Retrospect is Key to Success

If you’ve been following my posts, you know I was a medic in the United States Army at one time. During that time, I learned a great many things about myself, people and life in general, whilst also learning a system for doing things. One way we used to learn new concepts, like a new medical technique for example was a long process that gave us results every time.

First you planned out the course of action, then briefed everyone on what you would do(self explanatory), then take “baby steps” or “break it down Barney style” at first to make sure everyone was on board with the concept, meaning that we would do it slowly. Then we would “do it by the numbers” as in we would do each step and then stop to make sure everyone got it. Finally, we would perform the concept for real, no stops unless the service member completely messed up. After all of this was done and we cleaned up, we would perform what was called an AAR or after action review, where would go over the days training and say what went well and what went wrong about the day and suggest what we could do to improve or sustain what we did.

Well, this process can be applied to the public relations world and it has been in some retrospects, with the most obvious one being the evaluation portion of any public relations process. Much like an AAR, the evaluation process in a public relations process is when you go over your tactics, goals and strategies and see what went well, what went wrong and what you can do to sustain, improve or rectify your current situation.

In an article done by Business Matters, the organization identified five principles one should follow while conducting an evaluation of their public relations process and I happen to agree with them. They first mention how evaluation seems to always be seen as something to do at the end of a process; that is completely wrong. You should always be evaluating your work to make sure everything is going well and where it needs to be before you run your campaign. Failure to do so may prove fatal to your goals. The next point they bring up is that you should plan your campaign incrementally throughout the process and should treat your evaluation the same way. That way, you can ensure you don’t miss any information and ensure your evaluation is accurate. The third point they bring up is it is a myth that more media coverage equals more success. If you aren’t hitting your target audience with the correct media, then what’s the point? The next point they bring up is do not forget budget. Everything has a price and your campaign is not immune to this fact. The final point they bring up is that to ensure you can effectively evaluate your work, your objectives must be clearly defined; without that, what are you to evaluate?(Five Principles, 2013)

One point I want to focus on is the budget portion for a moment. It is a bit dated, but I feel it is still pertinent to today’s world in regards to funding. Everything costs money, yet that seems to be the number one barrier to any campaign, according to research done by Tom Watson, PhD. According to his research, many practitioners lacked knowledge of research techniques and stated that over half the respondents to a survey responded that there was a lack of money. There’s also a concern with practitioners’ education. There isn’t a focus on the social sciences, which leads to a lack of knowledge on them, which leads to a lack of people with those skills in managerial positions, thus leading to a lack of knowledge from some leadership in matters regarding in these matters.(Watson, 1997, p.6)

To further emphasize the fact evaluation is important, an article put out by Amy Finlayson, a freelance PR and marketing consultant, writes about how the public relations process can be thought of as planning, evaluating and learning.  She says,” Essentially you need to consider what you want to achieve (planning), think about what success looks like (evaluation) and use that to inform what you do next (learning)”(Finlayson, 2017) She is just further emphasizing what Business Matters put out and breaks it down to a more simplified approach.

Much like building a house upon a sand foundation, if you haven’t done your paid your dues and done your research and planning effectively, your campaign is likely to crumble, just like that house resting upon sand. Sure, you’ll have something to evaluate on, but it’s that you messed up. To truly be able to evaluate yourself correctly, you must ensure you are taking measured steps to ensure that as you are building your campaign, you are doing correctly and you can do that with evaluation. Retrospect is key to any process and public relations is no different.




Business Matters. (2013, November 03). Five principles of good PR campaign evaluation. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from

Finlayson, A. (2017, March 08). How to… evaluate a PR campaign. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from

Watson, Thomas. (1997). Measuring the Success Rate- Evaluating the PR Process and PR Programmes. P.J. Kitchen (1997) Principles and practice of public relations. London: Chapman & Hall.


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