[PR CHANNEL] Public Relations needs measurement for its Advertising & PR!

09 Dec,2011

By Siddhartha Mukherjee

 

Hollywood legend Gregory Peck’s reply – “I don’t know anything about Public Relations” – to a PR job proposition from a friend in a company where he was working in the Hollywood flick, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, sums up the state of Public Relations. His reply, despite the fact that it dates back to the post World War II era in the 1950s, still echoes the current state of this credible marketing tool called Public Relations, atleast in India.

 

Before we get into the scope and type of measurement for a client’s Public Relations initiatives, there are a couple of points, I thought, we can throw light on:

 

The central question is – Why does a Corporate/Brand do PR? It is a simple question, but the answer may not be so simple!

 

Let us see if this question can be answered by deconstructing some possible thoughts or responses:

 

a) We (the Corporate/Brand) do PR because it makes us feel/look good infront of family and friends

For some this could well be a preposterous presumption. However, the fact is this is the belief for most of us – some may acknowledge…some won’t.

 

Majority of the Corporates end up creating CorpComm/PR machineries to serve individual agendas, and not one single Corporate and Brand marketing agenda. Time is spent and efforts are made to expose “faces” of the organization rather than the Corporate itself, what it stands for and its product offerings. PR still continues to be used more as a personal and personnel gratification tool rather than a brand building tool. Many will not acknowledge this. Those who do are far more credible and only adding to their organization’s equity.

 

b) Monthly PR scores Ranking

Some slightly better off organizations have taken it one notch up. Given the fact that the actual purpose of PR/Corp Comm is still ill defined, self gratifying efforts to prove successful creation of decibels levels are quite high in usage. The mandate therefore given to the PR Machinery is – “My company should be No. 1 in the media visibility rank”. No wonder then, the Corp Comm machinery and its PR Agency runs helter-skelter after every possible journalist in every possible newspaper and TV news channel to get some ink or soundbyte in next morning edition. The ballgame ends up being all about the “CHASE”(journalist/publication). Get me some coverage somewhere…anywhere…with any mention of my company becomes the dictate. The thickness of the clippings dossier becomes an emblem of the PR machinery’s achievements.

 

The only problem is that it can be easily proven that just because the Company scores rank 1 in media visibility does not mean they have actually done or achieved great PR! Same way, just because an organization has ranked no. 3 does not mean they have achieved bad PR!

 

We are obsessed with ranking. PR Industry just re-iterates the same principles.

 

c) To justify Ad budgets and EAV (Equivalent Advertising Value) targets:

This is an extension of the above point. The norm of marketing team (marcomm to be specific) setting targets for PR/Corp Comm team is still a sacred ritual. Targets of Rs 5 crores, 20 crores, 50 crores are a set norm of advertising equivalent editorial value to be achieved by the Corp Comm/PR team at the end of the year. In fact, this has three interesting outcomes: a) The Corp Comm/PR team starts going through tremendous palpitations. Which in turn puts the entire Corp Comm Machinery (including PR Agency) in a tizzy. B) The corporates’ winning/dinning/gifting and media round bills go up because we somehow want to get any coverage somewhere B) Corp Communications starts losing focus on what it is ideally there to achieve.

 

At the end of the year, the marketing team rejoices on the achievement of the EAV scores encoring “a great job done”. They possibly will also look at Share of Expenditure (SOE) Vs Share of EAVs Vs Share of Voice/Space. However, whether the annual PR efforts have borne fruit or not, who know! Is someone interested to know?

 

The other aspect of this advertising correlation becomes all the more interesting when Corporates look at editorial space as money game – that can be “bought”…courtesy their media buying “power” houses. Some do this with a generalised belief that editorial space across print, TV and online is rigged, no longer a purist zone and should/could be bought therefore. Some believe that this is the best way to control what they want to get and not get written.

 

d) To keep negative stories at bay

Our country is all about negation and rejection! Critics, crisis, negatives, these are aspects that dawn on us almost everyday, starting from our breakfast table. Corporates increasingly becoming within the common man’s radar find them mentioned in most “negatives”. PR/Corp Comm machinery therefore is expected to play a role in pre-empting these negative mentions in the next day morning news reports. Worse case, if pre-empting efforts fail, they start rolling out damage control exercise. Actually, where Corporates passionately believe in this principle of getting easy ink in next day’s paper, and more importantly, pre-empt negative stories, often ex-journalists find a prominent place in the CorpComm/PR chair of the organization.

 

e) To achieve a set business objective

This is where we normally get stuck. How many times have we asked a simple question – why am issuing this press release? Why am I proactively approaching a publication and to give an interview to a journalist? Can the answers to “why” be broken down into specific Quantitative and Qualitative target outputs?

 

The reality is that this seldom happens. Those Corporates/Brands who have started with this are already enjoying the benefits of this Samaritan tool. For their customers or consumers out in households, communications is much more smooth, homogenous and credible. For those who have not, probably best is to leave them to market forces. One day, they will realize it is too late.

 

Way Forward:

Our good old Public Relations industry started and has been thriving on Jugaad. This silent army of PR professionals, certainly for the last two decades, has been quietly helping organizations and brands get marketing “exposure” in the news space across Newspapers, Magazines, TV Channels and Websites. Their Jugaad as relationship managers with journalists has actually helped many Corporate Entities enter India, settle well, understand the market and more importantly trigger the interplay of Demand and Supply.

 

However, in the last seven odd years especially, this ART of Jugaad has been complemented with a crying need of SCIENCE both in strategic & tactical planning and implementation of Public Relations. CEOs, Directors, Marketing Heads, CFOs, HR Heads, now that all are getting hooked and booked under “ROIs and Accountability”, they are finding it both important as well as challenging to incorporate the tool of PR into their Corporate DNA.

 

Here is where PR Agencies have initiated and paved the way. Starting with transforming themselves into Consultancies, their thoughts and initiatives have changed the matrix of this tool called Public Relations. The tool, which was largely confined to the PRO/Corporate Communication desk of their Client Office is actually today showing its influence and usefulness to the internal clients of this same desk – Marketing, Financial as well as HR corridors…not to leave alone the CEOs office. Public Relations can be created, nurtured and propelled only with the vision and proactive initiatives of its Agencies.

 

Measurement of PR can go a long way in establishing purpose and focus to a brand PR efforts. PR Agencies therefore will play a big role in introducing measurement into the DNA of PR and Corporate Communications industry.

 

Let us not forget that Measurement or Data can do actual PR for PR! The Client, its agency and the industry stands to benefit from it. What the benefits could be, who all stand to gain and how…next time!

 

Siddhartha Mukherjee is senior VP, Communications and Business Head, Eikona PR Measurement

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One response to “[PR CHANNEL] Public Relations needs measurement for its Advertising & PR!”

  1. Alisha Henry says:

    Core Communications Private Limited, better known as CorePR, is the the first independent public relations firm in Chandigarh, a city situated north of India’s capital, New Delhi.For more info:-http://www.corepr.com

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