I was thinking some more this morning about how we used to measure media relations back when I was in the corporate world. This was the early 80s through the early 90s, and while we were definitely expected to show how many mentions we got via pitches, releases or responding to queries, not all metrics were so quantitative. A big part of our effectiveness rating was based more on how we managed relationships with the media:

• Did they view us as a trusted source?
• Were we responsive to incoming media inquiries?
• What was the quality of the coverage we got?
• Was the coverage fair?

To do this, of course, meant surveying the reporters we worked with. We also were evaluated on our own news sense:

• Did we pitch meaningful ideas and send out news-worthy releases?
• Did we leverage breaking news to gain exposure?
• How did we manage bad news?
• Did we choose the right targets for pitches and have a good success rate?

Admittedly, this is all pretty subjective. But it made sense to me then. And it still does. Yes, I definitely want to see pick-ups and mentions. I know, though, that you get more of those over time if you’re focused on building a relationship with media folks. There’s a handful of PR people I hear from periodically with relevant story or source ideas. And I almost always find a way to use them. That’s gold for both of us.

Yet I’ve worked with too many agencies who’re too focused on telling clients “We pitched you to X number of media this month”. Never mind that many of those pitches were off-topic or so random that they never resulted in coverage. I know this is true because I get a ton of pitches from people that have nothing to do with my beats. But the PR person saw my name attached to a certain magazine and decided I was worth a try. Sigh

When we do media these days, we build custom, targeted media lists so we’ve get more of the right people the first time. And the lists are small. We won’t get you the world, but we’ll try our best to get you the ones who’re most likely to find the information relevant – and reach the audience you want. It’s not a standard practice, but it’s been working for us for 16 years.

What’s working for you?