Can everything that counts be counted in PR?

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted,” said Albert Einstein many years

It’s a statement that you might feel resonates with the perennial issues of PR measurement.

The idea of evaluating campaigns using AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalents) was rejected so long ago that they sound like a blast from the past, like cassette players or rotary dial telephones, yet you still hear of clients asking for this figure, presumably because nothing else as simple or standard was brought into replace it.

So how can we best communicate the value we add to organisations and communities? How do we measure the value of a tweet or a mention on a blog post? And based on the PR industry’s latest guidelines, The Barcelona Principles, what’s the best way to measure the ROI we deliver to our clients?

Six steps to effective evaluation

1.     Accept one size fits none. Every client and every campaign is different, and by necessity, your measurement tools will always depend heavily on the resources and budget available to you. You need different yardsticks each time. To pick these effectively, pay attention to point no. 2.

 2.     Set measureable objectives at the start of your campaign, and ensure these reflect the organisation’s business goals. Positive coverage, more encouraging feedback from focus groups or an increase in hits to the web site could all be relevant depending on your campaign objectives.

 3.     Establish benchmarks, based on your PR brief or research, against which to measure later. For example, if a key target market does not know your company name at the start of the campaign, a small straw poll of individuals will provide a low cost way of measuring progress at 6 or 12 month intervals.

 4.     Measure what matters to your client. If the goal is to achieve more coverage in trade blogs or magazines, indicators of success could be source (generated by your PR team or from the magazine itself?), prominence of key messages, share of voice, and significance of the publication. Online, digital and social media metrics might include content views and visitors, number of shares/retweets and search engine rankings.

 5.     Check progress as you go and communicate this with your client or internal stakeholders. Have someone own this process and do it regularly eg monthly or 3 times a year, to enable rapid adjustments if need be.

 6.     Keep focussed on outcomes. This was a key point of the Barcelona Principles, and is the strongest basis for working out return on investment. Use relevant hard (research, sales) and soft (opinions, anecdotes) evidence to compare your results with your objectives, looking carefully at what each different PR method contributed. And make sure all your findings are collated so you can rigorously ask yourself ‘What lessons can be learnt for next time?’

When PR campaigns are so diverse, it doesn’t take a genius of Albert Einstein’s standing to work out that a single, blanket unit of measurement will never be adequate. The most interesting metrics will always depend on what you are trying to achieve for your client, so appraising outcomes against what matters is the only way to guarantee a true reflection of the value your PR is adding.

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  • About the Author

    After more than 10 years working in PR and media planning, providing clients with great PR and delivering tangible results still brings a smile to my face! Before joining CLPR, I worked across a variety of sectors including lifestyle and finance, and my wider experience in marketing means I understand just how PR fits into the mix. Outside of work, I play with my children, read obsessively, talk myself out of going to the gym and cook huge quantities of food for friends.

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