The Anchor: 6 ways to measure the effectiveness of PR

22 Mar,2012

The blame game is interesting, for agencies want to blame the client for not giving a proper brief, and the clients want to blame the agencies for not understanding the brief, and attempt to take the campaign in a direction of chance.  Fingers pointed at both sides – for agencies have a credentials presentation replete with case studies that is akin to saying, I am xyzee and I scored a double century five years back, or a month back, and hence I am an accomplished person and suited for bagging your account. While the case studies are anecdotal and embellish an agency presentation, the client’s requirements may be completely different.


So instead of mutual finger pointing, the attempt here is to be shaking hands.  As public relations increasingly influences corporate communications strategy, and regularly takes its place in the marketing communications ‘mix’, pressure has mounted, both from clients and from within the profession, to measure the effectiveness of PR.


1. Questions for setting the right objectives

Every one from the agency side tends to ask, please tell me the objective of your engaging us, but in actuality, What are your objectives is not the first question, it is in fact the last.  The questions to perhaps introspect to set the right objectives are: Where are we (company) starting from? Which audiences do we need to reach? What are the messages and the appropriate channels of communications? How do we want those audiences to respond or behave as a result? When do we need them to react? What do we need to measure to determine whether the objectives have been achieved and therefore whether the PR activity – including the cost of measurement – is worth the investment?


In this context, the objectives must be viewed in the context of the total brief, and thus relate to the current environment, to intended audiences, messages, desired response and timescale. If all those elements are in place, then objectives can be measured and it becomes possible to say whether – and to what extent – the PR activity has succeeded.


2. Selecting a PR Consultancy 

Having done the most important step of determining your objective, one has to get into selecting a PR Consultancy through a process of systematic search that would involve steps like checking on the Expertise of the agency, specializations if any like Corporate, Financial Services, Technology, Lifestyle, Entertainment, Sports and Events, and so on, the  reach – as a national, regional, local or boutique agency.


3. The process of short-listing

Talking to a B2B segment or journalists that cover a specific beat related to you business could help in terms of getting some top of mind companies that could emerge in the shortlist. Of course, the conventional method requires one to send a RFP, asking the agencies of their credentials, background detail, resources and special skills possessed, the current clients and activities and significant achievements.


At the time of the presentation, clients like to judge on the depth of the homework done by the clients, their perception of the PR Problem, and any creative routes to handle the same or just the usual listing of tools and media, the team and expertise offered, campaign effectiveness for other clients, and the infrastructure and facilities, and their modes of charging – project basis, monthly retainer, hourly basis, and/or rate card, and so on.


Don’t be overly concerned with setting communications objectives, but being very clear about the organisation’s strategic aims, business objectives and how it wishes to be perceived, and rely on the PR professionals to develop the appropriate communications response like ‘defining PR objectives’;  ‘identifying the techniques’ to be deployed to reach the relevant audiences and messages, the ‘budget and resources’ required from the client, the ‘financials and service term’, and most important, ‘the resources’ offered by the agency.


4. Identifying and sharing the strategic goals

It is important to share with the prospective PR agency about the overall strategic goals, the business/marketing objectives, external or internal climate (social, political, competitive, industrial relations factor), the company’s present reputation and how does it want to be perceived, the objectives set for advertising and other communications disciplines, and the criteria by which we will judge the success of the communications programme?


5. Tools to measure the content

Publicity in print and broadcast media remains the biggest single products of public relations. Analysis of the content of media coverage is the most commonly used tool of measurement, but by no means the only one. Today, tools to measure presence in media as well a market research can be used to gauge PR effectiveness.


With a scientific base, PR is more readily accepted as a valid communications tool, better able to justify its budget.  It helps to bring PR into the broader corporate decision making process and makes the PR practitioner a more credible advocate in the boardroom.


6. Output, Out-take & Outcome

Outcome could be a three pronged approach one could adopt as a measurement process.


Outputs show whether the message was sent and aimed at the target audience through analysing media coverage including number of articles and interviews, prominence and message.


Out-take refers the degree to which the audience is aware of the message, has retained and understand it through interviews among target audiences for instance, pre-and post-campaign stages – qualitative research and one-to-one depth interviews to assess reaction to a programme and future intentions.


Output helps in knowing whether – and to what degree – public relations activity is actually helped in changing people’s opinions attitudes and behaviour, by detailed interviewing and focus groups among target audiences, research among representative samples of media and other opinion formers or simply observation of people’s behaviour.


If measurable PR objectives are set, measurement and evaluation will enable the client to judge the cost/benefit of the investment in PR.  This provides the basis of PR planning helping the client and the PR adviser to build on the ideas that worked well, and modifying or abandoning those that did not. It helps clients take a longer-term view of PR’s potential contribution to corporate performance. It assists in judging the effectiveness of PR against other corporate communications and marketing techniques, ensuring the most efficient ‘mix’, and thus shaking hands rather than pointing fingers at one another!


Sudarshan Srinivasan heads Prognosys Marcom Services that manages 7C’sContent-Creatives-Collaterals-Connect-Coaching-Conversations-Campaigns for their clients.


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3 responses to “The Anchor: 6 ways to measure the effectiveness of PR”

  1. Prarthanachoudhury says:

    The article is a wonderful way to impart insights into the real facets and truths of PR- its role, scope and unique mechanism.

    The article also very pertinently articulates the challenges faced while assuming the pole of a ‘ PR’ person.

  2. Annu says:

    Nice one… am sure will help everyone in planning for their PR campaign

  3. Sheena says:

    very good insight!