It’s time for PR to measure what counts: outcomes
Currie Communications / PRGN, South Melbourne / Australia, 4.11.2011
Temat poważny jak cała branża PR – jak mierzyć efektywność działań. Przeczytajcie o australijskim podejściu Julii z Currie Communications.
It’s tempting to evaluate the success of a media announcement simply by gauging how many of your friends are talking about it at a weekend barbie – and even promising to change their ways.
That’s what you call a real-life outcome of a PR campaign – even if it’s anecdotal and inexact.
The reality of the PR profession in Australia today is that too often we don’t have the budget to truly measure the outcome of a campaign and are stuck with measuring outputs, such as the volume and tone of media coverage and pick-up of key messages.
As Professor Tom Watson and Dr Peter Simmons found in a major survey of Australian public relations evaluation practices in 2004 (http://tinyurl.com/6yebxhu) – and I doubt it has changed – the focus of evaluation has remained on outputs not outcomes. They found 89% of practitioners often or always measure the volume of communication but just 32% often or always measure resulting changes in behaviour.
Certainly by calculating total audience reach for a particular media announcement, we have a useful benchmark to compare its effectiveness with other campaigns.
But total audience reach as a tool to measure PR effectiveness is rubbery at best.
For example, we know that every buyer of The Herald Sun’s daily circulation of 395,000 copies won’t have read the particular article – perhaps buried on Page 36 as a small, single column item with no photo – which relates to our campaign.
And on the other hand, if we truly want to include potential reach, how do we factor in readership to account for the “pass around factor” where a newspaper is read by all members of household and many more people than stated in the audited circulation figures?
Surely we don’t want to get into the ridiculous position where total reach from a number of media sources exceeds the population! (see: http://tinyurl.com/4xuzybf)
At least video views and unique page views provide us with a more reliable level of readership of online media and social media tools such as the Public Relations Global Network’s utilised Radian6, Marketwire and Alterian2 can graphically illustrate the degree to which readers have endorsed, liked and responded to online news.
The fact remains, however, that the best indication of the success of a PR campaign is the outcomes – whether they be sales, market share, customer loyalty, registrations, donations, cost savings or legislation – and these can only be known if they are measured.
So, rather than focus on outputs, the challenge for communicators is to set aside the budgets and time required to evaluate the level of engagement, influence and change that great PR delivers.
At a time when governments and corporates don’t want to be seen to be using PR, it’s never been more important to accurately prove the value of work that gets people talking at a BBQ.
By Julia Balderstone, Senior Consultant
- Crisis communications: maximum disclosure, minimum delay
- 15 Changes I’ve Seen in 15 Years
- Make the Agency/Client Bond a Strong One
- PR Confidential: Is There Such a Thing as Attorney-Client Privilege?
- The “Dilution Solution” – and corporate reversal of fortune
- Weekly Reads – Nurturing Brand Advocates, Twitter Hacks and Ranked Tweets
- A Century Later, Still Defining PR