Measurability is a core principle of public relations and mass communications, in both the public and private sectors. Measurement and evaluation is increasingly becoming more formal and regimented, and less informal and anecdotal. More rigorous methods are needed to deliver credible proof of results and Return-on-Investment (ROI) to management, shareholders and other key stakeholders. Public relations and corporate communications use evaluation techniques and best practices such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Key Results Areas (KRAs), and systems of tracking important metrics.
1. Research outside the box
The most effective PR campaigns are planned and based on long and careful research: what the target audiences knows already, what brand awareness exists, what their perceptions are, and what media they rely on or prefer for crucial information. Traditionally, there are two methods of PR research: formative research, or research before a communication campaign or activity to inform planning, and evaluative research, or research to measure real-time effectiveness. Evaluative research was originally thought to be conducted after a communication campaign or activity. However, recent unconventional thinking in PR best practices favors early measurement and evaluation, beginning at the start of a campaign, and occurring as a continuous, intense process throughout the communication cycle.
2. Set and understand goals
Having a clear set of goals in place is essential to understanding what a client wants to achieve and therefore, measuring it. Goals should be specific, and take into account several rubrics: reach (what portion of the target audience to reach and with what message), awareness (what people should see, hear or read that they haven’t before), comprehension (what people should understand that they didn’t before), attitude (what people should believe and feel), and behavior (what action people should take as a result of the message).
3. Embrace analytics
The demand for business results from PR moves measurement toward a more analytical space. Analytics is the application of a number of statistical approaches that have been in use by many marketing and other disciplines for many decades. It now moves to the forefront of PR measurement as the industry seeks to demonstrate the monetary value from earned media and other types of communications. PR efforts should not shy away from hard numbers, but rather implement scoring systems that track the reach to the target audience, tone prominence, message delivery, and inclusion of recommendations or endorsements.
4. Transparency and replicability
PR measurement should be done in a manner that is both transparent and replicable throughout all steps in the communications process. This includes the source of the content (print, broadcast, internet, consumer generated media), a data analysis methodology (human or automated tone, scale, reach to target, content analysis parameters, etc) as well as a set criteria for data collection and analysis.
5. Monitor and measure social media
Social media has become an intrinsic part of PR campaigns and an important method of engagement. Therefore, not only should conversation in social media platforms be monitored but social media needs to be incorporated into PR measurement and reporting. Monitoring for issues to which the organization or brand might want to react, identifying important trends in consumer opinion and top influencers, and tracking changes over time provides a qualitative and reliable analysis of deliverable content and social impact.