The value of PR – Do you judge with your head or your heart?
In common with every other industry, PR is embracing analytics with enthusiasm. Finally we can prove that we make a difference. We’ve gone from access to circulation figures and reader profiles (if we were lucky), to views, likes and shares of an individual story. Beyond that we also have a plethora of tools that track everything from who clicks on a link, to the level of engagement on social media, to how a campaign has impacted SEO. If you want to know more about the tools and techniques that can help you track every interaction with your company that has been supported by PR, then I would recommend talking to Andrew Smith, as he knows exactly how to capture that data for little cost beyond your time.
However, measuring the value of PR isn’t as simple as tracking audience behaviours online. PR objectives are never just about making your company easier to find by associating you with a keyword on Google or driving demand for a new product or service. How do you measure the impact of PR when it smooths the path to sale in a prospect meeting? Or boosts employee enthusiasm for the vision of the company? The impact is also not always immediate but builds over time.
Measuring through gut feel as well as the numbers - Three steps to demonstrating PR value:
Stakeholder views – Although it’s probably not specifically listed in the AMEC Guide, one of the most powerful outcomes is comments from stakeholders. As the new year closes in, businesses are planning for 2018 with clients and reviewing what has worked in 2017. The board will be far more impressed if the CEO says they are hearing from the sales team that the latest PR campaign has really changed perceptions of the company – rather than reading a metrics-based report noting that search rankings have improved and there were more clips than last year.
Find a way to capture sentiment – the danger of focusing too much on the numbers is that analysis that comes from the heart rather than the head is missed. Are you spending enough time with management understanding business strategy and converting that into a comms plan? Is it working? How are you recording that? Testimonials are a crucial part of PR when it comes to external comms but internal testimonials shared internally are just as valuable. How have customers and prospects reacted to PR campaigns? How have those campaigns made an employee’s job easier?
Critique to improve - At the end of a year part of my job is to communicate to clients what we’ve achieved, but it’s more important for me to hear how PR has helped a business. I also want to know exactly where it is not working. For example, are we commenting too much on a topic and therefore skewing perception of a business? It may have been an objective at the beginning of the year to get more coverage on that topic but there can be too much of good thing. The business will appreciate critical analysis rather than just outlining the delivery of results, even if those results do meet the objectives set for the year. Value has to be measured in terms of how people think and act and sometimes that is through the gut feel of those in the company that are interacting with those people.
The gut feel of the leaders of the company is not only key to successfully measuring value. A passion from the business for PR also encourages agencies to think more creatively, develop bolder campaigns and therefore deliver increased value. If you are using your head to measure value, you will purely consider how much PR has benefitted the business, yet the most effective campaigns are those where value is felt beyond metrics – indeed my favourite client comment this year was a slightly tongue in cheek ‘you’ve made my mum so proud’!