Addressing the problems of traditional methods and how to deliver meaningful insight

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Comms teams have long faced a challenge when demonstrating the value they deliver to a business or organization. It’s widely accepted that PR measurement needs to demonstrate how activities actually add value to a business rather than just showing that coverage reached a lot of people.

But finding the right metrics is only half the battle. There is an emerging need for communications strategies based on insights and comms teams face a challenge when it comes to extracting and visualizing them.

To solve these issues, we’ve launched a new set of AI-powered real time data visualization tools and analytics. With a new way to plan and strategize, horizon scan, and report, comms teams will no longer have to simply monitor the news landscape. You can read more on Dashboards here.

Solving the problem of measuring Public Relations

PR metrics need to be aligned to the specific goals of a business or organization in order to demonstrate the value of communications activity.

A piece of coverage is not valuable if it merely exists. It only has value if it achieves an intended outcome, whether that intended outcome be:

  • increased sales
  • improvement in reputation
  • more recognition of a brand, or
  • attraction of new talent.

Successful PR teams understand the goals of the business or organization they represent and ensure those goals lead the work they carry out. Equally, they ensure the metrics they report actually demonstrate whether their work has been successful in relation to those goals.

For example, more coverage does not necessarily mean an improved reputation. An analysis of sentiment in regard to the news coverage and reaction to it is vital to decide if reputation has been improved.

More brand mentions do not necessarily mean more sales. There is a necessity to prove a correlation between a peak in brand mentions and a peak in consumers either making a purchase or showing intent to do so.

It would be far more simple to simply say that a PR campaign that is intended to drive sales can be deemed a success if more sales follow the campaign. But, in reality, that is too simplistic. Many things may impede a sale being made even if the PR function has done its job well. Poor customer service or poor website function being just two of them.

It is intricacies such as these that lead PR professionals and businesses to stumble as they try to come up with new success measures for PR. Some even become convinced it is not possible to honestly measure the value of PR, but that isn’t the case. Just because the job of quantifying PR value is complex it does not mean it should not be done. Tools now exist to make it possible where once it was an uphill struggle.

How to improve PR measurement and evaluation

Putting time and effort into developing the right metrics for campaigns will allow PR teams to demonstrate real value and ensure that efforts are properly targeted to achieve valuable business goals rather than pointless data objectives.

The metrics chosen need to align with organizational goals – and they must change as an organization’s goals and strategy changes.

Metrics need to show what an audience is doing with outputs such as:

  • Click-throughs to website
  • Engagement with social media posts
  • Comments on articles

But they should also show what behavior or opinion change in an audience can be attributed to outputs.

Demonstrating and proving this correlation is more difficult, but it is achievable. Avoiding doing it because it is challenging can do real harm to a business and to PR teams.

One example of a way to see how opinion has changed may be to run a reputation survey before and after a PR campaign. A correlation in a change of sentiment or awareness of a brand may not be definitively attached to a PR campaign, but could be reasonably assumed.

This can all only be achieved with the right tools to fully monitor media and interrogate sentiment in order to show outcomes and turn data into insight.

AVE remains a problem

The Barcelona Principles, which set out best practice on PR measurement, were updated for the third time in 2020. The first iteration of the principles in 2010 sought to discredit AVE. Yet, the 2020 update still mentions, as one of its seven main points, the need to end reliance on it.

Advertising Value Equivalent continues to be used because PRs struggle to find an alternative that is easy to understand and present in commercial terms.

With AVE it seems simple to demonstrate that a specific piece of news coverage is valuable because, had it been paid for as an advert, it would have cost far more. That, however, doesn’t tell the whole story.

‘So what?’ if media coverage cost less than advertising if it did not also deliver something worthy. What we need are metrics that cannot be met with ‘so what?’ when presented to CEOs.

By failing to come up with proper metrics for public relations, businesses may fail to invest in it and that could be a huge mistake. Equally, by measuring PR teams based on flawed metrics you incentivize running campaigns that are focused on hitting targets that don’t necessarily add real value to the business.

This can happen widely when AVE is used alone. PR teams are forced to focus on getting as much media coverage as possible regardless of whether that coverage appears in places where the target audience of the business can be reached, as discussed in our whitepaper on measuring the impact of PR.

Four ways to measure PR

Communications teams need to take ownership of coming up with worthwhile PR metrics that align to organizational goals. Broad brush, standardized metrics are unlikely to deliver maximum value. When goals change, the metrics used to show success will need to change.

Examples of valuable metrics are:

  • For brand awareness – An increase in the amount of a target audience group that has heard of a brand.
  • For reputation improvement – An increase in the number of a target audience or stakeholder group that feels positively about a brand.
  • For sales increases – Following a PR campaign an increase in traffic to a website or product page / increased footfall to a store / increase in actual sales.

To show any of the above, you first need to show that a PR campaign has reached an audience via media monitoring. Then you must carry out further evaluation to demonstrate how that coverage may have contributed to business goals. It may be that a survey of stakeholders is needed before and after a campaign in order to demonstrate a change in attitude or awareness, for example. This is all part of creating a framework for success.

Here we take a look at some of the tools and methods to gather data depending on what metrics are being used within your own success framework.

Showing peaks in traffic to a website following a media campaign. Demonstrating exactly where that traffic has come from in cases where there is a link within the coverage.

Readers inspired to visit your brand’s website by a piece of earned media coverage may use a search engine rather than clicking a link in the copy, even when there is one.

In those cases, it’s not possible to make a direct connection, but a correlation between increased web traffic and media coverage can be drawn.

PR Measurement tool/method Further explanation of the PR measurement tool/method and what it is useful for Limitations / things to consider in relation to this method of PR measurement
Google analytics

Showing peaks in traffic to a website following a media campaign.

Demonstrating exactly where that traffic has come from in cases where there is a link within the coverage.

Readers inspired to visit your brand’s website by a piece of earned media coverage may use a search engine rather than clicking a link in the copy, even when there is one.
In those cases, it’s not possible to make a direct connection, but a correlation between increased web traffic and media coverage can be drawn.
Media monitoring for brand mentions

While quantitative data – in terms of how often PR materials such as press releases have been used – only tell part of the story, it is still a vital first step to gather those figures.

It is also vital to assess the sentiment of that coverage.

With the relentless nature of media and social media output in the modern world, Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools are required to effectively and efficiently gather all of the media coverage from a campaign and to analyze sentiment in relation to it.
Media coverage quality rating

Creating a system whereby earned coverage is given a score (based on how useful it is in delivering a goal), helps to differentiate between quantity and quality of coverage.

Coverage in a publication that is closely aligned to a target audience would get a higher score than coverage in a more generalized publication, for example.

It will take time to develop this system and there could be some subjectivity in relation to what qualifies for a high score.
Salience / message resonance reporting Analysis of media coverage to demonstrate if specific messages are included and conveyed in the intended way. Without appropriate media monitoring tools this could be time-consuming. High quality AI tools allow monitoring that will identify and create alerts and reporting on the salience of news and reports and whether key spokespeople appear.

How to visualize insights from PR measurement with Dashboards

Dashboards enables comms leaders to answer the questions they are now expected to answer, rather than just report on outdated metrics and coverage reporting. You may have come across questions such as these before:

  • How is my brand being perceived?
  • What trends, threats and opportunities are emerging in my market?
  • Are our PR, comms and corporate activities driving positive or negative perception?
  • How is our perception & reputation changing over time, and how are our business activities impacting our reputation?

The new range of visualized insights helps answer these questions. Dashboards also removes the need for manual analysis enabling teams to report to stakeholders as frequently as needed. Communications teams can now help their C-suite and board members look beyond their immediate ecosystem and consider what other opportunities or risks might be on the horizon, by training up the platform to spot emerging themes or trends associated with the business, ahead of time. With the ability to share these learnings in real-time, comms leaders can support decision making at the most critical junctures.

[Webinar] Using AI to address PR’s measurement problems

With AI removing the need for manual analysis, Dashboards enables users to report to stakeholders as frequently as needed. Dashboards is already being used by some of the world’s largest organizations to great success. You can join our 30-minute webinar to find out:

  • How to save time on manual analysis with instant data and actionable insights
  • How to create and share real-time insights to support decision making
  • How a leading tech and social media company uses Dashboards to track share of voice across multiple regions
  • How an innovative engineering firm demonstrates ROI on the PR team’s efforts on projects around climate change
  • How one of the world’s largest retailers is able to measure perception across ESG topics such as sustainability, diversity and more

Join us for a live webinar on 10th December, when we’ll share how communications teams are already analyzing sentiment, perception and share of voice, and easily reporting on performance using Dashboards.

To find out how Signal AI Dashboards can give you actionable insights, register for the webinar or speak to one of our team by filling in the form on the right.