Written by: Briana Wooten, Communications & PR Intern at First Ladies of Poverty Foundation
Public Relations has been around since the beginning of time, and at the core of its being is storytelling, and reaching out for human connection. It is in the hands of the PR and/or communications professional to uncover what stories there all to tell and how they should be told.
When used in conjunction with traditional advertising methods, or even when the traditional paid ad is used to boost a public relations campaign, the two methods of sending messages to a particular audience are both necessary for the successful modern business. Most recently, PR has been utilized to safely traverse the incredibly fragile social-scape of our progressive, forward thinking society. As brands continue to create community around themselves and support the interests of the individual, we see consumers flocking to buy from and support them in return. Every business certainly needs Public Relations, and consumers have now become acclimated to every business understanding that principle.
PR vs. Advertising
Starbucks doesn’t repeatedly feed training modules to their “partners” about creating a positive atmosphere solely to keep HR complaints at a minimum. The “Third Place” – the concept that a Starbucks cafe should be an additional, ultra-familiar place to go between work and home – ideology is embedded in employees so they can show the story that Starbucks is trying to tell.
The company constantly strives to be demonstrative of their commitment to human connection and has it reflecting in every aspect of their brand. A thousand ads cannot outweigh an awful customer service experience, and one celebrity spokesperson cannot persuade better than the genuine opinion of a trusted friend. Starbucks makes their customers feel valued and important as individual people from the in-store experience, which is positively spread by word of mouth, a feat that traditional advertising often struggles to achieve.
Advertising, “the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements”,4 has become increasingly intrusive in American culture, and most have learned to ignore the traditional “ad”. Still, advertising will always have its place in our world, and there are times when we as consumers can appreciate them rather than feeling turned off by their presence. For example, a large portion of Americans tune into the Super Bowl solely to see how creative big business will be that year with their commercials. School children quote them endlessly and adults snicker to themselves when they return to work on Monday morning; we like good advertising.
While the robust nature of a traditional advertisement will cause one to think about a product, it is often the story or the punchline in the ad that would push them to make the purchase. However, a story alone cannot survive in today’s culture without being amplified across news outlets and social media channels, even if that means being boosted by alternative (e.g., sponsored) means.5 Understanding how these things can work in conjunction with one another is an important part of the current business landscape, and companies are rapidly coming to understand that there should not – and cannot – be one without the other.
How Are Results Measured in a PR Campaign?
It is easy to isolate and define the story an organization is trying to tell and sell, but how can the actual success of a story be determined? First, one must evaluate whether or not the story is worth telling. “Newsworthiness is based on how, if and to what extent the story will affect a specific audience”.  Once it is established that a campaign will indeed have an effect on an audience, a set of regulations, dubbed the Barcelona Principles (for the city in which they were crafted), can be used to guide measurement and analyzation of the outcome.
Evaluation should identify outputs, outcomes, and potential impact, and should be holistic in its approach, including both quantitative and qualitative analysis. It does not include Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs), as those are not valid metrics for the communications field.  Put simply, the analysis is more complex and in-depth than traditional advertising numbers alone, but the data is much richer and provides more insight into the target audience by exploring every possible metric across every possible channel.
Measuring the human element of authentic engagement drives more efficient planning for the future than the large amount of guesswork that can go into paid advertising alone.
4 “Definition of ADVERTISING.” 2019. Merriam-Webster.com. 2019. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/advertising.>
5 Himler, Peter. 2014. “Media Relations Is Dead. Long Live Media Relations. – PRsay.” PRsay - the Voice of Public Relations. January 2014. https://prsay.prsa.org/2014/01/15/media-relations-is-dead-long-live-media-relations/.
6 Luttrell, Ph.D., Regina. 2013. “5 Questions to Ask When Writing News Releases.” PRSA. February 13, 2013. <https://apps.prsa.org/Intelligence/Tactics/Articles/view/10097/1074/5_questions_to_ask_when_writing_news_releases#.YBFefGRKjUI.>
7 “Barcelona Principles 3.0 - AMEC | International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of
Communication.” n.d. AMEC. <https://amecorg.com/barcelona-principles-3-0-translations/.>