Is Public Relations Worthwhile?
Probably the biggest challenge PR professionals face is proving to their bosses or clients that they’re making progress and that they’re being successful. The reason? Proof. Unlike marketers, who may employ coupons or BOGO deals to drive trackable sales to the store or website, proving inroads on ROI is more difficult, even if the result was getting positive coverage on the 6pm news.
AVE, or average value equivalent, has been one way PR folks have tried to validate their success. This basically translates to the equivalent of what a PR promotion that was covered by the media would have cost, had the company taken out an ad on TV or in the daily paper. The fallacy in that yard stick is that the 1 million people who watched the news likely don’t represent 100% or even a majority of the brand’s target audience.
Another traditional way people measured PR was linked to numbers. Whether it was a headcount of those attending an event, the number of calls to the customer center or how many media outlets republished the brand’s press release, it came down to numbers.
However, depending on numbers as a measure of success can’t last and is detrimental to the long-term success of a PR department. Still, it’s important to recognize the different things one can measure in PR. In an election, that’s rather simple. It’s the number of votes and particularly if it results in a victory for a client. If it’s a promotion, it could be the number of people who turn out at the store or go online to purchase a product using a special code. If it’s a crisis, it’s the satisfactory resolution to an issue.
It’s important for the future and the success of PR departments to sit down with senior leadership with agreed upon goals, and work on reaching consensus on what defines PR success. From there, it’s a matter of agreeing on how this success will be measured. The metrics may vary depending on the aim of the PR program.
PR and marketing often work collaboratively in the same department, which is a good thing. In areas where effort is mutually being made, credit for success should also be shared.
The Arrival of AI
The increasing advancements and popularity of AI add another tool to the kit. That, combined with human feedback, can provide even deeper insights and metrics for setting up KPIs (key performance indicators). It’s especially valuable when comparing similar PR campaigns against the competition. AI’s also valuable in not only delivering AVE, but also in allowing PR and marketing folks to analyze the effects of their output. By incorporating the right outputs in the brand’s measurement framework, the team can better determine what their target audience is doing with the outputs, as well as seeing what behavioral or opinion changes might be attributed to these outputs.
What to Look For
Some of the things to measure and look for are signs that customer trust in the brand has increased and that there’s a heightened awareness of the brand. Others could include a rise in customer loyalty or improved opinion of the brand.
Focus on the metrics that address the brand’s overall objectives and install a measurement framework that speaks to them. Most importantly, single out a relationship between the impact of the brand’s PR and communications and its media outputs to be able to show senior staff its effectiveness via evidence of consumer behavior and, of course, revenue.