How do you measure the impact of public relations?

1 Feb 2019

How proper PR analysis via the AMEC framework doesn’t just help communications, but also has wider impact on business growth, sponsorship acquisition and brand strategy.

 

Since the infancy of the profession, PR has faced the same issue – how exactly do you measure it? How do you even begin to quantify a service, so much of whose value lies in persuasion and soft power. In the past, the cost of advertising was used as the base of measuring the value of PR, taking the cost of the placement if it were paid for and applying the simple assumption: that PR is more persuasive than advertising alone. This was the core fundamental of the measurement of PR through the Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE).

 

For far too long, inhouse and agency PR departments have been calculating the value of their work through this basic equation: you take an editorial piece that you facilitated, find out what it would cost to buy that column space through advertising, and then multiply it by three to factor in how much more valuable persuasive editorial is than advertising.

 

The problems, of course, became apparent almost overnight and have grown over time: how to does integrated PR fit into a measurement system based purely on column inches? How does editorial on social media fit into this? Is a feature in a magazine where only two lines are relevant to a client really three times more persuasive than the same advertising real estate?

 

Despite these numerous issues, the industry has found it difficult to shake off AVE despite growing calls from industry bodies to collaborate in developing new frameworks. Stripped back, the simple reason appears to be that it looks impressive to say you achieved USD 10 million of Advertising Value Equivalent for a PR campaign. Coupled with this, without an obvious alternative, monetary values have been useful tools for inhouse PR departments looking to justify their agency support to those above unfamiliar with the profession.

 

Given our core belief in bringing true business value to our clients, Sinclair Arts and its parent agency Sinclair have been torchbearers for the PR industry in Asia, leading the crusade to adopt better, more ethical measurements framework. The AMEC (Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) Integrated Evaluation that we choose to use broadens the parameters across which we measure what we do to prepare a more detailed and nuanced assessment of success:

 

Preparation

A significant measurement of PR success is the preparation that goes into delivering a campaign or activation. We need to make sure that our objectives truly align with the long-term business goals of our clients, before translating these into communications objectives, to ensure that the work we do truly aids long term brand growth. Secondly, we need to ensure we put in place an intelligent strategy and thoughtful and realistic Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so that we can refer back to these at the end of a project. This could be in the form of numbers of interviews, followers gained, influencers reached out to, or target audiences and agreed tactics on how to reach them, all of which needs to be based on meticulous research and subsequent insights.

 

Implementation

Once a strategy has been fully conceived and accepted, the next step of measurement lies in the implementation. In short: did we carry out what we said we would do in our strategy, using the integrated tactics we agreed upon within the timeframe we agreed?

 

Measurements and Insights

Finally, we measure the impact of the work we carried out. The first part of this is the measurement of the activity, which is compared with the initial targets and KPIs that were set: how many followers did we acquire? Did we help facilitate editorial coverage in the publications we aimed for? Secondly, we measure our out-takes and outcomes by measuring our audience response and effects. The first part of this could be the sentiment of the editorial coverage; it could also be the engagement of social media followers or the success of a sponsorship strategy. This is, however, also closely tied in with business goals: how many tickets were purchased? What was the footfall of the event? Has the sponsorship strategy paved the way for long term relationships? Finally, we look at longer term effects: have perceptions of the client by key stakeholders been positively affected in alignment with the client’s mission and objectives?

 

The resultant reporting system based on these three pillars provides detailed analysis of the success of your brand and its ability to engage with its target audience, and is more useful than you might immediately think. This kind of information is not only useful data to share internally with management teams and board members, but should be used as a critical asset when building decks for awards, fundraising, partnership and sponsorship opportunities. When seeking sponsorship, analysis provided by the AMEC framework of PR efforts provide the professional level of target audience and reach analysis that corporations increasingly seek in order to discern one sponsorship opportunity from another.

The introduction of more rigorous measurement of PR has helped to hold our industry accountable for the work that we do, and has forced agencies to develop and deliver better strategy. More than this, however, it has allowed PR and agency work to become a true asset to companies looking to achieve both short and long-term growth by offering sound, professional, and above all, useful analysis.

 

 

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