Public relations is one of those industries that is hard to define and sometimes even harder to understand. There are a significant number of tasks involved in PR that makes it difficult to pinpoint precisely what it is.
The most succinct definition of PR is that it’s a management function that executes a specific plan of action that deals with an individual’s or organization’s impact on public interest through its procedures and policies. PR also evaluates public attitudes.
The ways to do this are vast and varied. It could be as simple as writing and releasing a press release or something more complex and direct media relations. It could involve strategic article placement. PR involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work as well as public activity such as community relations, crisis communications, public press conferences and internal communications.
Since the tasks of a PR team are so varied, it can sometimes prove challenging to try to evaluate the effectiveness of a strategy. Where does one begin? What should one focus on?
Over the years, the steps to analyzing the effectiveness of a PR strategy have changed and become refined. It’s important to stay on top of the latest PR measurement techniques so that you can provide a clear report to your client as to what you and your team are doing.
It’s important to remember that PR is measured at 3 levels:
3. Business results
Outputs is the contact and response level. Measurement often involves determining its impact on media channels. Frequency, visits, prominence, reader contact, journalist inquiries and message impact are all considerations of outputs.
The best way to measure outputs is to assign a scoring system. Base it on your target audience’s tone and reach, as well as how well the message was delivered and if it included an endorsement or recommendation.
Outcomes is the term used to describe perception and behavioral levels and deals primarily with knowledge, opinions and attitudes. When evaluating outcomes, the impact on target groups is measured. This includes recognition, awareness, recollection, recommendations and purchasing intentions.
The best way to measure outcomes is to use already existing material. If the company that hired you already has a tracking survey, it’s fine to use this. Simply add a couple of carefully thought out questions to the survey to help determine if any of the PR activity is affecting audience chance. If no survey exists, there are resources available to create low-cost surveys.
Business results refer to the added value the PR campaign had on a business level. This includes impacting stock prices, revenue/turnover, and reputation value and market share.
The average company already has a department that measures how their sales are doing and what’s potentially driving their sales. For PR measurement, it’s possible to work with these same marketing analytics and closely monitor any changes in the numbers from before the PR strategy and during the campaign.