The difference between outputs and outcomes

One of the key elements in any public relations marketing plan is the evaluation components of the plan. And the evaluation is inextricably tied with the measurable objectives. As a reminder the recommended acronym is SMART. Objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound.

Then evaluating those objectives falls to outputs and outcomes. Outputs counts the tactics. Outcomes establishes whether the goal was met and to what level you’ve moved a client in their connection to your organization.

Let’s work with a typical publicity objective: Secure three positive stories out of twelve pitches across all media in local community during the year. Specific-positive story coverage; Measurable-3 out of 12; Attainable-in local community; Realistic-across all media; Time bound-by year end.

The outputs to count: did you send 12 media releases or not? Did you get three stories or not? Were they sent across all local media or not? Essentially did you send one a month? Count up the actions.

More depth of the evaluation is to figure out  the why’s of success or failure. If only 8 releases were sent, what was the hold up? If only two stories were covered why? Did a major catastrophe bury the story? Was the release not newsworthy? Investigate. How many media did you reach? Were there staffing changes in reporters or editors you didn’t know about?

The outcomes are more nuanced, but still important to measure. Did anyone read the story? How do you know–did you get any increase in traffic at your website, phone calls, any anecdotal feedback on the story? And measure the purpose of the story–were you hoping for attendance drive to an event? Did anyone come? You’d have to have a mechanism for capturing that information at the time. Often “how did you hear about us” tools can help. But not always. We’ll talk more about that.

Outcomes count your tactics. Outcomes evaluate your results towards reaching the goal.



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