How to measure PR and comms

Series 1 - Episode 3

We discuss the importance of measuring PR and comms, demonstrating the impact it has on your business and overarching objectives. We will walk you through AMEC’s integrated evaluation framework and how to apply it, including how vital it is to straighten out your inputs, activities, outputs, outtakes, outcomes, and impacts in order to purposefully measure PR and comms.


Trascript

Jenny: Hello and welcome. Today I’m joined by Sophie and we’re going to be talking about measurement. How to measure the impact of your marketing and make sure it’s delivering what you need it to for your business. Sophie is the perfect person for us to have on for this episode. She recently graduated with distinction in AMEC’s International Certificate in Measurement & Evaluation. It’s her bag. She definitely knows what she’s talking about on this subject. So, she’s the perfect person to speak to us today. So, Sophie, perhaps we’ll start with a common pitfall is that often businesses feel that measuring the impact of their marketing comes at the end of a campaign or a project that’s when they tend to start thinking about it. But it’s important that they start thinking about measurement from the very beginning. Isn’t it?

Sophie: Yeah, absolutely. Measurement can only really be done effectively if you start it at the very beginning of a campaign or your marketing communications activity, because you need to know exactly what it is that you’re going to measure in order to know what success looks like.

You do have to think about the end at the beginning. It feels a bit backwards, doesn’t it? But it’s absolutely the right way. One of the things we are going to have a look at today is AMEC’s Barcelona Principles.

Yeah. So let me just start by saying what a AMEC is. It is the international association for measurement and evaluation of communication. It is the international body that regulates or says what best practice is when it comes to measuring and evaluating communications, because it is difficult to measure communications.

I think we will all know and be aware that it’s very difficult to really properly measure the impact of your PR. That’s something that you will hear people say a lot, and it’s often a reason why people don’t want to do communications activity because they say that they can’t measure it. So AMEC’s purpose is to try and put a stop to that and to put some things in place that everybody working in communications can adhere to, so that there is some standard when it comes to measurement of communications.

Another thing which they brought out was the Barcelona Principles. There’s been three iterations of the Barcelona Principles and the most recent was just in July in 2020. So I’m not going to go into detail about what the Principles are because there’s seven of them and they’re quite detailed in themselves, but we’ll put resources on our website so listeners can go and check it out in more detail. But I think the key thing to know about the Barcelona Principles is that these are seven agreements the communications industry has, as a whole, agreed to stand by. And one of the most

AVE is advertising value equivalent. You may have heard of it. You may not. It’s quite an old-fashioned way of measuring the value of communication. And you just value the piece of coverage based on how much you would have paid for that piece of coverage. One of the founding principles of AMEC is that you should not use AVEs. So because of that, AVEs are getting less and less used within the industry. And that is one of the key parts of the Barcelona Principles.

Yeah. Which is good. Isn’t it? As you say, it’s not comparing like for and it’s not an effective way as it’s an old-fashioned way to measure. And I think sometimes it’s a way businesses and brands can feel quite comfortable about. Measuring because it’s because you’ve got that monetary value, haven’t you? So you can put numbers to things and say how much you’ve spent on PR and compare it to how much you’ve got with the AVE.

 

And it’s not. It’s just, as you said, it’s not overly effective. So it is something that we would absolutely advocate moving away from two which is what we’ll talk about today. When we say exactly lots of better ways that we can measure, and they’re not difficult and they’re not complicated. And w we’ll go through today some easy ways that your small business will be able to measure the value of your communication.

So one of the elements from AMEC is their evaluation framework, which you can follow in order to measure your campaign effectively. Exactly. And it’s really nice, easy to use tool and we’re going use it today as the framework for our discussion. Anybody can access the tool using on the AMAC website and it’s for free.

Essentially breaks down the steps into objectives, inputs, activities, outputs, outtakes, outcomes and impact. I think often when you hear those words for businesses, it can sound like some of those are quite similar, but actually they all address very different areas that you need to look at. The first step would of course be objectives and starting with some very clear objectives.

Exactly. Yeah. So, objectives must be your starting point. When you’re thinking about measuring your communications, it sounds obvious as you say, but actually it’s really hard to do, and it does require some quite deep thought and also some conversations with people within your organization.

If you work for a larger business, often the marketing element might not necessarily be in tune with what the wider business objectives, so they do need to be linked. Some other common problems we see with objective setting are objectives that describe a process. For example, we will work with an ambassador to secure 10 national media placements, for example, or we will issue 15 news releases.

The problem with those is. That isn’t an objective, right? It, what it is saying is the activity you are going to do. So that’s something to watch out for when you’re creating your objectives. Make sure you’re not describing a process, but you actually are talking about something you’re going to achieve.

The second problem with objectives is that they can be really vague. Now I know we’re guilty of this as well, so I’m not by no means saying that we’re perfect. But having vague objectives is a big problem in the industry. And I’m just going to give you a classic one now, which is a company X wants to raise awareness.

That’s a really common PR objective, but it is rubbish because it doesn’t actually say or mean anything, you’ve got no way of showing if you’ve achieved it or not. Avoid vague objectives where you can. And the third element to consider when you’re setting your objectives is it is so critical to have that baseline that you can measure against.

So for example, you want to increase by 20%. But you need to know if you’re increasing by 20%, what you’re increasing from. So you do need to think about what your, what information you’ve got to hand that you can use as a baseline from which you can benchmark. The next bit of when you’re thinking about your objective setting is that you do want them to be smart. So that means you want them to be specific. You want them to be measurable. That’s that benchmarking element we talked about just a moment ago. You want them to be attainable. You could actually do what you say you’re going to do.

You want them to be relevant? And you want them to be time-based so you want them to have a date, which you’re going to achieve them by. Essentially, I think of objectives as who do you want to do? What, how much? And by when? Yeah, no, and that’s really important. Isn’t it? As you said it’s the who, when otherwise you end up with those very vague objectives, which as you quite rightly say a very difficult to measure, and that’s the pitfall that people fall into debt. And then when it comes to the end of a marketing campaign, when they don’t have that baseline and they don’t know exactly what they were measuring, it’s very difficult to justify the spend if the spend into that marketing plan.

Yes, smart objectives. Very important. And that benchmark could be it could be marketing research you’ve done, or if it was an internal communications campaign, an internal comms staff engagement survey, and knowing what engagement levels aligned and how much he wants to increase it.

It’s doable, isn’t it? You just need to have that benchmark and in the first place definitely. And, use your Google analytics. There is an absolute wealth of data within your Google analytics that you could be able to use for some of these metrics to give you a baseline, which you can then show how you’ve improved or increased, whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve with your communications, that is fundamentally linked back to your business.

There’s no point doing communications activity that isn’t linked to your business goals because your communications activities should be pushing forward with your business agenda.

Objectives. What would the next stage be then in terms of that, in that framework where it’s talking about? Yeah. So once you’ve got your objectives, I would just say as well, don’t go overboard with objectives. I think. Three four, five, it is absolutely enough if you’ve got your objectives, you don’t need any more than that because you can get yourself into not just thinking about it. Yeah, so I would focus on having three, four, five maximum really good objectives, rather than a load of waffle. That doesn’t mean anything. Yeah. Okay. So once you really confident with your objectives and exactly what you want them to be, your next element to look at is your input.

So this is going to cover exactly who the target audience is of your campaign. And then second is your strategic plan and elements around that. So it might be a situation analysis about the industry or the market or competitors. You could be listing out what resources you’re going to need and critically you want your budgets as well.

So this input section is really key to your planning. Clearly you need to spend some time defining your target audience because you don’t want your campaign to be reaching everybody. You might do. And we do have clients that ask us to do that, but really you want it to be much more specific than that.

It can end up reaching more people than your intended target market, of course. But if you have a target, it just makes all your other activities much more streamlined and much more efficient and you know exactly who you’re talking to. So defining your target audiences is a critical part of your inputs.

And then following that, your strategic plan and the things that you need in order to make that plan happen. So your resources, the budgets you’ve got available, what skills you’ve got. It’s that element of the planning in this input section. Yeah. And as you say, with the old way, you’ve mentioned, and the importance of knowing your target audience is so true, because as you say, you’re not, you won’t be targeting everyone that won’t be your target audience.

Your target audience will be drilled down much further than that. And those audiences have very different barriers and drivers, which will then influence the activities section. So you know exactly how you’re going to reach them.

What advertising campaign are you going to do? What news releases are you going to send out? What events are you going to do? This is all of the potential activities that you’re going to do in order to meet your objectives and to reach your target market. So the cool thing about the integrated evaluation framework is that it recognizes the different areas that you’re going to be doing your activities in. And what I mean by this is what we call the PESO tool, but it’s not really a tool as such. It’s just a way of categorizing your activity, whether it is paid, earned, shared or owned.

And by mapping them out into this activity section on the integrated evaluation framework, it gives you that helicopter view, as you say, so you can see where the activity is. You can see there might be pinch points, for example, with when it comes back to one of your inputs, which was resources or budgets just enables you to have that wider view.

So you can check that everything’s in line as you think it is. And then the next part of the frameworks is outputs. So what do we mean by outputs. Outputs is, this is the stuff that PR people are really good at measuring. This is the stuff that we are really good at. We’re really on top of it. It is quantitative and qualitative, and it might include the numbers of cuttings you’ve achieved. It might include the opportunities to see, and another way of saying opportunities to see as impressions or it could be the circulation of the title that you achieve coverage. And you would also be looking at the media impact. So this is more than just the titles, publications you’ve achieved coverage in, but what’s does that coverage actually say? What did it mean? Was it in the right tone? Did it include any of my key messages? Have we got coverage that we know we really want to be in, for example, you might spend some time working on a media list and being like, okay, so these are the three gold major that I absolutely want to be in?

So that is thinking about the impact of your media in relation to how it’s going to drive your target market, to do whatever it is you want them to do to be that behaviour change.

You want to see another aspect of your PR outputs is the media quality evaluation. So what I mean by that is did they use a quote? Did they use photos? I think we all know that, sometimes Having a cracking photo can be the difference between a small piece of coverage and a much larger piece.

So did they include your photos and what was the placement of the piece? This particularly relevant to printed media, but it’s much it’s deemed to be better to have a placement. On the right-hand side, for example, then the left-hand side and further up the page so that you’re more likely to see it.

So there’s some elements to do with where the piece was actually placed as well as to whether you would deem that piece of coverage to be higher value than another piece. And then moving on to the digital side, there’s lots of things that we can monitor there using your Google analytics, for example.

So we can look at click throughs on links, we can look at things that were downloaded. You could set up goals in Google analytics to see if the activity that you know is driving positive behaviour is being done. So there’s lots of things we can look at in digital monitoring as well. And then other things we could look at in PR outputs is how many people came to our events, whether the right sort of people, how many journalists did we get coming along?

Or if we did an online event now, because of COVID, how many journalists did we get to come to our online events? And then another statistic you could look at is your share of voice against your competitors. Often for our clients, that can be a really key metric. They want to know how often my brand spoken about compared to their competitors.

So measuring share of voice is another element of PR outputs. That’s a really valuable KPI to have. Yeah. And as you say, I think this is an area that quite often everyone’s much better. At measuring and. Do you think it’d be fair to say maybe this is where maybe a lot of people stop here and it doesn’t go any further?

I think that is, that’s definitely fair. And I understand why I’m not going to go into it. When we talk about the others, they are harder and they can be a little bit more expensive, so I understand it. And that’s also okay. So what I mean by that is, is if you’ve got solid objectives and you. Of measuring your PR outputs in a sophisticated way.

So rather than just using AVE, for example, or just counting the number of clippings, but if you’re going into some detail in terms of the media impacts that you had the quality of the pace, and you’re using your digital tools such as Google analytics, which is free to help you. And if that is, as far as you go with your measurement, that is still a lot better than not doing anything, could talk.

Or using AVEs. And if you want to just put your toe in the water and just make a start, then I think focusing on getting your PR outputs really well measured is it is a great place to start. We would obviously advocate you going further than that, but I think you can do a lot just within this one section.

Yeah. And I think that’s a really good point. Cause for businesses and particularly small businesses where this might be entirely new, it’s easy for us to say, isn’t it as people who, it’s our job to do marketing and communications. It’s easy for us to say you should go the full hog, but the thing, as you say, it’s a good it’s a good tip to save this as.

This is, if this is as far as you take your measurement and this is what you’re ready for, then it’s absolutely worth doing isn’t it, as better than not measuring it.

If they were going to take it further and delve a little bit more into the framework, what’s the next step for them?

Okay, so the next step is measuring your PR outtakes. Now this is when it’s the sort of lingo starts to get a little bit jargony. So let me try and make it really clear. I just understand this as what the audience takes from the PR activity in case it was called measuring PR outtakes. So what the audience is taking from your PR activity.

So what do I mean by that? So some things might be favourability. Are they preferring your brand as a result of it? Understanding or comprehension. Do, does the target market now understand something that they didn’t before? Or is there an, an education element from the communication that’s been achieved, recall and retention.

So is a member of the target market, able to state back that they had saw your communication and that they could remember it. Ultimately, what we’re looking for here is did we grab the target’s attention? And was it the right target? And then what did they then do as a result?

So some examples of how we could do that. They’re actually not as complicated as it, as you might first think you could ask for your target market to request more information from a PR generated link, for example. So there might be a link that’s only used for that particular. Purpose. So you know that any click-throughs as measured in your Google analytics must be because of the PR activities.

 

So it’s quite an easy way to attribute value to the PR activity, similarly, you could create a PR specific website landing page. So this might be just a campaign landing page that is only used and only available to be seen when it’s clicked through from the PR element. This again is another way of siphoning off any other traffic, which might be coming in from another way, and just being able to clearly attribute it to the PR activity.

Then there is a little bit more of an old-fashioned way of doing it. E.g. call a specific PR phone number. This used to be done all the time as a way of being able to attribute direct sales to PR activity. If any calls came through on this particular phone number, it was only a phone number used within PR materials.

So you knew that cost through to that number had to have been as a result of seeing the PR activity in the first place.

All of those things are very measurable. Exactly and just makes it much more attributable within your Google analytics to see exactly where the links are coming from and who they should be assigned responsibility to.

If you like. Yeah. And just as a quick aside, because we’ve mentioned it a couple of times, Google Analytics, if you’re not already using your analytics, which is completely free if you’re not aware, you can do a really quick beginners course and earn a certificate and it takes you through step by step.

What it is, how to use it and how to set up certain goals and track all of these activities that we’re talking about. So if you don’t already use it, it’s absolutely well worth delving into and getting clued up on what to do. Definitely because you can use these links, which are UTM tracking links, and that’s a way to be able to signify to Google analytics when links come through from different areas.

For example, from an influencer on social media, from a Facebook campaign, from a piece of PR coverage achieved in a title, you can use different links for all of those things, which then in your Google analytics will show you, which of those was driving the most amount of traffic, enabling you to make informed decisions about which activity is the best activity to continue with or what was working really well to help with your evaluation for the campaign.

I know for one of our clients, when we worked with them on a project, they had achieved coverage in national newspaper titles, like the Times, and we could show we were generating traffic and how much they were getting through their website, based on that link using Google analytics.

But they also appeared on the Deliciously Ella podcast. And we could see on Google analytics that they’re Deliciously Ella podcast was driving much more effective links that went on to purchase than actually the piece and the time. So it does enable you to do that much more granular level of detail when you can see where the links are coming from.

And as you say, looking into those analytics, often it surprises you doesn’t it, which are the more effective channels. Exactly. And you can’t really call it ahead of time. Often we are surprised ourselves. This is why when you are pulling together a campaign you want it to be as wide as possible in terms of the different channels you’re using or the different implements use you’re using, because it’s only once you’ve done it, that you were actually able to see which ones were driving the traffic.

Then we have outcomes, which are different to our take. Yes, exactly. So in outcomes, this is the effect of the communications on the target audience.

 

From the customer’s point of view of, has it fundamentally changed their attitude to the topic? Has it made them trust a brand more? Has it had an impact on them to do something? For example, did they sign up to a trial? Did they subscribe? Have they registered for some thing or have they increased online advocacy?

So it is different to outtakes because it’s not just what they took from the campaign, which is what we were looking at before. But this is how has it actually changed them. So it is quite different, but it is a similar word, just to be confusing now. Unfortunately, measuring outcomes is where we lose the most amount of people.

And this is because it is the most expensive form of measurement, but also one of the most important, and we will talk about some ways that you can do it, where it doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it does require data gathering. So because of that, you need to have some research and tools available.

Traditionally how this element has been done is by measuring opinion attitude and behaviour change in the form of either quantitative surveys in-depth interviews or with focus groups. And these are all things that you can do yourself. So focus groups, for example, would definitely be something that a small business could organise themselves without any help and you wouldn’t need a research organization or a PR company to help you do that. You could also just observe your customers. That’s again, something else that small companies can do without having to spend a lot of money. Yeah, there are other ways of doing it. For example, large organizations do brand preference surveys, and they may also do pre and post-campaign polls.

So this is where you’d run the campaign. You’d run a survey before your campaign and then you’d run exactly the same survey afterwards, and then you can see the difference. So you can see that as that really nice link, because you’ve got the benchmark data from your first survey. However, the, these are expensive and they’re probably the reserve of larger organisations.

Other things though, that you could look at is feedback from your customers. How’s that changed? You may end up with anecdotal feedback, which supports your campaign decisions. Because people have said, oh, I used to do this, but now I do this because of, so actually when you’re a small company, you can have access to that data more nimbly than actually a large organisation.

Can. Yeah, absolutely. And that is a benefit of being a smaller business, isn’t it? You can get more of that qualitative data too. Does do reviews fall into this section as well, like Trustpilot and those sorts of platforms? Looking at your customer reviews would absolutely be a way that you could yeah. You could definitely use that data to support this.

And feedback from customers doesn’t necessarily have to be when you’re in the shop, but it could be reviews that were left or even comments on social media. Customers today are not afraid to tell us what they think about our service.

It doesn’t have to be something official; it could just be feedback or comments that you’re seeing on social media. Yeah. And that’s, and as you say, there’s actually a wealth of data available, it doesn’t just have to mean statistics.

Absolutely. Yeah. And I think they’re going digital and having things online has really helped from that perspective. It’s helped to make more sophisticated measurement, easier for smaller businesses and more realistic and achievable.

The actual impact that your campaign has had is fundamental. What was the impact on the business of the activity? So what we want to see here is a clear demonstration of a business outcome, and which was linked to your organisation objectives, which is clearly attributed to the campaign activity.

It links directly the PR activity to the goals of the business, which is why, if you remember back to the start of our conversation, we said that any of your campaign objectives have to be linked to the goals of the business, because fundamentally the activity of the communications should be driving that business agenda forward.

So what are some of the ways that we could measure that business impact? So we can look at things like market share, sales figures or profitability of the business.

I recognise that it does require close relationship between the comms team and the senior leaders within the business. And it requires the comms objectives to have stemmed from the business objectives, which as I said, doesn’t always happen. So it’s it does require a few, maybe tricky conversations if you’re in a larger organisation, but if you’re the business owner yourself, you’ll probably find this much easier to do.

And that’s why it is important to set benchmarks at the beginning or those smart objectives at the.  It’s so important that you don’t start thinking about measurement at this very last stage. Exactly. If you’ve thought about it at the beginning and you have those really clear smart objectives, then actually you should probably be able to find and measure your business impact relatively hassle free.

Yeah, absolutely. And we always go back to that. People might be familiar with it, but the difference between an output oriented to team where you’re letting off lots of arrows and saying that you’re hitting targets at 50 hours a minute compared to an outcome or integrated team where they just concentrate on hitting one actual business goal.

Exactly. And I think that’s exactly what it comes down to Jenny it’s just about not just doing activity for activity’s sake, but doing activity that drives the agenda of the business forward and actually helps you meet those goals and coming up with them.

Doesn’t need to be that difficult, but it does need time spent on thinking about it. It’s all preparation and planning. So much comes down to just putting the thought in at the beginning and making it easier, further down the line to actually measure impact.

Yeah, exactly. Just, I think putting the time in to develop those smart objectives at the beginning really does pay dividends. And you’ll be able to, if you if you don’t own the business and you need to be able to justify your marketing spend, it helps you, it supports your cause. And if you are the business owner, then you know, it shows to you that it’s working and that you can wisely invest your money in this marketing activity.

Absolutely. Thank you so feat, that was a whistle stop tour. Wasn’t it? Measurement and AMEC framework. We will have, and we do have upon our website, you’ll be able to access some of these resources that we’ve been talking about today.

So you can actually see it on the page and have a look at the framework and have a look actually at populating it for your own business. If you do have any questions about that at all, you can always reach out to us. You can go to our websites, that’s www.adpr.co.uk. You can reach out to us on social media, we’re across the various different social media channels, and we’re always here to help.

So if you have any questions at all about measurement or anything else around your marketing and communications, please do reach out to us and we’d be very happy to hear from you, but thank you again for listening and we’ll see you next time.


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