Last week I was in the audience for a panel debate at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in the United Kingdom.
The discussion turned to the value of public relations and how to get more bang for your PR buck. It then moved onto the best practice of PR as framed by the Barcelona Principles: measuring PR success in terms of inputs, outputs and outcomes.
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Let’s go through what this means, and see how you can apply it.
Desired audience segments
This is an extremely important part of the PR process. Segmenting the audience you’re looking to engage with will dictate how and what you say.
In broad terms, desired audience segments can include:
- Groups of customers, clients, volunteers, members and supporters. (Describe each group in terms of geography, household income, attitudes, values, beliefs, perceptions and behaviors.)
- Key thought leaders (list names).
- Key media influencers and bloggers (list names).
- Key politicians, opposition spokespeople and government ministers (list names).
- Key charitable, foundation and other third-party groups (list names).
It’s also useful to know whether the desired audience segment is primary or secondary. This will help determine where to put the most effort in reaching them.
Your objectives are what you’re trying to achieve to support your organization’s strategic priorities.
To identify your PR objectives, consider the following questions:
- How can we cut through the noise and competition to get our messages to our audiences?
- How do we use PR as part of the brand value proposition and to influence the behavior of customers, clients, volunteers, members, supporters and employees?
- How does PR help take an “outside-in” rather than an “inside-out” perspective?
- How do we articulate what we deliver in a way that’s compelling, memorable and will influence behavior?
- How do we use PR to build relationships with all of our audiences?
- What does it take to engage with customers, clients, volunteers, supporters and brand partners more deeply, turn them into brand ambassadors and engage with them more effectively in the future?
PR objectives should cover the following:
- Increasing awareness (quantified prompted/unprompted awareness) of the organization’s aims amongst all primary and secondary audiences—including employees and brand partners.
- Increasing awareness of specific deliverables with respect to the company’s strategic objectives. (You also need to quantify these.)
- Influencing the direction of proposed legislative controls on the organization’s ability to achieve its objectives.
- Managing any potential negative media coverage that could affect the reputation of the company.
Inputs are, for example, background information and research. An analysis of current company perceptions could inform the planning of any PR campaign. Some of this information could provide benchmarks you can measure against later.
- The PR brief (information on organization or sector).
- Desk research and original research (to inform the content of PR materials).
- Pre-testing (messages and materials understood).
Outputs are the messages the organization sends out. They’re a quantified measure that can analyze the degree of exposure and audience reach, but can’t explain to what extent you’ve influenced people’s opinions or behavior.
PR agencies build many PR plans around outputs. However, this isn’t the complete picture and doesn’t allow PR professionals to demonstrate the positive effect their work can have.
- News releases, background briefs, case studies and photographs you’ve issued, and coverage you monitored and evaluated.
- A website launch and the traffic analysis you compiled.
- A PR event you staged and the number of attendees.
- A research survey you conducted.
- The extent to which customers receive your messages.
- An analysis of the media coverage you achieved.
- Online tracking of comments and feedback with customers and clients.
This is perhaps the most important element of any PR program—and the toughest to satisfy.
Measuring outcomes is about understanding the degree to which PR has changed people’s awareness, opinion and behavior. For example:
- Was there a tangible incremental increase in sales?
- Did focus groups confirm a shift in behavior, rather than just purchase intention?
- Were there more brand advocates in this quarter compared to the previous quarter?
Outcome is the strongest basis for calculating PR’s return on investment. It’s also a valuable source of information that you can feed back into the research, planning and measurement process for next time.
Ardi Kolah is author of “High Impact Marketing That Gets Results,” published by Kogan Page. A version of this article originally appeared on the Vocus blog.