How well did your last campaign do? You may be confident you know the answer, yet there are PROs who would have to guess. At the recent International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) European Measurement Summit. Richard Houghton, chairman of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), estimated 50 to 60 per cent of PR campaigns use no method of evaluation.
Considering how much advertising spends on market research, it is incredible that PR values evaluation so little. Mike Daniels, chairman of AMEC, says: “It’s no coincidence that advertising and market research have grown to the multi-billion dollar industries that they represent today. Right from the start, advertising and marketing professionals realised the importance of proving the value of their work.”
So why are some PROs reluctant to embrace media analysis? Daniels says there are a number of misconceptions to blame, including, believing it’s difficult; or that it’s very expensive; or that it doesn’t understand PR’s priorities; or, most depressingly, that success only need be demonstrated by the size of the clippings book.
If PR agencies fail to measure, they won‘t be able to work out what they‘re doing right (and wrong). Colin Wheeler, head of insight and analytics EMEA at PR firm Waggener Edstrom Worldwide says: “How do you know your campaign has been effective if you haven’t considered what success looks like? Perhaps it worked, but by how much? It is unlikely to be ‘100 per cent worked’ or ‘100 per cent failed‘, probably some campaign elements worked better than others. Is the campaign even effectively aligned with the wider business goals?”
Addressing the fear that evaluation is costly, Katy Cosh, planning director at PR agency Grayling, says it is a matter of planning: “Some clients allocate a percentage of overall budget to evaluation, but we prefer to recommend an appropriate budget once we have an agreed strategy and execution plan. There are now many low-cost online measurement tools, and increasingly e-commerce allows us make direct links from PR to leads/sales, but there are still times when we need to invest in primary audience research.”
As far as the criticism that evaluation is too complex these days (after all, there are still fans of AVEs out there), Philip Lynch, head of international insight board at research firm Kantar Media Intelligence Europe, says “We need to move away from measurement of levels of activity and media output, which are relevant but do not convey the value of PR. One of the simplest ways to measure PR is to talk to stakeholders to find out if they trust the organisation and whether the communication makes them trust it more, or less. Complexity exists because there are many variables in communication and very few guarantees. From the moment of inception, a PR campaign is subject to external forces far beyond those experienced by paid-for advertising. The art of PR is in understanding those forces and harnessing them effectively. There is a lot to manage. So there is a lot to measure.”
Sarah McMonagle, CIPR public relations manager says there is no “magic bullet“ of PR measurement, but that‘s no reason not to evaluate: “At AMEC’s recent summit, a number of important steps forward were agreed. Of particular interest is the adoption of a ‘transparency table’ which will allow public relations professionals to compare and contrast different approaches to measurement and evaluation in a meaningful way. Proper measurement showcases the contribution of public relations to business and conducted effectively is fundamental in explaining why reputation is a matter for the board, not just in times of crisis, but as part of its ongoing activities.”
Giles Palmer, CEO of social montoring servce Brandwatch:
“Measurement for measurement’s sake is a waste of time. Too many companies have obsessed over ‘tick-box metrics’, with little or no link to real business objectives, for too long. There’s a tonne of data out there, across both traditional and social platforms, and PR professionals should be making the most of it to set relevant benchmarks for success. Measurement should be about helping a business succeed, not hitting a coverage target or Twitter follower number.“
Iain Ellwood, founding partner of PR agency Senate:
“PR managers need to gain more of a ‘CEO mindset’ that focuses on profitable growth. This means measuring customer purchase behaviours that drive revenue and profits. Hard wiring these PR activities directly to commercial outcomes demonstrates the only kind of evaluation that really matters to a CEO. To evaluate performance, PR managers should become more commercially numerate, while not losing their excellent consumer conversation talents.“
AMEC has created a practical framework to link appropriate media metrics to business effects and goals. full explanations and sample grids can be found here.
Written by Daney Parker