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PR Evaluation - A Practical Approach

Experts suggest that 10 percent of the PR budget should be devoted to evaluation. That is a lot of resources, especially for a small budget PR programme. But with clear objectives it should be possible to devise common-sense measures of return on investment and the real impact of a campaign.

Ten Things You Should Do

  1. Think beyond budget. The reason to evaluate is not to justify the budget, but to assess that a campaign, its process and methodology are producing results.
  2. Back to basics - set goals and objectives. Unless objectives are explicit and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely), then it is not possible to devise a meaningful form of evaluation.
  3. Select key performance indicators based on campaign aims. KPI's should reflect the goals - so think about creating tangible outcomes wherever possible.
  4. Use surveys to measure soft issues. Even with soft issues, where the aim may be to influence attitudes and shape opinions, rather than immediately change behaviour, pre and post campaign research can indicate how opinion is moving.
  5. Build in tangibles. For marketing based campaigns build in a response channel that can be monitored - an advice line, dedicated e-mail channel, response form for information, and so on.
  6. Monitor traditional media. Media coverage is the starting point for many traditional evaluation techniques. Sign up a good media monitoring company, brief them thoroughly, and keep them in the loop about what you are issuing, when and to whom.
  7. Monitor new media. In many areas, the web is more influential than traditional media. Sign up a specialist new media monitoring company who can monitor web appearances for you and also, if required, review newsgroups, blogs and RSS feeds.
  8. Google and DIY. If you don't sign up a new media specialist then you can at least DIY by selecting key words and phrases that you can search on Google or other web search engines pre and post PR campaign to see how your clients ownership of and ranking against these key concepts has changed. Also, Google provides a free 'Alerts' service where you set a keyword and Google will notify you of new appearances on the web. Other services include Google Analytics which is easy to add to you web site to produce traffic statistics.
  9. Multiple objectives may require multiple measurement tools. Where a campaign has mixed objectives you may need differing evaluation techniques for each. There may be a need to combine both quantitative and qualitative measurement techniques. Again this reinforces the case for keeping the objectives clear and simple.
  10. Borrow budget. In many cases behaviour will be subject to multiple influences - PR, advertising, direct mail, incentives, sales activity, and so on. This is a good reason for the cost of evaluation to come from a general marketing pot, rather than just the PR budget.

Five Things You Should Not Do

  1. Don't take all the responsibility. PR doesn't drive sales and profitability so, though clients will let you take heroic responsibility for this, explain that you are the messenger and others usually carry this forward to action. Measure the PR contribution, not that of others.
  2. Don't disparage advertising value equivalent (AVE). Academics and those promoting more elaborate, and expensive, performance measures dislike AVE. The merit of AVE is that they are low cost and quantify performance in simple monetary terms that all the management team, especially the bean counters, can understand.
  3. Don't rush to judgement. Many traditional media have a natural cycle that spans many months and opinion shifts often happen slowly. While it is tempting to seek an early measure of campaign effectiveness, the true impact may not be measurable until several months have passed.
  4. Don't rely exclusively on clipping services. Do additional media research over and above that provided by the clipping service. If you discover they are missing references, let them know and agree with them measures to improve their performance.
  5. Don't believe in magic bullets. There is no single evaluation technique that meets all needs.

Further Reading

Title Author Publisher
Evaluating Public Relations: A Best Practice Guide to Public Relations Planning, Research and Evaluation Paul Noble and Tom Watson Kogan Page
Planning and Managing a PR Campaign Anne Gregory Kogan Page

Other Useful Links

Check out this PR evaluation article from Forrest Anderson - after 30 years in the PR business he really know's his stuff.


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