different set of outlets than those being targeted.

Spikes in Traffic on Your Credit Union’s Website in Conjunction With Coverage

Good coverage should generate a spike in the number of visitors to a credit union’s website. If you are regularly tracking daily visitors, it is easy to pick out the spikes associated with a major article or even a press release. To further boost your PR program’s impact, try to identify which topics generate the biggest spike. For example, announcements regarding new lending products may interest people more than the hiring of an executive. Once popular topics have been identified, distribute more news releases and do more interviews on them.

Chuck Meyers is a vice president at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. He can be reached at chuck@williammills.com.