No more "brothel metrics": this and other advice on effective PR evaluation

27/10/2017 10:58:22
Intent on finding the Holy Grail of effective PR evaluation, Partners Group director Monica Green headed off to the PR Analytics conference in Manchester last month.

It’s always been a tricky subject: how do you know when a PR campaign has been successful?  The conference promised delegates they’d “Learn how to measure the outcome of PR and evaluate the impact of social media.”

Keynote speakers from Kellogg’s, The Co-op and The Met Office shared their measurement tools, which ranged from conducting YouGov polls and employing specialist research firms to social media engagement, audience reach and web traffic monitoring.

Align PR with business goals

The overriding message was that PR activity should aim to achieve a communications objective that will help to achieve a business goal. One example from Kellogg’s demonstrated how PR supported its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goal to eradicate hunger. The business has embarked on a series of activities including funding research and school breakfast clubs, lobbying government and supporting food banks. Kellogg’s undertakes research every two years to monitor the impact of the campaign on the company’s reputation, awareness levels and behavioural change among different target audiences – an indication that building a reputation or changing perceptions and behaviours can be a lengthy process.

Increasing sales

PR is often tasked with increasing sales, and it was interesting to hear a success story from one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives. The Co-op’s in-house communications team shared a case study of an integrated campaign, which led with PR, and aimed to attract one million new members and increase sales from those members. Focusing on its ethical values and support for local communities, the Co-Op donated £9 million to 4,000 local charities, nominated by members.

The organisation’s interim results in September 2017 show a 47% rise in pre-tax profits and over half a million new members recruited in the first half of the year.

Putting evaluation first

Evaluation is often seen as something to be completed at the end of a campaign. But for evaluation to be truly effective (and meaningful to a business objective), it must be considered at the start of a campaign and measured throughout.  “What does success look like?” must be discussed before a campaign is launched, and the current baseline position should be determined before the campaign starts.

You will no doubt have heard people say that objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely – or variations thereof), so if the aim is to increase awareness or sales by X%, then we need to know the starting point: i.e. current awareness and/or sales levels.  The cost of pre- and post-campaign evaluation should be factored into the PR budget.

Quality not quantity

Richard Bagnall, board director of AMEC told delegates to avoid “vanity” or “brothel” metrics – those “quick, easy and dirty” numbers that may appear impressive but don’t really mean anything.  It might make you feel good to have huge numbers of social media likes, but if those followers don’t engage with and share your content in a positive way then it’s unlikely your objectives are being met.

New evaluation tool

Industry body for communication measurement and evaluation AMEC has launched a new integrated evaluation tool designed to help organisations and their PR agencies to work together to agree business and communications objectives, and plan effective campaigns with evaluation built in from the very beginning.

Using this model as a framework from the very outset of a campaign will help ensure that you have the key components for more robust and effective evaluation built in at the campaign design stage.

Final thoughts from the day

  • Don’t just count things; measure what matters.

  • Define success early. Plan.

  • Align PR objectives to your organisational goals.

  • Resist the temptation to use Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs). They tell you nothing about engagement.

  • Prove value by moving from outputs to outcome metrics.

  • Use the AMEC framework and resource centre.

  • Don’t fear measurement, embrace it.

Our thanks to PRMoment who organised the event.