PR measurement is one of the most important elements of a solid communications strategy in 2022. Supporting PR decisions with data is no longer a luxury, but an expectation from the C-suite. Measuring helps you define, track and prove the success of communications.
However, in many cases, PR measurement continues to be unstructured, ad-hoc or an afterthought, and many communicators still consider it to be too complicated. Not surprisingly so — typically, PR pros don’t have data and measurement backgrounds or training.
As data science specialists for communications, in our new blog series on “Demystifying PR Measurement” we’d like to offer best practices and frameworks for setting communications goals, success metrics and processes that you can use even if you’re just starting out.
Create a plan with the end in mind
Starting with the end in mind is key not just for PR and communications, but also for business in general. If you don’t define from the get-go what success will look like, it’s difficult if not impossible to set the right goals, develop the right strategy and measure how well you’re doing.
This means that planning must be part of PR measurement, and measurement must be part of the plan. According to the AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) Integrated Evaluation Framework guidelines, planning ahead begins by asking two “big picture” questions:
- What is the human problem you’re trying to solve?
- What is the business impact you’re trying to achieve, and how can communications realistically contribute towards it?
Thinking about the core human problem you are trying to solve means reflecting on the rationale why your communication strategy is needed in the first place. Listen to your audiences and stakeholders — how do they define their key needs and challenges? What keeps them up at night? This will help you with not only framing a solution that’s most likely to resonate with them, but also telling your story in a way that speaks directly to your most important readers.
Next, consider the desired business impact of your communications plan. How you define it really depends on your industry, your business and how your organization measures its overall success. While traditional PR metrics like brand awareness and share of voice (SOV) are essential to evaluating performance, connecting communications efforts to tangible business impact has become equally, if not more, critical.
As a best practice, we recommend following the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework, which outlines four forms of PR measurement:
Source: AMEC website, https://amecorg.com/amecframework/
- Outputs: what you produce that is received by your target audiences, including the volume and quality of your media coverage, social posts, number of events and event attendance, and message pull-through.
- Out–takes: how your audiences respond and react to your communications outputs, such as shifts in attention, awareness, understanding, learning, interest, engagement and consideration.
- Outcomes: long-term influence of your communications on your target audience as a result of the out-takes, including attitude change, satisfaction, trust, preference, intention and advocacy.
- Impact: business impact of your communications with a direct contribution toward the organization’s goals as a result of your outputs, out-takes and outcomes, such as improved reputation, increased sales, change in policy, or improved social change.
Tie communications objectives to business goals
We have seen this best practice work really well for Onclusive clients over the years. Communications teams that have clear objectives tying into business goals and that use consistent metrics to assess their progress against those objectives not only have stronger results, but are also able to contribute to corporate strategy at the highest level.
“Measurement is the final ingredient to help PR realize its potential.”
~ Francis Ingham, PRCA Director General and ICCO Chief Executive, and Richard Bagnall, AMEC Chair and Global Strategy Consultant, Prime Research
As you are considering your communications objectives, take the time to review your organization’s overall business goals. Your executive team has likely set those around acquiring or retaining customers, winning market share, creating a new category, gaining meaningful brand engagement — or something else that is often connected to revenue targets.
The communications function should support organizational success in some way that is clear to you and your C-suite. Ask yourself: how can you align PR objectives for your brand with these business goals? For example:
- Website traffic and desired actions generated by earned and owned media can be tied to acquiring customers.
- Building relationships with media outlets that publish powerful educational stories resulting in new inquiries can be linked with creating a new category in your industry.
- Achieving a certain volume of article reader interactions, such as social shares, supports the goal of gaining meaningful brand engagement.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the PR Measurement Best Practices next week, where we’ll review measurement framework examples and tools you can use to measure communications effectiveness.
To see these best practices in action join Onclusive for the Demystifying PR Measurement webinar on March 30th. Our panel of senior communications leaders will discuss how being intentional about measurement has helped them become strategic advisors to the C-suite, share their success stories as a result of implementing their own PR measurement best practices in their organizations, and talk about their experience using data and technology to make it all happen.