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PR and the battle for impact measurement

In the battle for impact measurement, PR has traditionally lost out.

Some disciplines, such as digital advertising, generate a slew of numbers as a side effect of their activities. Others can afford to put together expensive primary research to track the effectiveness of their creative executions and media targeting.

Clickthrough stats, measuring digital ads, hard and fast as they are, happen at the end of a buying journey. Many things have contributed to the decision to purchase. Traditional advertising is great at raising awareness of a brand or its new products. It is a vital element of communicating at massive scale, what a brand stands for.

But it would be my argument that communications creates the environment for people to make that click or listen to that advertising message.

The edge over paid media

We know from our Dimension research that people trust editorial far more than they trust adverts. They also listen to word-of-mouth, whether friends and family, or influential voices online, to form their opinions of an organisation.

Communications has the edge over paid channels with its ability to build trust across multiple influential groups. PR can help build a brand reputation that gives your ads authority so they ultimately generate clicks.

So how do you compete with numbers generated by digital ads? How do you measure up in an environment where advertising holds the purse strings, and therefore the research budget?

Get measuring

Well first you need to measure what you’re doing. You shouldn’t only track how much reach or volume is generated, or how much the equivalent advertising cost would have been. You need to ask whether your messaging cut through intact and did it appear in the right places.

Once that is in place we bring in other datasets to measure whether your campaign gained a reaction.

And thirdly it’s important to recognise that PR isn’t just about publicity; it’s also about communicating what your brand stands for in the minds of all the stakeholders of your business.

Finally, people react differently to events and news stories, according to their point of view. For example the recent rise in the energy price cap saw significant differences in the sentiment of responses from mainstream journalists vs social media commentators on the news. On the face of it, it was all about the big beasts and seemed negative across the board for suppliers. When we dived more deeply into the content, however, we found some bright spots.

When we pulled apart the response according to who was talking, whether customers, general public, politicians or consumer champions, we found that some organisations had managed to communicate particularly effectively across all of these stakeholder groups. They did this by focusing on looking after their customers. They had to put their prices up too, but due to good planning, an integrated approach across their offer and well-targeted communications, one organisation, Octopus Energy, came out of the price rise scandal with a net positive position.

Bringing in other datasets can help answer various questions about your communications activity:

  • Did it generate excitement?
  • Did people respond by going to your owned spaces?
  • Longer term, did it improve metrics such as Net Promoter scores and Consideration?
  • Did it drive trust and reputation?
  • What was the response across all the groups you need to influence?

Find out more about measuring the true impact of PR in our upcoming webinar with PRmoment.

Changing your measurement mindset: From output to impact

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Register here

Article written by Anna Salter, UK Head of Consultancy, Onclusive

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