What is best practice in PR?

Apr 25, 2015 | Public Relations

PR = Public RelationsAsk 20 PR practitioners what they believe is best practice in pr and you could get 20 different answers – you shouldn’t, but as PR is an art and not a science, what is best practice is up to individual interpretation.

What is not up for debate is that for PR to be effective it needs to provide a business outcome – PR activity must be aligned with business objectives and generate an impact on the business.  How you get to achieve this depends on the task in hand.

The CIPR Excellence Awards are THE awards to recognise what is best practice in public relations.  They are being judged now and are extremely thorough.  I sit on the panel for each judging session and hear about some amazing work that has been carried out over the last year.  The constant is how each shortlisted entry stacks up against what the CIPR says is best practice, as determined by senior practitioners.

Each campaign is judged according to set criteria:

  • brief and objectives
  • research and planning
  • strategy and tactics
  • measurement and evaluation
  • budget / cost-effectiveness / value-for-money

As the professional body for PR practitioners, one of the roles of the CIPR is to raise the standards and professionalism of public relations and these awards are one way in which they achieve this.  All entries on the shortlists are worthy of being a finalist, but the one chosen as the overall winner of each category is the entry which the judges believe is the flag-waver for best practice and that other PR practitioners will learn from and be able to emulate, at least in part.

The criteria that judges spend a lot of time considering is that which relates to measurement and evaluation of the results – especially in terms of the impact on the business and evidence of how the PR activity met, or exceeded, stated business objectives.

When a PR campaign is created it has to relate back to business outcomes in a measurable way to determine its success.  What best practice in PR is not, is a measurement of:

  • the number of press cuttings
  • the amount of broadcast minutes
  • the number of people who could have seen/heard/read something in the media
  • the number of Twitter followers, or Facebook likes
  • the number of Twitter impressions,
  • the number of website visits
  • etc etc etc

The above are all a means to an end.  They are staging posts along the way to gauge whether your campaign is moving in the right direction.

Measurement: Sanity vs Vanity
DO measure when it means something for the organisation = sanity
DON’T measure just because you can = vanity.

Best practice in PR is about knowing the effect the measurements you calculate have on the business, and relate them back to set business objectives.  For example:

  • the number of leads generated / enquiries made
  • sales / turnover achieved
  • the number of new clients

I doubt there are many organisations which have objectives in their business plan to achieve XXX press cuttings, or XXX Twitter followers – or at least I hope there are not many!  £XXX turnover, or XX new clients, I can understand.

So … whilst the tactics chosen, or the strategy formulated, or the results of research are part and parcel of a PR campaign, these are the elements that are subject to interpretation when it comes to what is best practice in PR as they depend on the organisation, the industry, the product/service, and so on.  What is set in stone for best practice in PR is how the tactics, strategy, research and implementation relate back to achieve outcomes and an impact on the business.

The results of the CIPR Excellence Awards will be announced on 3rd June.  You will be able to download the winning cases studies a little after this to see for yourself how you could emulate this best practice in what you do.  In the meantime, download past winning case studies to see whether what you do is up there amongst the best.

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