It's always easy to figure out when to hire the plumber. When there's no water coming out of the faucet, or your basement looks like the kiddie pool at Busch Gardens, it's time to hit the yellow pages. Same thing with your car - if it doesn't start in the morning, it's time to call a mechanic.

Your public relations campaign, however, is a bit more art than science, so it's a bit more difficult to tell when it needs the eye of a pro. Here are a few tips that can help you determine when your own efforts have run their course.

  • Sporadic Response from the Media: When you send out repeated press releases or pitches, and no one responds, that's an obvious clue. However, some campaigns start with a smattering of response - a few nibbles in the first week or two, but a month later everything goes silent. When this occurs, it's definitely time to regroup.

    Another red flag for any campaign is when you get a few media inquiries, but most wind up passing on your story after your follow up to their response. It could mean many things, but one reason might be there was a disconnect with your pitch and the information in your release or Web site. If you get more than one or two of these interrupted cycles, take a closer look at the information the media is viewing about you - but review it from their point of view so you can identify whether there is something that might be chasing them away. It's rare for any media contact to take the time to respond to a pitch or release but then pass on the story afterward. They don't have a lot of time, so they normally won't waste any of it pursuing a story they aren't reasonably sure will fit their needs.

  • Requests from Advertising Salespeople: A pitch that's overtly commercial will likely be turned down by most editors and producers. However, those pitches will sometimes be flagged and sent to the advertising department as potential customers. So, if you're getting a lot of response from ad managers who ask if you're interested in buying advertising time on their show or space in their publication, that's likely a result of your pitch being too sales oriented. The news media isn't interested in helping you sell a thing. They are, however, interested in informing, educating and entertaining their audiences enough that they'll keep watching, listening or reading. They get offended when people try to take advantage of their pages or airtime in an effort to garner potential customers. So, if you're getting sparse response from the media, but lots of unsolicited phone calls from ad salespeople, chances are it's time to get with a pro to adjust your message.

  • Conversion Rate: Let's say that your campaign has netted you a decent response, and you've gotten solid exposure from your media efforts. But, while you're bringing many new potential customers to your site, only a tiny percent of those customers are actually making a "buy" decision.

    Sometimes it's due to the design and functionality of your site, but in most cases, the bigger problem is your copy. It's not delivering your message, or worse, the tone is off-putting to your customer base. The copy must connect, engage, educate and motivate the people who find you as a result of your PR campaign. Your Web site is an important point of sale so if it isn't "telling your story" well enough to encourage that buy decision, then it's time to change it. Unfortunately, the biggest mistake I see people make with their Web sites is that they hire a Webmaster to fix the problem. This is not a technology problem - it's a marketing problem - so you need a marketing communications or PR pro to help solve it.

It's not always easy to tell when a campaign has gone awry. But, if you can tell when the PR engine isn't engaging, you'll know exactly when it's time to call in a pro to jump start your PR machine.

If you want or need help planning or analyzing your PR campaign, or just have some questions, please call or email us right away. My partner, Steve Friedman, and I, along with our staff of PR professionals, have been promoting professional firms, corporations and individuals for over 20 years, and we can help you.

Plus, I think you'll be interested to learn that we don't charge a retainer fee. Media is guaranteed with our firm, unlike a "best efforts" guarantee that comes with retainer based firms. Feel free to explore the possibilities with Steve; he can be reached by email at stevefriedman@emsincorporated.com, or call him directly at 727-443-7115, ext. 208.

We'd love to hear from you!