Public Relations measurement presents practitioners with the issue of measuring the true value of the efforts that they have put in, in building a reputation of a particular brand. Some aspects maybe measured and some so called professionals rely on the invalid method of calculating the ‘advertising value equivalency’ (AVE) and some are even more old-school to count the ‘number of hits’ they have received from a particular media related activity. In reality there are some aspects that constitute activities within Public Relations that cannot be quantified at all. While a lot has been said and discussed about measuring the true value of media relations, it has been very well established that there are certain things that cannot be measured as of today. I am listing down three examples of what can and cannot be measured when it comes to measuring efforts by Public Relations activities and then explaining them.
|Activity||What can be measured?||What cannot be measured?|
|Print article||Reach of an article in print media||Reach of the article to the ‘Right Audience’ and AVE|
|Online article and
|Reach of a blog/article online||Overlap of offline & online readers and impact created by social media|
|Pure play PR activity:
offline & online engagement
|Output||Percentage of outcome due to the output produced|
- Reach and AVE of an article in print:
When measuring the value of a media outreach effort from output in a print article one can certainly measure the size of the article. But there is also a possibility, that the person reading that publication, is not the target audience for the brand. So it becomes impossible for a PR manager/brand manager to measure if it has reached the right audience. A peculiar example can be of an article that is meant to be for a student in 10th grade- while the family may have purchased/subscribed to the particular publication, but one can never really know if the targeted student has actually come across that article.
AVE is one of the most commonly used words when it comes to public relations measurement. Professionals in the business are aware that it does not really measure any value. In an ideal situation when an article has got all the desired elements of the right key messages, the right tone one may still measure it but then that public relations measurement is for tone and key messages. Moreover there are other factors that makes AVE highly inaccurate like the appropriate value of the multiplier, impact of an advertisement v/s a news article, no account of target audience, no such thing as negative AVE. These statements make AVE redundant.
- Reach and Impact of a PR activity done online:
There was a point in time when efforts spent on online activities were more or less accurately measured and they still are when one is restricted to measuring their reach on a particular blog or a news portal. However in the age of social media when news items are copy pasted as Facebook status and can be shared by countless people or can be Snapchat-ed or WhatsApp-ed it becomes impossible to determine the exact reach and the qualitative impact that it has been able to make. Technology is yet to invent a smart tool that can measure all of it accurately.
- Output and Outcomes:
Public Relations professionals actively boast about the outputs that their campaigns have been able to generate. But it is still not possible to decide if those outcomes of those outputs were a result of pure play earned media. A company that invests in media outreach activities, also puts in a lot of efforts in activities like advertising and on-ground activations that are oriented towards the same goal and hence contribute to the outcome.
All the above points capture the aspects of results that can and cannot be measured in Public Relations. Public Relations is an art and a science and we all know that we can quantify science in some form but the question is- Can you really measure a piece of art?
– Radhika Nandwani
Radhika is the Corporate Communications Advisor at Dell’s Performance Analytics Group. She started her career in 2011, with one of the leading public relations firms of India – MSLGROUP, specialising in technology brands. The campaigns executed by her while at MSL, have won several public relations industry awards including SABRE and PR Week Asia. In her last role, she was the founding team member and the marketing communications manager at SCoRe. Radhika is an English graduate and holds a Master’s degree in Mass Communication. She loves reading and is passionate about gender equality, food and Bollywood. She can be reached at @RadhikaNandwani on Twitter and here on LinkedIn.