Updated: Oct 6, 2021
One of the main pillars of communication that impacts a brand’s value is Public Relations aka it’s ‘PR’ activities. The importance of PR can be understood by the degree of influence that these activities have not only on the company’s reputation but also on revenue and recruitment. Brands carve out separate PR budgets, appoint specialized PR agencies and in turn are interested in the quantitative or qualitative return on their investment. Therefore, the moot question that always arises is - ‘Will this be an effective PR campaign?’
But, measuring the influence of a PR campaign or the impact of a well-placed news story is not as easy as measuring the reach and range of an advertisement. Specific metrics have to be identified to evaluate the effectiveness of PR which then helps puts a tangible and concrete number to a campaign’s performance.
What started as an evaluation of size and positioning of newspaper/magazine articles in the 1850s has now come a long way, where artificial intelligence and algorithms are deployed for media monitoring and PR measurement in the 21st century. Presently, various metrics for PR evaluation were in use. These included.
The quantity and quality of press clippings / media placements
Extent of social media engagement i.e., views, clicks, likes and shares
Tracking traffic and measuring backlinks using analytical tools
Percentage of online content and conversation about a company vis-à-vis its competitors
Tracking credibility through online reviews
Search engine rankings
Impact on sales and number of customer footfalls / site visits
Despite the emergence of these new metrics, Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) has always been an area of debate as an effective PR measurement tool. The International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), ultimately, through the Barcelona Principles explicitly brought into light how AVE is arbitrary, archaic and unreliable.
Which brings us to ask: Are there any tools or metrics which provide an optimum and reliable measurement of PR effectiveness?
There is no one-size-fits-all metric or measurement tool that can be applied across brands and organizations. However, the AMEC presented an approach through seven best practice guidelines for PR measurement and evaluation, known as the ‘Barcelona Principles’, which attained industry-wide consensus. It involves setting of goals relevant for the brand or the organization; identifying output, outcomes and impact for organization as well as the stakeholders; including both qualitative and quantitative analysis in the evaluation; undertaking a holistic measurement and ensuring that integrity and transparency is maintained in the entire process. To practically implement these principles, the AMEC proposed an Integrated Evaluation Framework which lays down a flexible, consistent and a credible phase-wise approach for PR evaluation.
The PESO model, which is based on the integration of four media types viz. Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned, can further help organizations plan their media strategy and measure PR effectiveness. It provides a structured framework for creating successful campaigns and bridges the gap between PR and marketing.
The metrics for measuring success of a product launch campaign would be different from that of a brand crisis management campaign. However, the same guidelines and PESO model can be used in both the scenarios and can be tweaked to custom suit the situation. Therefore, once an organization adopts and follows the above guidelines and the PESO model, it then becomes relatively simple to determine the best PR metrics for measuring success based on the objectives and desired outcomes. It must be noted that it may not be possible to fully measure the PR success as certain objectives and outcomes may never be quantitatively measurable.
Picking The Right Tool
To sum up, the key to PR evaluation is to determine the objective and goals of the organization/brand, identify the desired outcomes, choose the most suitable metrics for the goals and outcomes and thereafter, analyze the results. Organizations should not get swayed away with the plethora of offerings for PR measurement and the presence of numerous analytical tools.
They would do well to follow the Barcelona Principles; discuss the goals and outcomes with their PR agency/internal PR team; evaluate the pros and cons of the metrics desired to be used and thereafter, select the most relevant PR measurement tool.