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Understanding PR Evaluation

What is PR evaluation?

Public Relations (PR) evaluation is the research and measurement of the effectiveness of a PR campaign (story, activity etc.) and its strategy against the objectives and outputs set at the outset of the campaign. So for example, you may want to achieve more brand awareness, or more social media engagements of your article in the local press.

Why do I need to evaluate the effectiveness of PR?

PR is about managing your reputation and therefore evaluating, whether your brand reputation is being well received by your target audience which is highly important to your businesses success. By creating well crafted PR campaigns, the goal is to increase and influence your target markets understanding, support and adoption of your brand in preference to others. It’s about growing goodwill and respect between you and the public, and sustaining and growing that relationship. 

We have all seen examples of when a well respected brand is destroyed through bad PR. For example in 1991, Gerald Ratner, the CEO of Ratners Jewellers (which was a large £100m plus business with over 800 shops in the UK and US), created a PR crisis which caused the business to close over 300 stores. What caused this? At an event he was speaking at (Institute of Directors) he publicly declared his own products as “total crap”. Now if you were a customer of Ratners and brought their goods, how would you react? And yes of course, that was the result, and to this day he still suffers from the reminders of that ‘flippant’ comment made nearly 30 years ago. 

Example of great PR can be found with Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll in 2019. They did their market research and identified they were missing a market trend from their product range; vegan options. They researched the products and tested the tastes, and then launched the product with a highly inventive and strategically actioned PR campaign across all platforms and channels, sending out samples to press, influencers, positioning the product cleverly to replicate the iPhone’s packaging when sent out to journalists (see here but scroll down, believe it or not they are number 4 in the list). 

We remember watching the TV and hearing about it on the radio. Now we’re not saying you need to spend such money but using research and thinking creatively can really help to create good PR results. In this case it increased share prices, increased sales and helped them to lead the market.

What benefits will my business see from PR evaluation?

You can view the benefits of PR here (link to PR page), but you need to understand the power and impact of these benefits to your business. Everything from brand awareness to lead generation should impact on your bottom line in the long run, otherwise why do it? But with marketing it can be hard to keep track of the way in which these touch points (so advertising, PR, social media etc.) impact on the final sales and success of the business. That is where evaluation comes in.

Evaluation can benefit you by understanding these sometime less tangible impacts:

Increases in credibility

Due to the nature of PR being earned, it is often regarded as more “credible” by readers/viewers. Think about your own experiences of watching the news or flicking through your social media streams. As much as there are the issues with fake news, people still believe more, what is said about a product or service if it is not from the brand directly (even if that’s perception rather than the reality). 

S. H Simmons – a US Author and Public speaker once said:

“If the young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s PR.

And I think that helps illustrate the power of someone else’s recommendation.

Increased share of voice/authority of voice

This refers to your impact in the sector/marketplace compared to other brands, this can also reflect on the authority of the voice of your brand to which can be very influential for audiences. With PR you are reinforcing any paid activities with external verifications of your messaging. This increases the acceptance of the message by the audience.

Increased brand influence and recall

With methods of evaluation, such as looking at mentions, you can get proper statistics and feedback on the impact of your PR. As with the share of voice, PR supports and reinforces the messaging from paid PR and accesses wider external networks to increase your market reach. This helps increase exposure of your brand and messaging to people outside of your network and also helps increase the opportunities for your brand to be viewed. It takes 6-20 times for a brand to be recalled, according to Microsoft (link to Microsoft research) and PR can help increase the opportunities (insert link to our brand page).

Enables you to hear what people really think about you

Using PR can often enable you to monitor how people receive your messages and react to them in an open way. As the media is earned and therefore free, the interpretation of the content is down to the reviewer and the viewer. So evaluating PR can really help you assess if the perception of your brand/product/service/message is positive or negative.

Create research insights

Due to the perception and open review of your business that PR can offer, it can often help identify repeating patterns or trends in the comments, which could lead to improvements or new products or services, you may not have thought about before. So for example, if you released a new phone, that received positive feedback, but a reoccurring comment in the mentions was; “It is great, but I wish it had a better camera/it was smaller/the battery lasted longer.” These are insights you would normally have to pay for with official market research, but here they are free!

Supports your paid activities

This is (normally) a cost-effective way of supporting the paid marketing activities to drive leads and conversions. 

How do I evaluate and measure our PR?

You can set your goals and objectives for evaluating your PR’s success through a number of different ways, some of which are below:

Press Clippings and Media Impressions

This is a very traditional way of measuring PR. This refers to the number of times your company, brand, service or product is mentioned in the press. Predominantly this has usually referred to printed media publications, but now should include online based publications and sources. 

You can count any mentions, in any press, but to accurately understand the PR’s success, you also need to assess whether these mentions are read or reviewed by your targeted audience (you should have identified where to find your audiences by successfully targeting your market, link to page). If your PR is mentioned in the right places for them, then that is an indicator of a successful campaign.

Website Traffic

The point of any PR is to stimulate interest in your product or service, whether this is directly or indirectly. Therefore, it’s always wise to ensure you make an assessment of your web traffic prior to the PR campaign and then compare it post the PR release. 

The piece may be driving calls to action (CTA’s), such as looking at a particular product or trying a sample or generating an enquiry, and all these can be monitored through the website’s analytics, such as Google Analytics in real time. You may see differences in your results, versus what you expect. 

All this information will provide valuable insight in to your customers behaviour, not just for the purpose of PR but also influencing the effect of your campaigns, or even highlighting website usability issues (link to website usability page).

Social Media Mentions

Like with online publications and press mentions, this is also about capturing any social media comment abut your business service or product. This is more around focusing on the conversations about your brand. 

This is the additional benefit of good PR. Monitoring these mentions, tells you what people are saying about you when you’re not in the room and allows you to see what people really think of your brand and the way your PR was perceived, be that positively or negatively.  

You can easily review mentions through online platforms such as “Mention (link)” and “Buzzomo (link)” which can help highlight who is talking about you, where and why. These platforms can help you set up notification reports and allow you to capture information.   

Email Responses, YouTube Channels, Social Media Channels

PR can also be promoted through your email database, YouTube if you use it and social media channels. Not obvious to some as PR, but it’s still an earned media; you have worked to establish that database and this is an opportunity to use it. There are many ways you can monitor the effectiveness of this, such as:

  • Click through rates (CTR’s) – the number of people who for example click through to your website.
  • Conversion rate – the number of people who click through and complete actions (i.e. clicking a phone number, purchasing or completing a form).
  • Media sharing or forwarding rates – percentage of people who clicked on share or forwarded on.
  • Engagements – this is mentions, comments, reactions to social shares.

Lead Sourcing

As referred to under website traffic, a well crafted PR campaign should directly impact on the sales or engagements you have with your target audience. These are the calls to action (CTA’s) coming in to play. Any PR should stimulate some form of lead generation and working closely with your sales team is key to make sure PR works for this purpose, as well as the overall brand awareness. Also working with the sales teams you establish a baseline of leads prior to the PR release and post release, and establish ways of recording whether the PR was a stimulating fact to any up turn in the sales enquiries.

Market Surveys

Before constructing your PR or any marketing, you should start with the research. This can be done through assessing the market with surveys, questionnaires or interviews online or in-person. These activities can help assess where you are now, in terms of brand awareness or, potential customer intention to buy the service or product for example. This will then set a benchmark and you can repeat the research after the PR campaign, to see if there is a marked difference. You can even include questions to see if the PR campaign was seen or noticed.

If you would like us to support your existing PR evaluation free of charge, along with producing recommendations to improve performance get in touch here.

What else do I need to know?

Although PR is earned media and by its nature, unpaid promotion, there is still an associated cost. It takes time and effort and this is a cost in itself. Also, any promotion activities, events, packaging (see the Greggs example above) cost too. So measuring Return on Investment (ROI) is important. Without this how do you know if the money you are spending is worth it?

A simple equation for PR ROI is:

Total Spend on PR (Public Relations)/ Total Revenue x 100= % Return On Investment (ROI)

At Need to Know Marketing we love providing information for SME’s so they can grow. We also understand this work can be time consuming and difficult to begin with. To assist you, we provide a free of charge one hour consultation, where we have an open discussion about your business objectives and what you’re looking to achieve.

Following the consultation we will provide you with a marketing strategy, advising how we recommend meeting your business objectives through marketing. If you are interested in knowing the cost of our services, you can use our calculator as a guide.

“Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”

Walt Disney knew telling a story is always always easier with pictures. It crosses all barriers. The best story tellers are always the best at engaging their audience.