Public relations, widely known as the "airy-fairy" stuff, can be difficult to measure. Expectations of one's publicist can range from demands to be get exposure in a specific media outlet (mostly Oprah) or dozens of reviews ... a day. Neither of these requests is reasonable. On the flip side, your publicist should not use the often unquantifiable results as a way to avoid actually doing the necessary work to get you a reachable 1-5 requests per week to feature or review your product. If you're hiring a publicist, here are some things you, as the consumer, can ask for to ensure your publicist is spending the hours they say they're spending -- and leave no question in your mind that your publicist did her best job to serve you.
Measurements of Success -- other than a bump in sales this is a tough one. Your product may have been reviewed in many publications but your sales don't reflect it. All you can expect or ask of your PR person is outreach to the media. It's then up to the media and consumer to respond. The results are difficult to measure outside of sales. Did it increase exposure to your brand? Are you now more recognizable? Did the traffic to your website increase (exposure) or your blog? Are people commenting they saw the article (exposure)? If you've experienced none of these results, your campaign is not working.
Transparency to Monitor Efforts -- you should not accept a bill for 50 hours without feeling confident that your PR person did what she said she did. The easiest way to monitor this, is to ask to be "bcc-ed" on the pitches. This method also prevents your publicist from using your valuable time to build a report that should tell you the same thing. Yes, your in-box will be full, but you will see each person contacted and what was pitched. When your publicist bills you 50 hours, you know exactly how she spent her time and what she specifically did.
Wire drops are easy and not a good way to generate publicity -- and if your PR person performs a wire drop but fails to follow-up with each outlet, it's an utter waste of time and effort. Follow up means, she called or wrote them a pitch. A release picked up on a wire feed goes to an area of the online website where little if any traffic will read it. It's generic, biased (because it's a release), and most people don't read them or give them credibility. It also doesn't take much effort to do a wire drop. An hour at the most to set it up and drop it. If your PR person bills you 10 hours for a wire drop, buyer beware.
Press releases dripping with grammar mistakes -- you have every right to expect your publicist knows grammar and spelling. It's unacceptable for any PR person to do one of two things: submit a release cluttered in mistakes or ask you to write the first draft and then she "quasi" fixes it (only there are still mistakes). If your publicist does either of those two things, buyer beware. It's sloppy, unprofessional work, and you deserve better.