PR TECHNIQUE EVALUATION: Calling customers to action - Working onconsumer PR allows you a variety of methods with which to work out theeffectiveness of your campaign. John Frank reports

It's a question as old as the PR profession itself: how do you

measure the results of a PR campaign?

While some would argue that it's difficult - if not impossible - to find

one-to-one correlations between PR and client sales or profits, others

contend that the PR industry has to find concrete ways to measure its

cost-effectiveness, especially in today's slumping economy.

One time-tested measurement tool is the use of calls to action. Whether

contests, help lines, giveaways, or even website visits, calls to action

ask consumers to do something. The more consumers who respond, the more

effective the call and the accompanying campaign.

"A call to action is just that - it's a way to involve the consumer,"

says Cindy Kuhn, SVP and director of brand marketing with Ketchum in

Chicago. "The challenge is to make sure it's very relevant to


Successful calls to action related to the brands involved, are simple

enough to encourage consumer involvement, and have goals that can be

measured and quantified to determine success, Kuhn and others agree.

"Make sure it appeals to your core consumer, don't build in too many

barriers to entry, and keep it simple," says Tom Coyne, president of

Coyne Public Relations in Fairfield, NJ. Coyne tries to develop calls to

action that translate not only into increased brand awareness, but also

into increased sales. "At the end of the day, awareness is important,

but we have to see a blip on the sales chart to consider a call to

action a success," he says.

For example, last year when Coyne staged several pie-eating contests

across the south for client Nilla Wafers, sales increased 7.5% in each

contest market.

But Kuhn says that expecting a call to always translate into increased

sales can be a mistake. "Understand what it is you're going to measure

to determine a call's success," Kuhn says. Some calls to action are

designed to strengthen consumer identity with a brand, she explains.

Ketchum worked with Wendy's hamburger chain last year to build brand

identity among young men by staging a song-writing contest in

co-operation with Consumers were invited to write

songs about their hamburger cravings, and the prize was a chance to

record the song.

"You have to make sure the brand positioning is evident in the call,"

Kuhn says. Tying in music with Wendy's appealed to the young male target

market the company was after. The contest, which ran from June through

October last year and is being repeated this year, generated 120-130

million impressions in online and other media coverage, Kuhn says. A

web-site set up for the contest,, received

40,000-50,000 hits.

Coyne also worked with Honey Maid Graham Crackers to offer a brochure,

"Bee Prepared for Kindergarten," to the client's target market of

mothers with young children. Coyne contacted parenting writers to

publicize the brochure. The company received 10,000 online requests for

it in five days, and eventually decided to print and distribute another

500,000 copies through supermarket giveaways.

Coyne advises companies not to save data collected from consumers

requesting things online to avoid possible issues of consumer privacy

later on. Building brand awareness is enough of a reward for a call, he


Donnellon Public Relations also wanted a campaign it did last year for

Sears to be relevant to its target audience - in that case, teenage


So it aligned with a charitable organization, believing teens care about

the corporate philanthropy of companies they deal with. The call also

played up Sears' sponsorship of a summer concert tour by pop star

Christina Aguilera.

Sears teamed with Levi's and Do Something, a nonprofit group founded by

Hollywood actor Andrew Shue, to invite teens to compete for $500

grants to fund community projects. Teens could apply for grants online,

and winners were picked in the 35 markets where Aguilera performed.

Donnellon announced the contest on April 27, contacting schools that had

worked with Do Something, as well as youth-based community


A PSA featuring Aguilera was sent to Top 40 radio stations, reaching a

potential audience of 23 million listeners, says Tricia Murphy, a VP

with Donnellon.

Donnellon also created an online action guide with stories about teen

volunteers and how-to instructions for local community projects teens

could organize. Contest entry cards were given to more than 20,000

concertgoers in each of the 35 tour markets. Grant winners were shopped

to local media for further PR exposure, with local morning shows a prime


Aligning with a charitable cause resonated with the teen audience,

Murphy says. Sears found in post-tour research that teens were more

likely to shop at Sears after the tour and call to action.

Being 100% sure of the success of a PR campaign is never possible. But

building in a tangible action prompted by a campaign does at least lend

itself to a reliable way of making the cause and effect link.


1. Do establish appropriate measurement criteria for any call. Will

increased sales be the right measurement, or will the number of

responses be used to measure consumer brand awareness?

2. Do use multiple channels, including the mail, for responses. Not

everyone can enter a contest or request information via the web

3. Do tie the theme of the call to the brand's core identity. Find a

creative hook that makes the call stand out from the crowd

4. Do consider charitable tie-ins. Consumers care about corporate


1. Don't think contests are the only alternative for a call to action.

Brochures, special community projects, and polls all are possibilities.

Tie the nature of the call to the brand or product being promoted

2. Don't do a plain vanilla contest that says nothing about the brand or

its message. You'll get lost in the flood of offers consumers receive

3. Don't let the PR staff get caught up in administering a call. Keep PR

people focused on generating PR for the call

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