How to measure the success of a PR campaign.
'If you can't measure it, don't do it' is British Telecom chairman Sir Iain Vallance's maxim. On that basis, however, few public relations programmes would ever get off the ground. Evaluation can help to gauge the effectiveness of a PR campaign. It is based on three steps: clear objectives, relevant methods and regular strategic reviews.
Businesses need to establish their objectives at the outset. They should be clear about what they hope to achieve in a business context, with whom they need to communicate (the end user, the immediate customer, or both) and what they want these people to read/hear/see about the company and its products or services.
Relevant evaluation works on three levels: First, message delivery is established by analysing media comment. It is not just a matter of counting the 'column inches' of coverage - an inch in some publications may carry more kudos than pages in others. Media comment should refer back to the business' key messages, which should have been communicated clearly and positively. Analyse what worked well, what didn't and why.
Second, message awareness requires qualitative or quantitative research among target audiences to establish overall audience response. This can be costly. Feedback can be built in to a PR programme such as hotline enquiries and requests for literature.
Third, a strategic review completes the virtuous circle by plugging the evaluation process back into the redefinition of objectives. A well-evaluated PR campaign tends to command an increasing share of the marketing budget.
Simple steps but following them still seems to be a challenge to even the largest of organisations. Aside from allowing the matching of resources to results, evaluation also confirms the potency of PR as a communications tactic at board level.
Jonathan Shore is director of the corporate division at Cohn & Wolfe PR, 0171 331 5300.