I recently attended a short seminar on how to measure the effectiveness of a public relations campaign.
Actually the program was given by a representative of a company that provides PR measurement services for corporations and public relations firms.
The luncheon was interesting but was more of a teaser to entice those in the audience to use those services. Though there wasn’t much new information given it did inspire some thought on how PR practitioners can create or design methods to measure their value to their company or client.
One audience member said they still use the cost comparison metric of measuring editorial inches secured against the cost of those inches in ad dollars. For example, if you purchase a ten inch ad in the daily newspaper the cost could be $100 an inch or $1,000 for the ad. Secure the same size article in the newspaper about your client and perhaps you charged $500 for your services, so you actually saved the client $500, right? Well that shouldn’t be the end, just the beginning.
If the article appeared in a place where ads do not run, say in a special section or above the fold, you can add more value. If the article included a photo of your CEO, client or new product you scored again. If the article mentioned only your client and no competitors add even more points. Finally if the article mentioned your key message points than circle all the bases, you hit a home run!
So what is that article worth now? $1,000, $5,000, $10,000? And there’s more to the story…
Case in point, I once helped place a full page article about an architectural firm in the daily newspaper. The article had several color photos and demonstrated the architectural firm’s design expertise. At the same time, the firm was being considered for a design/build project with a local school. The architects got the job. The president of the firm related to me that one of the reasons they got the assignment was due to that article. A member of the school’s board told him that if their firm was good enough for the newspaper, they were good enough for them.
That project was worth several million dollars to the architectural firm. So what was the value of the article. $10,000, $100,000, $1 million? What if the architects got other business from that school or received referrals for other projects from the school’s board members? Suddenly that article is worth even more.
And here is another example. Another client told me that an article we helped secure on one of his employees helped boost her confidence. Confidence? How do you measure that? What is the value of helping to improve one’s job performance? Is it $1,000, $5,000, $10,000? You get the point.
Another variable is the qualitative difference of a news article versus an ad. Despite recent studies to the contrary, readership of news content far outweighs that of an ad placement. This is a topic for another column but what would you rather have, a positive article on your firm in The Wall Street Journal or an ad in the Journal? The answer is obvious.
If public relations campaigns need to be measured than some tie-in with sales is necessary if at all possible. And by “sale” we mean anything that helps change an opinion about a product, company, candidate or service and helps someone purchase your client’s offerings over another. Depending on the point and scope of the campaign, if a sales rep closes a $1 million sale because of an article or 100 reps are able to increase sales by 10 per cent or more prospects want to see your new product, than this has to be communicated to upper management.
PR people need to be in touch with sales managers, and those in the field to ascertain what real impact the campaign is generating. Some of the results may be obvious, others may not.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but PR professionals can probably do a better job of demonstrating the value of that beauty to their CEOs and clients. And that value should never be shortchanged.