Thursday, October 14

Setting Objectives: The Answer Isn't Always Sales

One of the most daunting prospects for many public relations professionals is measurement. And, for those also working in social media, the measurement issue remains a mystery. (Given how much several of us have written about it, who knows why.)

Don't misunderstand me. Most people are starting to get measurement. It's relatively easy to understand. But where students and some professionals seem to struggle is in setting indirect objectives that mean much more than frequency and reach. In fact, it's indirect objectives that are generally more sustainable and more likely to become deeply entrenched in our psyche.

Setting indirect objectives with public relations and marketing concepts.

Again, when people talk about objectives, especially marketers, they always fall back on sales. But sales do not have to be the objective (even if sales will eventually show up as an outcome). You can change public perception and preference instead.

A recent study by HNTB Corporation underscores this point. According to its findings, almost 9 in 10 (87 percent) Americans who have access to public transportation take advantage of it. Almost 7 in 10 (69 percent) Americans feel there are many times when public transit is a better option than driving. And nearly half (49 percent) think local, state and federal governments don't invest enough money on it (of course, this desire drops dramatically when asked who will pay for it).

How did this happen? Was it because a mass transit company promoted itself with cheap fares? Was it because public transportation gurus tweeted about the bus every day on Twitter? Was it because the researchers only interviewed people who don't own cars? Was it because someone produced a slick ad campaign to make riding the bus cool? Very likely, it was none of the above.

The appeal of public transportation is part of a shift in public perception.

• One in four people believe public transportation reduces traffic congestion.
• One in four people believe public transportation saves individuals money.
• One in seven people believe public transportation benefits the environment.

While I expected these numbers to be higher (given how often people say they use public transportation), the outcome is apparent.

You don't have to push market to generate revenue. Sometimes you only have to change the perception of the public. If more people believed in, preferred, and used public transportation, then demand would increase, regardless of any other factor. As demand increases, so will revenue. Unless, of course, you operate with poor service.
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