Public relations measurement is as complex as the measurement of management. However, what is evident is that this measurement is very important because the clients are not only interested but are mostly required to make confirmation of their PR budgets rationality. Research to evaluate PR effectiveness belongs to an evaluation field which offers methodologies that are intended to examine the program activities by use of a general systems analysis standard model. In other words, one will carefully examine the various PR program components; input, transformation and output.
According to the United States Institute for Public Relations (IPR) and Commission on PR Measurement, there is no all-encompassing technique which can be relied on in public relations measurement. This commission has put in place guidelines for measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of PR activities and activities that one or several of the following techniques should be used:
> Content analysis
> Internet publications analysis
> Research to evaluate trade show effectiveness, and the effectiveness of similar other corporate events
> Research by use of quasi-experimental design and experimental design and their methods; in polling and surveys, role playing, focus groups, etc.
The commission for PR measurement recommends the following 5-part process for evaluation of a public relations measurement program.
> Setting PR goals and objectives which are specific and measurable
> Measuring the PR outputs (short-term results) such as the way media reports some particular event
> Measuring the PR outtakes, that is the awareness of the target group after completion of the PR program
> Measuring the PR outcomes, in terms of public opinion changes
> Measuring the organizational and/or business outcomes.
In practice, simpler public relations measurement methods are often used, mostly the AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) method, relating the PR activity to total sales, and based on the quantity of reported print media articles. The AVE works by simply taking all media reports which the PR activity has generated and then calculating their equivalent cost as though they had been placed as advertisements, then compares that to inputted costs of PR activities. The AVE method is still used by various firms across the world. However, some other PR firms and media monitoring service providers apply other techniques because its limitation is evident in this method. Conclusions as to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of PR based on only AVE method are questionable because it is not possible to purchase most of the media time and print space which good PR generates. It is because of this that some PR practitioners have adopted the following other techniques of public relations measurement:
> Publicity results – the ability of generating clips for the clients
> advertising equivalency measures for evaluating the publicity placements
> Audience sentiment and public opinion measurements – this is done through surveys, polls, and focus groups, which are generally time consuming but have the advantage of providing primary information and the real situation on the ground.
> Benchmarking – comparing their results with that of other PR firms
> ‘Share of voice’ measurements which involves comparison of the results of the press to the results that are generated by their competitors.
By finding the public relations measurement technique that fits your overall marketing plan will be of the most use to gauge the effectiveness of your current campaigns and those of the future. Ensure your PR measurement firm is willing to meet your requirements.