Public relations itself can be tough to define to someone unfamiliar with the scope of PR. Most people resort to sticking it in either the “media relations” box (where you’re trying to get press coverage for a client or conversely trying to manage a crisis), or they go the Samantha Jones/Sex and the City route and assume it’s party planning (it’s not).
So, where even PR itself is hard to define, assessing PR efforts can be even more of a challenge. Determining the actual value of media coverage, whether good or bad can be tough to pin down. When managers are asked to explain where the business gains have been made as a result of public relations programs, it can be tempting to turn to standard but unreliable metrics. This is one reason advertising value equivalencies (AVEs) and “clip books” have been around for so long, even though they fall far short of providing any real measure of efforts.
There are a variety of ways to reach beyond AVEs and clip books, the modern version of which is a collection of links, or occasionally, PDFs of online articles.
- Can you measure the taking of an action? If a PR program is driving people to a website, do they click through the links to get to additional information? If you have downloadable or interactive content, you can count how many people are driven to an action.
- Another form of action-taking is making a donation. If you’re a non-profit and your PR program is telling donors a compelling story, are they then contributing to the cause?
- Increased engagement on social platforms is another way to see if a PR program is generating results. Retweets, shares, and conversation and interaction on Facebook are ways to see if engagement is increasing.
- In your media monitoring, are you seeing a change in the sentiment assessed to coverage? This is a straightforward way of determining if a publicity or reputation campaign is working. It’s important to set a baseline first, which should be done prior to implementing a PR campaign. From there, you can see how sentiment changes as messages and PR programs take their course.
- If you are working in a highly technical field, another way to measure communications efforts is to review the accuracy of coverage. While a great deal of this is dependent on the reporter or media outlet, a long-term engagement to increase understanding and awareness can be measured doing media analysis.
- A new product or launch effort will generate inquiries and feedback. Keeping track of these will help to assess the effectiveness of messaging. How relevant are the questions being received? Does the feedback indicate that your target audiences are being reached? Analyzing these types of comments can show if your targeting is reaching the intended audiences.
- Customer service inquiries can be examined for similar data, depending on the size and reach of the PR program.
Tying PR programs back to business goals is the most important step that you can take when engaging in communications activities. Can you still run a PR program without doing so? Well, yes, and people have been doing so for years. But making the link back to actual business goals will help make the argument that PR is an effective and vital part of overall company communications efforts.