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PR Evaluation - A Practical Approach

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Experts suggest that 10 percent of the PR budget should be devoted to evaluation. That is a lot of resources, especially for a small budget PR programme. But with clear objectives it should be possible to devise common-sense measures of return on investment and the real impact of a campaign.

  1. Think beyond budget. The reason to evaluate is not to justify the budget, but to assess that a campaign, its process and methodology are producing results.
  2. Back to basics – set goals and objectives. Unless objectives are explicit and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely), then it is not possible to devise a meaningful form of evaluation.
  3. Select key performance indicators based on campaign aims. KPI’s should reflect the goals – so think about creating tangible outcomes wherever possible.
  4. Use surveys to measure soft issues. Even with soft issues, where the aim may be to influence attitudes and shape opinions, rather than immediately change behaviour, pre and post campaign research can indicate how opinion is moving.
  5. Build in tangibles. For marketing based campaigns build in a response channel that can be monitored – an advice line, dedicated e-mail channel, web site landing pages, response form for information, and so on.
  6. Monitor traditional media. Sign up a good media monitoring company, brief them thoroughly, and keep them in the loop about what you are issuing, when and to whom.
  7. Monitor digital media. Sign up a specialist new media monitoring company who can monitor web appearances for you and also, if required, review newsgroups, blogs and RSS feeds.
  8. Google and DIY. If you don’t sign up a new media specialist then you can at least DIY by selecting key words and phrases that you can search on Google or other web search engines pre and post PR campaign to see how your clients ownership of and ranking against these key concepts has changed. Also, Google provides a free ‘Alerts’ service where you set a keyword and Google will notify you of new appearances on the web. Other services include Google Analytics which is easy to add to you web site to produce traffic statistics. Web landing pages can be use to capture traffick resulting from specific promotions. Google is constantly changing its search results methodology so it is always good to check the company’s latest guidance regarding good practice.
  9. Multiple objectives may require multiple measurement tools. Where a campaign has mixed objectives you may need differing evaluation techniques for each. There may be a need to combine both quantitative and qualitative measurement techniques. Again this reinforces the case for keeping the objectives clear and simple.
  10. Borrow budget. In many cases behaviour will be subject to multiple influences – PR, advertising, direct mail, incentives, sales activity, and so on. This is a good reason for the cost of evaluation to come from a general marketing pot, rather than just the PR budget.
  1. Don’t take all the responsibility. PR doesn’t directly drive sales and profitability. Though clients will let you take heroic responsibility for this, explain that you are the messenger and others usually carry this forward to action. Measure the PR contribution, not that of others.
  2. Don’t neglect accuracy. Media monitoring is time consuming. Don’t cut corners. Acting on inaccurate information will impede good decision making.
  3. Don’t rush to judgement. Many traditional media have a natural cycle that spans many months and opinion shifts often happen slowly. While it is tempting to seek an early measure of campaign effectiveness, the true impact may not be measurable until several months or more have passed.
  4. Don’t rely exclusively on monitoring services. Do additional media research over and above that provided by the media monitoring service. If you discover they are missing references, let them know and agree with them measures to improve their performance.
  5. Don’t believe in magic bullets. There is no single evaluation technique that meets all needs.

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