The Power of PR: Defining the value of public relations in a data-driven society

man with magnifying glass looks at paper

By Sedale McCall —

Proving the value of PR is often a challenge for agencies and consultants, especially in situations where the goal is to change a behavior or raise awareness of an issue. Measurement and data analysis can solve many of the challenges we have as PR practitioners. These important points were made abundantly clear at the PR Measurement conference held by PR News earlier this year. This conference gave several insights into the tremendous value measurement brings client business.

No matter where we are in the journey – planning, implementation, or evaluation – measurement is a powerful tool in showing what you’re doing and how it’s working. Here are a few tips to using measurement and analytics to prove the value of PR throughout the client’s campaign and have effective measurement discussions:

  1. Know where you want to go firstAt the beginning of the campaign, specifically define the goals of the campaign, determine where the client is in the process (benchmarks), and the metrics/indicators for how you will determine the effect of your tactics on those goals. To do that, we have to understand the client, their business, and their audience. The PN+ model can facilitate this process. Porter Novelli’s SPAR group also aligns their processes with the Barcelona Principles, the international standards for measuring the impact of media on public relations.
  2. Paint the picture. Once your program is set in motion, it is not enough to set up a dashboard and report on the typical numbers we come to expect (impressions, clicks). Measurement must paint the picture for the client. How are your tactics currently working? How is the audience reacting? What are the implications of the numbers you found and how can you optimize for further success in the next reporting period? Every time you report to the client, they should understand how the data translates into success against the metrics and how the metrics translate into progress on the objective. SPAR’s Carrie Schum offers some interesting insights for this in her blog post on measurement.
  3. If it puts you to sleep, you’re not measuring anything. Just measuring increases in followers or decreases in likes means nothing. Measure and analyze the metrics that will speak to what you want the tactics to do. For example, if the goal for the company is to increase donations or sign ups on the website, don’t just stop at clicks or click-through-rate when goal conversions will tell the story your client needs to hear. In fact there may not be a need to even report on CTR in that case. Which leads to the next point…
  4. Don’t measure too much. Probably kryptonite for most of our superman-tactics. Many clients find dashboards impressive, this machine of proof-points for their campaign. But if half of the data points don’t actually show what you need them to, they are useless to proving the value of the campaign. As Carrie says, every campaign can be measured against 3-5 objectives, so make sure your analysis is just as concise.
  5. Always ask “What does success look like?” At the end of the day, if you never forget the main function of your campaign, many of the other pieces will fall into place. That happens when you constantly ask yourself, “What does success look like?” and “How do my analytics show that success?” Some call them “champagne moments,” as in the moments in the campaign where your client and their boss share champagne in celebration of their achievement. Keeping your “eye on the prize” will inform much of what you measure, how you measure and most important, why you measure.

In conclusion, measurement and analytics are both extremely powerful ways to show how PR tactics can influence the business the client is in, often times better than paid advertising or marketing. But with great power comes great responsibility. It is up to us as practitioners to make sure that what we’re measuring directly lines up with our clients’ objectives. At that point, measurement itself has value in addition to showing the value of the tactics.

The power of PR is in your hands, use it wisely. ∞

This post is reprinted with permission from the Porter-Novelli blog.

About Author

Sedale McCall

Sedale McCall is an Account Executive at Porter Novelli.