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Why PR analytics and measurement is important and how to do it successfully

As a new PR practitioner now is the time to make sure you understand how to monitor, measure and evaluate your achievements in a meaningful manner.

How do you know if the strategy and tactics you deploy are having the right impact? How can you demonstrate that you are meeting your objectives and those of the organization and the stakeholders you support?

PR measurement and evaluation is a fundamental discipline that helps PRs assess, fine tune, and objectively demonstrate the success of their work. While many outside of the industry may like to pigeonhole PRs as ‘just creative types’, PR is, and needs to be, more science than art.

Originally, PR measurement used to focus on the evaluation of media coverage. This was perhaps not surprising as the primary tactic and activity of PR was media relations. It was not surprising therefore that ‘media evaluation’ was seen as a sensible approach when attempting to understand its effectiveness.

Media monitoring firms would source and then cut up newspapers and magazines, clips would be copied and bound into glossy press books, and ‘content evaluation’ conducted across the written word. Some of the metrics have even made it into common parlance – column inches and column centimeters being prime examples. Most metrics were quantitative (basically a ‘count’ of things) and would include number of articles, mentions, brand names and a stab at estimating how many people may have seen or read the content. Sometimes qualitative information would also be looked at and would include metrics such as delivery of messages, or points of view, and the tone / favourability of the clip itself.

Over the last 15 years or so, the media has changed beyond all recognition and so too has PR. The media is now largely online, the dominance of the major publishers is over and anyone can become a publisher of influential content.

Likewise, a PR professional’s role has expanded significantly and now covers required skills across each element of the PESO model (Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media). Any monitoring and measurement programme deployed now needs to include all of these in its approach to be relevant.

Automated PR tech and SAAS tools, with charts and dashboards have proliferated offering easy access to monitored content. Usually they provide multiple metrics derived from social network and platform APIs and are offered at ever lower prices. But many of these metrics tend to leave as many questions unanswered as they address. Are the massive amounts of ‘impressions’ generated real? Are they accurate? And so what anyway? What do likes, shares, tweets, impressions, etc really mean to the organisation for whom you work? Have they turned a dial that matters, and driven an organisational outcome that was intended? Are they actually anything more than a vanity metric and a count that demonstrates activity but has nothing to do with value?

For this reason, it is critical that the smart PR professional of today understands the importance of measuring their work in a meaningful manner. That means moving beyond the content ‘counts and amounts’ and looking to link this ‘output’ data with the things that matter in PR and comms. Are we helping support and drive the ‘out-take’ metrics – the way people think? Metrics like key stakeholder awareness, reputation, and affinity etc. And in turn, are we helping to drive the ‘outcome’ metrics that our organisation is seeking to achieve – metrics like sales, footfall, profit margin etc.

Help and support on how to do this is at hand. AMEC, the global trade association representing organisations and professionals throughout the communications evaluation sector, has produced a number of free educational resources that those interested in this area should familiarize themselves with. These include the Barcelona Principles, and the Integrated Evaluation Framework, a best practice guide to measuring modern communications. The Framework is designed to be tailored to the needs of any organisation of any size and is a great place to research and learn more about communications measurement best practice in detail. It’s been translated into more than 22 languages and has been used by more than 2,000 organisations around the world.

Those looking to immerse themselves deeper in the subject can also take AMEC’s International Certificate in measurement and evaluation where you can learn all about the latest traditional and social media measurement techniques and gain accreditation.

Once you have set out on your career path, you will likely be looking for an agency to support you with the media intelligence and evaluation of the communications effect. AMEC’s members are a great place to start this research. In this list you will find details of many global organisations which, like my own company, CARMA, can help you in your market with your needs. They all have different perspectives and approaches so be sure to talk to a few different companies and work with the one that you feel can best match your needs. If you do decide to commence a program, then this guide to writing a media intelligence RFP and this guide to starting a program should also be helpful.

Good luck!

Thanks so much to Richard Bagnall, chairman of global communications evaluation trade association AMEC & CEO, Europe and the Americas of CARMA for writing this introduction to PR analytics and measurement for us, we really appreciate it.

Twitter: @richardbagnall

Richard is the global co-managing partner for CARMA International, a leading provider of media intelligence and PR measurement services, and the chairman of the industry’s global trade association, AMEC. Richard has advised international clients on the best ways to measure their PR and prove its value for more than 25 years. During this time, he has built and led some of the world’s specialist businesses, including Metrica, Gorkana and PRIME Research. Prior to his career in measurement and insights, Richard was a PR himself, having worked both in-house and in agencies.

He has contributed to several published business books on measuring communications and is a long-term member of the UK Government’s GCS / Cabinet Office Evaluation Council. He is a co-author of the Cabinet Office’s Capability Review of Digital Communications.

Richard is a Fellow of the PRCA, a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, an Honorary Lifetime Fellow of AMEC and was inducted into PR News’ Measurement Hall of Fame in 2017.

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