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Using measurement in public affairs and advocacy PR

Using measurement in public affairs and advocacy PR

My PR background is in the area of public affairs, and it remains the area of PR that I’m most comfortable working in and around. Everything from the legislative process, strategy, to issue framing and grassroots outreach programs feels like home to me.  And any time I’m in a group of PR professionals and the discussion turns to measurement, I get in trouble when I make the statement that to clients in public affairs, the one measurement that really matters is: did the effort succeed or fail?

I stand by that statement, because that ultimately is how a public affairs client will judge PR efforts. Generally speaking clients understand that there may be other factors involved in getting a piece of legislation passed (or killed), but they hire public affairs help to affect a specific outcome.

That said, there are things that can be measured that will either help guide a public affairs effort that is underway, or provide key information for the next time an issue comes up for consideration.


Any public affairs campaign that is targeted at reaching a legislative body through grassroots communications will have an email component. Here are the things that should be measured:

  • Headlines and open rates – Email open rates are easily tracked through contact management software, like Constant Contact. It is wise to test different email headlines to see which ones have the most success at affecting open rates; your grassroots supporters can’t reach the target audience if they don’t open their email.
  • Messaging – Messages within an email should be tested too: which calls to action generate the best success rates at clicking through and taking the action requested?


Building a successful coalition almost always means recruitment, and measuring and tracking online recruitment can show you where your supporters are—and under which circumstances they are most likely to join your effort.

  • Facebook advertising and promoted posts – linked to a sign-up page.
  • Email links to sign-up pages can show how many of your supporters are forwarding emails and encouraging others to join your effort.

Online Fundraising (If applicable)

This is an area that is both straightforward to track, and important as it will provide real data that can make a difference in current and future public affairs efforts—if fundraising is appropriate for your particular activity. Things to track:

  • Message success in emails that convert to donations
  • Donation levels
  • Frequency of donations/success rates of automatic giving

Staying Updated

Keeping a grassroots effort informed and energized is incredibly important—whether a public affairs effort is successful during its first go-around or not. For controversial efforts, the need for ongoing communications is critical, as you never know when you might need to ask your supporters to contact officials again. Some items to measure in this area:

  • Email open rates
  • Engagement on social channels
  • Testing email frequency, in conjunction with unsubscribe rates

The areas listed above are all important to maintaining a network so that it is informed and engaged. This will be of high value when you need for them to respond to calls for action on things such as pending legislation, or contacting local, state, or federal officials—which in turn will help you in meeting the big goal: successfully supporting or stopping the public affairs initiative you’ve been tasked with following.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the Director of Marketing Communications for CARMA. She is also the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for more than 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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