Evaluate This

“For Public Relations to be widely accepted as a serious marketing tool, it needs to develop new ways to prove it’s worth and make actions accountable… pointing to a pile of press clippings is not enough” Neil Shoebridge, Marketing Writer, BRW Magazine.

That’s definitely food for thought. In 2000, a survey conducted by Marketing Directors in the UK found that only 28% of practitioners were satisfied with the level of evaluation of their Public Relations, compared to 67% satisfaction with Advertising and 65% with direct Marketing. So what are we doing wrong?

When asked “how do you measure and evaluate a PR campaign” my immediate response was “you can’t”. Yes – you can count the amount of press clippings you receive – but how can you measure the amount of people who have taken the time to read that press clipping, the amount of peoples who have been influenced by it? A tricky one. The problem is objective methods are required that deliver credible proof of results and “return on investment” to management, shareholders and other key stakeholders. The reality is PR is often poorly evaluated. There are a few factors that can contribute to why PR is so poorly evaluated:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of personnel
  • Lack of budget
  • Cost of evaluation
  • Doubts about usefulness
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Exposure to practitioners performance to criticism

For me though, the main problem is the lack of SMART objectives. This acronym is constantly drummed into us at University and stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. For example, if a campaign objective is “To attract the attention the attention of people”.. what does attention mean? What level of awareness currently exists? Within what target audience is greater awareness required?

A good example is Costa Campaign which was reported in PR week in 2009. Costa commissioned independent research that established seven in ten coffee drinkers preferred Costa to other brands such as Starbucks or Caffe Nero. A PR company was asked to launch a campaign which communicated this 7/10 message.

The objectives were to;

  • To communicate the research findings
  • To change consumer perception that all coffee tastes the same
  • To switch Starbucks and Nero drinkers to Costa

The measurement included the campaign achieving 8 national TV interviews and features with a total of 26 minutes on air and three separate slots on BBC Breakfast and a live interview on Channel 4 News. It was covered on numerous BBC news channels and appeared in 15 national newspapers including The Times, The Daily Mail and The Sun.

Although good measurement for the first objective, how does information evaluate whether consumers perceptions were changed about coffee or whether consumers switched from Starbucks to Costa. Of course, Costa could look at their sales figures since the release of the campaign – but how can they prove that new customers had switched from a different coffee house? What if they had just moved into the area and were already Costa customers. The problem was – the campaigns were not SMART and if they had been tailored to be SMART, they probably would have been able to measure the campaign more effectively.

So the question is – is this a fundamental problem in PR? Do actions need to be taken to measure PR more effectively or is the best PR unseen and unmeasurable?


Posted in PR

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