The Public Relations profession has evolved at an extremely rapid pace over the past decade, with consumers receiving information and engaging with brands across multiple platforms. A recent Time Warner research study unveiled that “digital natives” switch screens not less than 27 times per hour. So how do we answer to the question: “Is it worth it?”. With so many moving targets and multiple channels, how do we actually know whether our communication strategies have an impact or not, and more importantly, how do we know whether they generate profit or not?
Not long ago, the value of PR used to be compared with advertising, more specific with Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs). However, after many debates and counterarguments, and at a critical analysis, this method showed serious practical and ethical flows, and it has been branded as an invalid and an irrelevant practice of measurement. If AVE is an outdated metric based on questionable calculations, then what really works? Below I have put aside some of the most fundamental principles that we must take into consideration when trying to prove PR ROI.
The first principle is outlining a clear and a specific set of goals, and since PR and marketing no longer work in silos, it is crucial that these goals are set across teams. This is the key of understanding of what do you want to achieve and hence measuring it. When setting goals, we must take into consideration the following factors:
Reach – what portion of the target do you plan to reach and what message should be sent across for that purpose?
Awareness – (this is a PR and marketing team effort) increasing key message pick-up, driving content engagement and boosting revenue.
Comprehension – what would you like your target to understand from your message and what is the intention that prevails in its perception?
Attitude – what should be the immediate response and feeling towards your message?
Behavioral – what should the target do in response to your message?
PR measurement on three levels
- Outputs – A scoring system based approach that usually shows the immediate result of a particular PR program or activity, the amount of exposure that an organization receives and how it presents itself in front a target audience. This contains the total number of press releases, tweets, blogs, brochures, newsletters, stories, articles, or any “placements” in the media.
- Outtakes – There are several ways to measure an outtake. First and foremost, we must look at the favorability factor. Was the PR effort favorably received, or not? Second, we must take the input on understanding and comprehension. Were the disseminated messages making sense to the intended recipients? Third, it’s about recall and retention. Were the messages memorable enough to make an impact on the recipient? And last, but not least, is the immediate response component. Was the target’s response positive, did the target show interest and asked for more information?
- Outcomes – The scope of this section is to relate PR outcomes to desired business or organizational outcomes, such as increasing market penetration, market share, sales, and profitability.
Sound measurement through transparency and throughout analysis
Measurement tools can be very effective and can provide you with data and insight, but they can’t tell you what to do next. As most of the organizations have only begun to scratch the surface of measuring the potency of public relations and social media, the interpretation of data to provide valuable business intelligence is crucial. In order to drive the full benefits of PR measurement and not leave any precious resources out, leaders of organizations should mindfully manage and interpret all measurement tools.