The PR industry has come a long way, from measuring column inches to integrating analytics and data in order to meaningfully assess the impact of PR activities. More challenging for organizations as compared to marketing and advertising activities, mainly because of its many intangible and indirect business results, assessing the ROI for PR still remains a key focus – and sometimes troublesome – for decision-makers in an organization.
Media impressions, for instance, may help increase visibility of a brand, and the tonality of the key messages in these stories may help gauge the reputation impact for the organisation. Ultimately, however, the influence on the buyer’s decision may show results after, say, a few months. For PR practitioners as well as client teams are always striving to achieve the best ‘bang for their buck’, effective monitoring and measurement of PR activities, therefore, becomes crucial.
Quantitative assessment of PR using tools such as earned media impressions and/or readership, website traffic, social media mentions, have proven to be helpful for establishing the presence for a growing organisation or measuring success while tapping into a new market/audience segment or even assessing competitive position by analyzing these data points through measurement of its share of voice.
How often a brand insists on monitoring its outreach will determine how effective and proactive its PR efforts are. Monthly, quarterly or yearly reports encompassing these data as well as other inputs like periodic surveys can help detail the progress.
Quality scorecards and dashboards
Focusing solely on these metrics, however, overlooks qualitative aspects that prevents a brand from realizing the full benefit of its PR efforts. A brand may even stand to miss out on early indications of a dent to its reputation, for instance. But how do you measure, for instance, the returns from investments in crisis communications?
Quality scores which can help identify whether the brand’s perception among its target stakeholders is positive, negative or neutral, when closely tracked and analysed, help in taking actionable decisions towards building or strengthening the brand’s trust and reputation. This is because they generate insights into whether the key messages were delivered or how effectively they were delivered and what is its tonality. Here comes the role of content, which can be analysed to answer the question – ‘does PR really work for me’?
Intelligence, not just information
In an environment where communication channels and the influencer universe is only growing, not shrinking, it is often a tough task for client teams to be able to successfully identify the ones that will be the ‘best investment’ for organisations. This is getting further challenging as customer attitudes and brand preferences become more dynamic each day.
Critical competitive intelligence is therefore the call of the day – where brands not only depend on looking at historical data for the success of PR campaigns but that the information gathered can also help make predictions of customer behavior and tilt.
As an increasing number of organisations realize the importance of such forward-looking intelligence, the industry also needs to evolve further and invest in such monitoring and measurement tools and tactics. Putting such content with the relevant context enables a brand to identify how its publics feel about its brand and products, thereby helping make meaningful tweaks in its PR efforts.
Further, measurement programmes and methodologies, which have so far been providing standard insights into PR campaigns and their successes, need to further be customized to suit the relevant brand objectives and its teams – in order to become meaningful. Moreover, PR needs to understand the overall long-term business goals of the company which will dovetail into a complete full-suite strategy for clients and brands alike. Different organisations have different business goals and objectives. A one-size-fits-all approach therefore, does not necessarily add anything of value for the brand and client teams. In fact, this simply becomes another word for ‘counting’ or ‘tracking’, which relegates PR once again to the back bench.
All said, as the industry grapples with challenges of quality talent as well as availability of relevant tools and technologies, it has slowly but surely marked its presence within the integrated marketing and communications fold.
Now is the time to strengthen this identity and come on upfront, by delivering the promised outcomes, rather than focusing on the output.
Moving out of a comfort zone is always the first step, isn’t it?