Does PR work? Measuring PR Effectiveness

It’s perfectly common for companies to wonder, does PR work? We know that the benefits of PR are less tangible than other marketing tactics – like advertising, thus making them difficult to track. But, this doesn’t mean businesses should give PR the miss and reach out to more traditional advertising.

When a client has just signed with a PR firm, he will definitely have some questions at the top of his mind. Three standard questions are: How can we make out if our efforts are working? How long before we see results? What’s our ROI?

To ensure that objectives are met, measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of a public relations campaign is necessary. It helps to assess the effectiveness of the effort and demonstrate that impact to the top management. It also gives an opportunity to adjust tactics while the campaign is still in progress. All this means that evaluation points out the value of PR to the management.

And, why do you want to measure effectiveness and evaluate results? Obviously, it’s the desire to improve results the next time round. Before any Public Relations program can be properly evaluated, it is important to clearly establish a set of measurable objectives. When establishing objectives and measurement criteria, consider the following questions:

Was the activity or program adequately planned? Was the message understood by the target audience? Was the desired organizational objective achieved? How could the program strategy have been more effective? Did you reach all primary and secondary audiences? Were there any hindrances that affected the success of the program or activity? Was the program or activity within the planned budget? Finally, what steps can be taken to improve in the future?success-bullseye

Measurement and evaluation include 3 levels. On the most basic level are tracking of message distribution and media placement. The second level, which requires more sophisticated techniques, measures audience awareness, comprehension, and retention of the message. The third level is the most advanced level – the measurement of changes in attitudes, opinions, and behavior.

Some of the methods of measurement used today are:

News articles: One way to gauge your impact is to track the amount of press clippings that mention your company or products and services. This is probably the most objective measure of performance. How many press clippings or mentions have been generated and where? The ‘where’ question is important. Those articles and mentions should appear in relevant publications viewed by your prospects. When you receive a large number of mentions in a target media, you can be sure your PR program is successfully creating awareness for your business.

Client feedback: It’s important for clients to understand what you are doing. It’s also important that they view you work favourably. Clients should notice that a PR firm is responsive to questions and feedback; has good industry knowledge; has expertise in communication; and that results are in line with what was outlined initially when the firm was finalised. In short, are they doing what they said they would?

Ad comparison: If you generate an article in the Times of India or Indian Express or The Hindu, or on Times Now TV or NDTV how extensive was the coverage? Compare this against the cost of an ad for the space – to see if the placement is worth the effort. And, it’s quite likely that the press coverage may be just a fraction the ad space cost. This is most common method used today.

Content analysis: You also should look at the ‘quality’ of a placement. Quality matters – did the news include key brand messages? What is the tone of media? Is your company being portrayed in a positive light? Who is the audience and are they part of your target market? Measuring your placements against your competitors can help distinguish the PR firm’s work.

Sales leads: Good PR work can be tied directly to sales generated. A well-executed PR campaign directly contributes to sales leads. At the same time, it’s difficult to determine when exactly press coverage triggers sales. A sure way to learn if your PR efforts influence your clients’ decision-making is to ask new customers how they heard about your company and its offerings. Then you’ll begin to learn if the PR effort is part of their awareness and decision-making process. This way, you can begin to answer the question: does PR work?

Market surveys: Your goal in PR is to influence awareness, attitude, opinions and action – almost replicating AIDA – awareness, interest, desire and action. This is where research is key, and it is also crucial to tracking a PR campaign’s success. Before starting your PR campaign, conduct a survey in your marketplace to see if they’ve heard of you and your offerings. This way, you can measure the impact of your PR tactics on your target market. Then, after your PR strategy is launched, survey your market again – to check whether awareness tactics are working.

Measuring traffic to website: The Web allows you to accurately measure traffic and activity online with tools. Did your article on a web portal influence traffic on your website?

Social Media Mentions: Measuring the impact of PR campaign can be done by looking at mentions on social media networks. This refers to tracking various social content such as blogs, wikis, news sites, micro-blogs, social networking sites like Twitter and facebook, video/photo sharing websites, forums, message boards and other user-generated content to determine the volume and sentiment of online conversation about a brand or topic, and to gain insight on consumer choices. This information will indicate whether marketing strategies are working or not. In addition to mentions, social media measurement should focus on conversations about your brand, as well as social communities in your industry. If social media mentions of your brand increase after launching your PR program, you can be sure that it is working!

When quizzed about measuring PR results, Samir Kapur, Senior Vice President, AdFactors PR was very clear. He pointed out that across the globe Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) have traditionally ruled PR. AVEs are still used in PR reporting. To come out of this as a measurement tool it will be a long journey; an educational process, for both agencies and clients. He firmly believed that AVEs effectively “dumb down” measurement and give an inaccurate value for PR that could be just as easily guessed.

In this Digital Era, the brand communication has certainly evolved. A point he agreed with and went on to elaborate: “With the rise of social media PR is becoming a very complex field, used for many purposes and audiences. It is used in various spheres like internal communications, reputation building, brand marketing etc. All these areas require different metrics. Hence different metrics and measurement will be required depending on what is to be achieved; from reach to awareness to comprehension or for behavioral change. Primarily PR is measured at 3 levels – output, outcome and business results,” he concluded.

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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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