A Framework for Public Relations Measurement

A Framework for Public Relations Measurement

Public relations is a notoriously difficult field in which to quantify success. After all, public relations practitioners are in the business of cultivating relationships and building trust, which are difficult metrics to measure. In order to prove value to the client, however, public relations firms need to directly correlate PR tactics with client success. When compared to advertising firms or other creative agencies, public relations organizations often find themselves lacking in metrics and data.

Traditionally, public relations efforts have been measured with a more qualitative bent. Historical key performance indicators include impressions, press clipping reviews, advertising value equivalency, audience surveys and focus groups. While these measurement tools can provide valuable insights, it’s difficult to extract quantifiable data that can be used to identify trends, make yearly comparisons and prove the effect of public relations on a business’ bottom line.

In the last decade, there has been movement in the international communications community to come up with a new, semi-standardized way to measure public relations tactics. In 2010, a group of industry professionals met in Barcelona for a symposium hosted by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) and created the Barcelona principles. AMEC is the world’s largest trade body representing communications research, measurement and insights. These principles were updated in 2015 at the same summit, and are a good reminder for all of us in the industry.

These principles are not hard and fast rules, but rather intended as a framework for evaluating effective public relations campaign. The seven principles for an effective communication measurement campaign are:

  1. Goal setting and measurement are fundamental to communication and PR
    • Goals should be as quantitative as possible and address who, what, when and how much impact is expected from a public relations campaign. Both traditional and social media should be measured.
  1. Measuring communication outcomes is recommended vs. only measuring outputs
    • Overall clip counts and impressions don’t give the full public relations picture. Media measurement should account for impressions among stakeholder audiences and quality, including tone, credibility of the source and media outlet, message delivery, inclusion of third-party spokespeople, prominence, and visual dimension.
  1. Advertising Value Equivalency is not the value of communication
    • Although advertising value equivalency has been a public relations standard for many years, current industry leaders agree that advertising value equivalency is at best unhelpful and at worst misleading. Most industry leaders agree that this metric should not be used to measure a campaign.
  1. Social media can and should be measured consistently with other media channels
    • Social media measurement tools have evolved to a point where there is greater potential for consistent measurement on engagement that looks at both quantity and quality. Social media can be measured through analytic tools provided by social media platforms or through third-party companies.
  1. Measurement and evaluation require both qualitative and quantitative methods
    • A broad scope of measurement tactics should include qualitative and quantitative measures.
  1. The effect on organizational performance can and should be measured
    • It’s important to view results through a three-pronged approach:
      • Brand Impact– How public relations impact brand perception across awareness, mindshare and brand advocacy?
      • Digital Impact – how did the coverage influence audience and traffic growth of digital assets?
      • Conversions –  Did the PR campaign create brand advocates?
  1. Measurement and evaluation should be transparent, consistent and valid
    • No matter what methods agencies choose to implement, tactics should always be conducted in a way that that is transparent and replicable for all steps in the process.

Using the above guidelines while planning a public relations campaign helps set appropriate expectations for the client and sets PR organizations up for success. For help implementing these principles in your next strategic communications or media relations campaign, give us a call!