By DAVID SABA
Quantifying public relations efforts has always been a challenge in the advertising industry.
How do you measure changes in brand recognition? How do you know if PR is having an impact on sales?
Ten years ago, PR professionals would use “advertising equivalents” to measure efforts. For example, if a publicist worked with the client and a reporter to contribute to a news story that was published in The New York Times, the PR team would figure out what an ad that size would cost and place that value on the article.
However, this method is inherently misleading. Readers pay attention to articles more often than advertisements, but an ad campaign is almost never limited to a one-time appearance.
An effective media plan continually reaches customers in the spaces in which they consume media over a specific period of time. In addition, the content is totally different.
An article usually covers a timely and newsworthy topic or trend in which a PR client can offer expertise, while an ad is a direct sales pitch. Comparing PR efforts to an ad campaign is truly “apples to oranges.”
MULTIPLE MEDIA TO TRACK
Part of the challenge of measuring PR is that traditional media (print, television, radio) now are just one facet of the industry. Social media, nontraditional media (podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels) and events all are avenues for publicists to elevate their client’s profile.
Collecting views from all of these platforms and comparing your PR efforts to competing companies in your industry is one way to track PR success, but companies should not focus solely on numbers.
Human interactions, developing brand relationships, consumer loyalties and public perceptions are not going to be measured accurately by adding up public views.
Big data can be used to measure marketing efforts as a whole, but separating PR from advertising and sales efforts is very difficult. Customer engagement is a far better indicator of PR success.
Companies should instead view PR primarily as a content generator that allows them to communicate directly with customers about topics that affect or interest them.
If PR efforts result in a news story, how can companies share that content with the public in an interesting way?
How will PR repurpose that content on social media or through nontraditional communication platforms in a way that stimulates public engagement?
Making these connections and building relationships with your customers is the true measure of PR. Quantifying it with a single number would be nice, but often that is merely an exercise in self-justification.
INTERACTION WITH CUSTOMERS
Marketing teams should not view PR efforts in the same vein as sales or advertising initiatives, where success can more easily be defined.
Rather, PR is about establishing lines of communication and interaction with your customers.
If executed properly, those efforts will bear fruit in recognition, reputation and increased business.
David Saba is the director of public relations at Lehigh Mining & Navigation, a national award-winning advertising agency in Bethlehem. He has more than 14 years of public relations experience with a variety of clients across many industries and sectors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.