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Cornerstone Communications, ltd is a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm specializing in small to mid-size business growth, branding, strategic communications, reputation marketing, and more.


Public Relations Success And The Return On Investment

Brooke Greenwald

What does success mean to you?   More importantly, how do you define public relations success?  What does it mean for your business?  Is it seeing your name in lights?   Is it the additional credibility a positive article in a publication brings to you, your company, and/or your product/service?  Is it an increase in traffic to your website?  Is success defined by you as new customers who may never have known about you without the media placements your public relations professional has gotten for you?


For each of us, the definition of success will be different.  For some, it may be brand building and a greater awareness of a product/service.  For others it may be an increase of traffic to an e-commerce site; and yet, for others, it may be an increase in sales leads.  When it comes to effective public relations, each of us has a different definition of success.  Just as Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors, we each have our own ideas about what success means to us.


Why is this so important to think about?  Well, when working with a consultant of any type, (public relations or otherwise), it is important to set the work done together up to be successful from the very beginning.  Success, in this case, means effective communication, goal setting, and a specific understanding of how success is defined as a team.   In some cases, a client may define success as a number of placements, while a public relations professional may define it by specific placements.  This is why it is really important to discuss goals and define what success is together, at the onset of a relationship.  


Henry Ford, the Founder of the Ford Motor Company, probably said it best when he told his employees that, “coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”  If we were to live by Henry Ford’s credo on success in the public relations world, we would define success as working together as a team with a common goal and clear communication as a beginning; communicating well and maintaining a long-term relationship as progress; and achieving at a high level together as success.  That said, I ask, what then, do you define achievement as?


For me, achievement means knowing I have done the best job I can for my client, and watching the positive impact my work has on their business, product, and/or service.  It is maintaining a long-term relationship that grows over time with a client, and transcending that into a deeper understanding of our role as a team.  Some public relations professionals might define achievement as beating the competition with specific reporters or publications; while others might say it is about how the work is done with a client.  Once again, each of us has different perspectives, biases and definitions of what achievement means to them. 


Every potential client I meet with asks the same question: how should they measure the return on their investment in public relations.  It is not as simple as collecting a coupon or tracking specific users to websites or product purchases; it is more about a measurement of a client's brand, in this case.  In my company, we used to use a matrix that clearly defined success and the measurement of ROI across the board; nowadays, we customize that measurement for each client, based on their personal goals, and the plans we set out to achieve together.


At the end of the day, there is a measure of ROI for almost everything.  The question I ask clients is how they factor achievement and success into that measurement.  By clearly defining goals from the outset, it is much easier to achieve great success together.