A few days ago, I read an interesting discussion on social media about how to justify the success of your PR campaign. Is it about being directly attributable to sales? Or is it about raising your brand profile and gaining positive exposure? It was interesting to read the thread. Not only was it clear that different people have different perspectives of what PR is, but there are also many different ways to define its impact.
When it comes to evaluating your PR campaign, you must be aware of what you want to achieve from the very beginning of your project. I previously wrote about why I believe that “what, why, and how” are the three questions you should be asking yourself. When it comes to evaluating your PR activities, you need to have clear answers to these three questions. This is the best way to judge if your campaign has worked in the way that you envisaged.
With this in mind, here are our thoughts on why it’s important to evaluate your PR campaign. We’re also sharing some useful tactics that can be used to judge its success.
Why it’s important to evaluate your PR campaign
Evaluation is often a neglected part of any PR campaign. Most of your time is spent on creating a strategy and achieving key deliverables. Therefore, its easy to see why so many people neglect to take the time to see if their PR campaign has achieved what it set out to do.
But it is important that if you are allocating your hard-earned budget towards PR activities that you feel confident that it is working as it should. This is where evaluation is important. It allows you to understand your strengths and weaknesses. It helps you to understand what your stakeholders are responding to, and more importantly why.
This can give you extensive insights into your customer base and can allow you to identify new areas for potential business growth.
Evaluating the impact of your PR activities should be an intrinsic part of your strategy from the very beginning.
Evaluation should play a continuous role throughout your PR campaign
In our experience, evaluation of PR activities is often considered an after-thought. It is often tacked on at the end of a campaign when key deliverables have been achieved. It’s considered an opportunity to judge whether the deliverables (such as media coverage) have been achieved.
But in reality, evaluation should be placed at the start of any PR activity. Taking the time to conduct some pre-campaign consumer research will allow you to have a benchmark to monitor your progress. This will depend on what your campaign aims, and objectives are. If you are looking to increase your corporate profile, how will you know if your campaign has worked without a pre-determined understanding? If you are using PR to drive sales, you can use your existing sales levels or website/social media traffic to act as a measurement gauge. This will give you a benchmark for your pre-campaign awareness.
You should also consider allocating time to evaluate your PR output throughout your campaign. This is because the best PR strategies are flexible. They should be able to identify which areas are working well, and which areas require additional budget/investment. By taking a few moments to evaluate how well your PR campaign is working through its duration, you are giving yourself time to make amends and strengthen your PR activity.
If you leave your evaluation to the end, you may have a lost opportunity to turn a potential weakness into a strength.
What should you look for with your PR evaluation?
When it comes to PR evaluations, there are many different ways that you can judge it’s success. Some people like to look at the metrics of your expected deliverables. They may be looking to see how many media clippings you’ve achieved. They may be concerned with the circulation of those clippings. Whilst this approach will give you valuable insight into potential brand reach, it doesn’t necessarily equate to brand perception.
We advocate for a content analysis approach towards PR evaluation. If you are running a media relations campaign, it’s not just about the volume of clippings. Your evaluation should incorporate a thorough content analysis to determine if your key messages have been published. These key messages will have been defined within your PR strategy. They should be the focus of everything that you are trying to achieve. Therefore, it makes sense to view PR evaluations as an opportunity to see whether those key messages have been successfully communicated.
Paying attention to your content analysis
Within your PR evaluation, your content analysis report should look at the following:
- How many times was your brand and/or product mentioned?
- What was the tone of voice used within any media coverage (positive/neutral/negative)
- Did you supply a photo and was it used?
- Were you directly quoted within an article?
- Were any of your specific key messages published?
- Was your preferred call to action used? Do consumers know what to do with your key messaging?
- Were your contact details published? Can consumers easily find you?
Beyond the content analysis, you should also use analytical tools to track the impact of your PR campaigns. Can you see if traffic increased to your website? Can you use Google Analytics to track any referrals to see where any increase in traffic came from? If traffic has come from a specific website (such as a news organisation’s website) then you could attribute that traffic to your PR campaign.
You should also monitor your social media platforms. Has your PR campaign led to an increase in mentions or follower numbers? If it happens at a similar time, you can extrapolate that there is a direct link. Similarly, have your phone lines/email/chatbots been busier than usual? These are other ways to help you evaluate the impact of your PR campaign.
Your evaluation should also consider other factors
Of course, when it comes to PR, it’s difficult to say with certainty that any increases in sales or brand awareness are solely the result of PR. If your PR team is working in partnership with your marketing team, then you may also wish to consider what they are doing. What is the impact of Google AdWords, remarketing campaigns, SEO tools, etc. All of these should be used in partnership with your PR campaign to ensure the greatest opportunity for success.