How To Interpret a PR Campaign That Isn't Matching Your Expectations

Tara Figg
 Posted on 31, Jan 2023

When starting your company’s PR campaign, you may be excited - and for good reason. This is an exhilarating time for your business. You’re getting the word out about how fantastic your products or services are, why you offer an edge on the competition, and what you can offer your clients or customers. You’re passionate about your company - and you’ve poured time, money, and energy in your PR campaign.

So what happens when the results don’t seem to be matching the hours of thought - blood, sweat, and tears - that you’ve put into your campaign? You may question everything you thought you knew about your company, your industry, your customers, and yourself.

But PR isn’t an exact science. There are going to be ups and downs - that’s normal, and you can navigate these stormy seas. The first thing to be aware of is how to identify if there’s an issue with your PR campaign, what that means, and how you can fix it.

Why isn’t my campaign taking off?

A PR campaign may not meet expectations for a variety of reasons. Some common issues include insufficient messaging, targeting an audience that isn’t ideal for this product/service, or a lack of engagement with the campaign. The campaign may not have the ideal timing, or lack optimum coordination with other marketing efforts. In some cases, the campaign may simply be misaligned with the company's overall goals or not well-suited to the current market.

Additionally, the company's reputation or industry conditions may also be factors that impact the success of the campaign. A lack of resources or budget can also contribute to a PR campaign not meeting expectations. It is important to conduct a thorough analysis of the campaign, including gathering feedback from stakeholders and reviewing metrics, to understand the specific reasons why the campaign may not be achieving the desired results.

What should I do now?

So which of the above is the culprit for your struggling campaign? When a PR campaign is not meeting expectations, it is important to first analyze the campaign to understand why it may not be achieving the desired results. This may include reviewing metrics such as media coverage, engagement, and audience reach. It may also involve conducting surveys or focus groups to gather feedback on the campaign. 

Once the issues have been identified, it is important to adjust the campaign strategy or tactics as needed to address them. This may involve making changes to messaging, targeting different audiences, or adjusting the timing or frequency of the campaign. Additionally, it can be helpful to involve a third-party PR firm or consultant to provide an objective evaluation of the campaign and make recommendations for improvement.

Let’s talk about all these in more detail, because when a PR campaign seems to be falling short of your hopes, it’s not the time to despair or quit. It’s time to reassess. And the good news is that there are several steps that can be taken to turn it around.

Assess the situation

Review the campaign's metrics and gather feedback from stakeholders to understand why the campaign may not be achieving the desired results. This is a crucial step in understanding why a PR campaign may not be meeting expectations. Metrics such as media coverage, audience reach, and engagement can provide valuable insight into the campaign's performance and help identify areas that need improvement. Gathering feedback from stakeholders, including clients, employees, and industry experts, can also provide valuable insight into the campaign's effectiveness and help identify any issues that may not be immediately apparent from the metrics alone. 

This feedback can also help to identify any misaligned expectations or misunderstandings about the campaign that may have contributed to its low performance. Additionally, it can be helpful to gather feedback from the target audience to understand their perception of the campaign and identify any areas where it may have missed the mark. Reviewing metrics and gathering feedback is an essential step in understanding the reasons behind a PR campaign's less-than-ideal performance and making the necessary adjustments to improve its success.

One example of an unsuccessful PR campaign is the "New Coke" campaign in 1985 by Coca-Cola. The company, in an effort to compete with Pepsi and appeal to changing tastes, decided to change the formula of its iconic Coca-Cola beverage. The new formula, called "New Coke," was released to the public with a massive PR campaign, including a $4 million launch event and a 60-second commercial during the 1985 Super Bowl. However, the campaign was met with widespread consumer backlash and the new formula was a flop. Consumers were outraged that the original formula was being replaced, and sales of New Coke quickly plummeted.

The root cause of the problem was the fact that Coca-Cola made a fundamental mistake in changing the original formula of the drink, which had a strong emotional connection with consumers. Additionally, the company failed to conduct proper market research or listen to consumer feedback, which would have indicated that the public was not receptive to the change. Furthermore, the company had not anticipated the public reaction and did not have a plan in place to handle the backlash.

As a result, Coca-Cola quickly reintroduced the original formula, now called "Coca-Cola Classic," and sales of the drink returned to normal levels. The "New Coke" campaign is widely considered one of the biggest PR failures in history and serves as a cautionary tale for companies considering making significant changes to beloved products.

In this case, however, the problem was with the product more so than with the PR campaign. But that can be an issue: if your PR campaign is flopping, you might want to take a second look at your new or updated product or service. If you’re trying to promote something that your target audience simply does not want, your next best step is to reevaluate your business model.

Identify the problem

Once the issues have been identified, it is important to determine the root cause of the problem. This may include problems with messaging, targeting, or timing. Or - like with Coca Cola - the product itself. There are several ways to help identify the underlying issue:

  1. Lack of media coverage: If the campaign isn't generating enough media coverage or the right type of coverage, it might indicate a problem with the messaging or targeting.

  2. Negative media coverage: Negative media coverage can indicate a problem with the messaging, execution, or reputation of the organization.

  3. Low engagement: If the campaign isn't generating enough engagement on social media or other online platforms, it might indicate a problem with the messaging or targeting.

  4. No clear objectives: If the campaign doesn't have clear objectives, it can be difficult to measure its success and identify areas for improvement.

  5. Lack of audience research: If the campaign wasn't adequately researched and targeted to the right audience, it can lead to poor engagement and ineffective results.

  6. Inadequate budget: If the campaign is underfunded, it can limit the reach and impact of the PR efforts.

  7. Timing issues: If the campaign was launched at an inopportune time, it can negatively impact its success.

  8. Poor execution: If the campaign was executed poorly, it can lead to negative outcomes and damage the reputation of the organization.

Adjust the campaign

Based on the identified problems, make changes to the campaign strategy or tactics as needed. This may involve making changes to messaging, targeting different audiences, or adjusting the timing or frequency of the campaign.

To adjust a PR campaign for success, it’s important to reassess your campaign objectives. They should be clear and reachable and aligned with the overall goals of your organization.

Also, analyze the research on your target audience to make sure you’re targeting the right people with the right message. That message should be obvious, consistent, and should be designed to resonate with your target audience. And if your campaign isn’t reaching that audience, adjust your targeting strategies. For example, if you’re trying to reach a younger audience and you’ve seen a lack of success with Facebook ads, try TikTok instead, as it has a younger demographic.

You might need to adjust your budget, as well. Purchasing PR is an investment in your company. A successful PR campaign will pay for itself with increased sales and new customers, so this is not an area to cheat yourself. Timing is important, too. For example, launching a holiday-themed campaign too early or too late can negatively impact its effectiveness. Therefore, it's important to carefully consider the timing of a PR campaign to ensure its success.

Regularly monitor and measure the success of your campaign to ensure you’re adjusting it as needed based on your results, and any time you're making changes, consider collaborating with your stakeholders. Regardless, your key stakeholders should all be on the same page to make sure your campaign is being executed effectively.

Always address negative feedback. If a business gets a bad Yelp review, it’s smart to post a reply telling their side of the story. This helps minimize any damage to the reputation of the organization. Don’t be afraid to continuously evaluate your campaign and make adjustments as needed to ensure its success.

Monitor progress

Regularly track the campaign's metrics and gather feedback to see if the changes made have had a positive impact on the campaign's success. Monitoring the progress of a PR campaign is crucial to ensuring its success and making necessary adjustments. 

There are several methods to monitor the progress of a PR campaign:

  1. Media monitoring: Track the media coverage generated by the campaign, including the type and frequency of coverage, to determine the level of media impact.

  2. Engagement metrics: Track engagement metrics such as social media likes, comments, and shares to gauge the level of engagement with the target audience.

  3. Key performance indicators (KPIs): Establish specific KPIs for the campaign, such as website traffic, press release distribution, or media placements, and track them to measure success.

  4. Surveys and polls: Conduct surveys and polls to gather feedback from the target audience and determine their perception of the campaign.

  5. Analytics: Use analytics tools to track website traffic, conversions, and other online metrics related to the campaign.

  6. Competitive analysis: Monitor the efforts of competitors to see how your campaign stacks up against theirs.

By monitoring the progress of a PR campaign, organizations can identify areas of success and areas that need improvement, and make necessary adjustments to ensure its success. Regular monitoring and measurement also help organizations stay on track and make informed decisions about the direction of the campaign.

Get a third-party perspective

Consider hiring a PR firm or consultant to provide an objective evaluation of the campaign and make recommendations for improvement. PR firms have the experience, expertise, and resources to develop and execute effective PR campaigns, which can help organizations reach their goals and improve their reputation. PR firms can provide valuable insights into the media landscape and target audience, as well as help organizations navigate potential challenges and crisis situations. 

Additionally, PR firms have established relationships with media outlets, which can help organizations secure valuable media coverage and build their brand. By partnering with a PR firm, organizations can focus on their core business operations while the PR firm handles the public relations efforts, allowing for a more efficient and effective use of time and resources.

Part of getting a third-party perspective will include communicating with your stakeholders. Keep them informed of the situation, progress, and any changes made to the campaign.They may have valuable insights into how to make the most of your PR campaign.

Be flexible

Sometimes a campaign may not be the right fit for your company or the market. Be open to pivoting or discontinuing the campaign if it's not working out. By pivoting a PR campaign, organizations can address challenges, improve results, and ensure that their public relations efforts are aligned with their goals. Pivoting a PR campaign requires careful planning and execution, but it can be a valuable tool for organizations looking to improve their public relations efforts.

And remember: PR is not an exact science! It involves multiple variables and factors that can impact the success of a campaign. It requires creative and strategic thinking, as well as ongoing monitoring and adjustment to respond to changes in the media landscape and target audience. The results of a PR campaign can be difficult to predict and measure, making it a constantly evolving discipline that requires adaptation and flexibility.

Imperium Group is an American public relations and marketing consultancy firm. Founded in 2016, it specializes in guaranteed placements, creating utmost transparency for its clients. Imperium Group generates over 15M impressions a month for its clients. Its team is based out of New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

For more information about Imperium Group, please see


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