How Do We Measure Public Relations?
Public relations is a management function that primary deals with maintenance of a favourable relationship between an organization and its publics. This function could be achieved through an in-house PR unit or by engaging the services of a PR agency. No matter which one is involved, PR goals are achieved through specific campaign programmes targeted at the publics. Organizations that pay for services of PR people want to be sure that they are not wasting money. This means that they always want to know whether the PR programmes and actions they are funding actually have the expected positive effect on their organization. This is why PR programmes are evaluated after implementation. The process of evaluating PR programmes to know whether they were effective or not and the extent of effect they had is what we refer to when we say we want to measure PR.
First of all what do we measure in PR?
We measure public relations campaign plans and objectives. To measure PR simply means to evaluate PR efforts, campaign, programmes and objectives. But when you hear “how do we measure PR” it sounds strange to you. No need to be confused. It simply means how do I effectively evaluate the PR efforts I have made.
You need to have clear PR objectives so that you can have what to effectively measure. If you have meaningful objectives you can measure whether they were effective or not. If for instance, before setting out on a PR campaign one of your objectives could be to improve organizational image/patronage through sponsorship of campus programmes. After sponsoring programmes done by University students on specific campus such as students’ week, cultural day, seminars and exhibitions, you then evaluate or measure the outcome of these activities. That is what it means when we say we want to measure PR. It means we want to know whether the public relations activities we did were effective, that is, whether they had the expected effect on our company or our business, depending on the objective.
Why do we measure PR programmes, objectives and campaigns?
We measure PR to ascertain whether the campaign objectives were achieved. Organisations always want to know whether the money they are spending on public relations is worth it. They want to be sure they are not wasting money. They want to know the most cost-effective PR campaign so as to drop the cost-ineffective ones. A cost effective PR campaign programme is the one that money spent on it is worthwhile; that is, after spending the money you see the value on the organisation’s activities, not the one that you finish spending money and nothing tangible happens in terms of positive image to the organization or business patronage. So we measure PR to confirm that your PR efforts, the PR campaigns you spent money on are effective strategies; you measure PR to find out errors you made in planning or packaging the campaign in order to correct such in future campaigns; you measure PR to plan for the future; that is, how do I do a better campaign in future in order to eliminate confusion in campaign programme implementation, waste of fund and wrong planning?
So how do we measure PR?
In another way this question is asking “how do we evaluate Public Relations activities, campaign objectives?”
Several authors have listed ways of effectively evaluating PR. But one thing you should bear in mind is that the basic way to measure PR is through research. That is why we say that every PR campaign begins and ends with research. So to measure PR you engage in fact-finding mission to find out whether the efforts you made, whether those campaign activities were effective in creating a good impression of your organization. You cannot really tie PR to product sales because there are other factors that affect product purchase. But you can use any of the research techniques to find out whether your PR efforts brought people to point of purchase, or made them have a positive impression of your organization’s products. Still using our example, after sponsoring campus activities (sponsorship is our PR campaign programme) you have to ask questions on the impression of students about your company or products. You can use survey research method to do this. You can even do a content analysis of social media platforms to know what is now said about your company. You are checking the outcome of your PR campaign to know whether it succeeded, whether there are errors to correct in future, or whether you even used the wrong PR programme. So you evaluate your PR effort over time through effective monitoring of the outcome using any of the research techniques you know. You are now trying to answer specific questions: has awareness been created? Do people now have positive impression of our organization? What is media coverage of our organization like? Has negative attitude about of people towards our brand transformed to positive attitude? Has the effect of the damaging information planted in the media against us been neutralized? What you are measuring depends on the objective of the PR campaign you did. Use any research or data gathering technique to do this – survey, content analysis, in-depth interview, Focus Group Discussion, observation method, among others.