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A constant source of debate in the marketing world is the age-old argument of whether you can really measure the impact of PR and communications. Whilst there isn’t an easy answer, the short answer is that yes, it is possible to measure the impact of PR.
The importance of goal setting
Whatever communications activity you are planning, setting goals is an absolute prerequisite. Measurement and evaluation should be a core component of your planning process – start with the end in mind!
Create your goals to be based on the change you want to see and found them in research. When you are creating your goals, cover off:
- Who (e.g. women in their 30s and 40s)
- What (e.g. increase intention to purchase brand X’s new product)
- How much (e.g. by 20%)
- By when (e.g. by end of quarter four)
You can then measure and evaluate your activity against these pre-defined goals, created at the outset.
Consider both the outputs and outcomes of your activity
Outputs (the communications “stuff” you are doing e.g. creating a landing page, securing coverage, generating coverage, securing a speaking opportunity etc) play an important role in helping to understand the holistic picture of the overall communication effects. However, it is only when outputs are linked to outcomes that a more meaningful and credible story is told. Outcomes are the changes created as a result of your outputs. This could be a change in behaviour, an increase in market share or an enhanced reputation. To be truly valuable to your organisation, outputs and outcomes should be evaluated on an ongoing basis, measuring the effectiveness of each audience touch point across the customer journey.
Measurement should be both quantitative and qualitative
When measuring your communications activity, it can be easy to get caught up in the quantitative data. But it’s also important to understand how your messages are being received and interpreted. Fundamentally, what we’re trying to assess is how our communication reached and engaged our target audiences.
Some example quantitative metrics you could use include…
For cross-channel research:
- Impressions or reach among target audiences
- Competitive or sector share of voice
- Engagement with earned/owned/paid content across channels
- Sharing of earned/owned/paid content across channels.
For audience survey-based research:
- Message/ content relevance
- Perception/ attitude change
- Expected behaviour change.
On the other hand, some qualitative metrics you could use include…
For cross-channel research:
- Sentiment and/or emotional response from target audiences
- Call to action inclusion
- Third-party endorsements
- Inclusion of company spokespeople
- Prominence of the piece, relevant to the channel.
For audience survey/ interview/ bulletin board-based research:
- Underlying motivations
- Rationale for expected behaviour change (or not).
When performed consistently over time, communication measurement and evaluation can gauge trends in quantitative and qualitative performance to identify drivers and context of results (i.e. the why behind the what) and implemented into future communication planning efforts
Breaking up with vanity metrics
Communications measurement and evaluation needs to have a richer, more nuanced, and multi-faceted approach to really understand the impact of communications activity.
Brands need to go beyond vanity metrics such as “likes” to have a better understanding of the target audience by focusing measurement on engagement, conversion, perception/attitude change, consideration, and purchase intent/behaviour change. Yes, this is more difficult (and more expensive) but that way, at least you will know which elements of your communications campaign are genuinely driving results, which in the long-run will save you money as your activity will be more targeted and effective.
What’s your view on measuring PR? Please let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org