Last week I was in the audience for a debate at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in the UK.
The panel discussion turned to the value of public relations and getting more bang from your PR buck. The discussion moved onto the best practice of PR framed by the Barcelona Principles: to measure PR success in terms of inputs, outputs and outcomes as discussed in my latest book, High Impact Marketing That Gets Results.
So let’s go through what this means in practice, and see how you can apply this if you are using an external agency for your PR and public affairs (PA) efforts.
Desired audience segments
This is an extremely important part of the PR process. Segmenting the audience you’re looking to engage with will dictate how and what you say to them. In broad terms, desired audience segments can include:
- groups of customers, clients, volunteers/members, supporters (describe each group in terms of geography, household income and attitudes, values, beliefs, perceptions and behaviors);
- key thought leaders (name);
- key media influencers/bloggers (name);
- key politicians, opposition spokespeople, Government Ministers (name); and
- key charitable /foundation and other third party groups (name).
It’s also useful to know whether the desired key audience segment is primary or secondary. This will help determine where to place the most effort in reaching them.
This is what you’re trying to achieve when using PR to support your organisation’s strategic priorities.
To identify your PR objectives, consider the following questions:
- How can we cut through the noise and beat the competition in getting our messages to these audiences?
- How do we use PR as part of the brand value proposition and to influence behaviour of customers, clients, volunteers, members, supporters and employees?
- How does PR help take an ‘outside-in’ rather than ‘inside-out’ perspective?
- How do we articulate what we deliver (rather than a shopping list of what we offer) in an emotional and rational way that’s compelling, memorable and influences behaviour?
- How do we use PR to help build relationships with all of these audiences?
- What does it take to engage with customers, clients, volunteers, supporters and brand partners more deeply, turn them into brand ambassadors, and engage with them more effectively in the future?
PR objectives should cover the following:
- increasing awareness (quantified prompted/unprompted awareness) of the organisation’s aims and objectives amongst all primary and secondary audiences (including employees and brand partners) that leads to an increase in consideration;
- increasing awareness of specific deliverables with respect to the strategic objectives of the company or organisation (these also need to be quantified);
- influencing the direction of proposed legislative controls on the organisation’s ability to achieve its strategic objectives; and
- managing any potential negative media coverage that could impact on the reputation of the company or organisation.
For example, background information and research. An analysis of current organisational and company perceptions could inform the planning of any PR campaign. Some of this information could provide benchmarks against which to measure later.
- the PR brief (information on organisation/sector);
- desk research and original research (to inform content of PR materials); and
- pre-testing (messages/materials understood).
Literally: what messages go out from the organisation or company? This is a quantified measure that can analyse the degree of exposure and audience reach, but can’t explain to what extent people’s opinions or behavior have been influenced.
Many PR plans produced by PR agencies are built around outputs. However, this isn’t the complete picture and doesn’t allow PR professionals to demonstrate the positive impact their work can have.
- news releases, background briefs, case studies and photographs issued and coverage monitored and evaluated;
- website launched and traffic analysis compiled;
- PR event staged and who and numbers of attendees;
- research survey conducted;
- extent to which messages are received by the desired customer and client segment;
- analysis of media coverage achieved; and
- online tracking of comments and feedback with customers and clients.
This is perhaps the most important element of any PR programme – and the toughest to satisfy.
Measuring outcomes should be the focus of PR measurement, so that the positive impact on the organisation’s objectives can be clearly articulated. Measuring outcomes is about understanding the degree to which PR has changed people’s awareness, opinion and very importantly, their behavior.
This is the most valuable form of measurement – for example:
- tangible incremental increase in sales;
- focus groups confirm a shift in behavior, rather than just purchase intention; and
- more brand advocates in this quarter compared with the previous quarter.
Outcome is the strongest basis for calculating the return on investment from PR activities. It’ss also a valuable source of information to be fed back into the research, planning and measurement process for next time.
Ardi Kolah is author of High Impact Marketing That Gets Results published by Kogan Page. Order your copy today and get a 30% discount by adding the code VOCUS30 on check-out.