Public relations is maturing into its own recognized discipline, with more formal education programs, professional associations and development opportunities. Organizations are coming around as well. PR pros are showing up more and more at the senior leadership table, able to contribute to the decision making and priority setting of the company. All good things.
But the big question mark that hangs over our heads is: how do you measure your effectiveness? Marketing, Finance, Administration and HR all have nice, tidy outcomes that can be counted and given a dollar value. PR is a bit more nuanced. Opinion and influence are tricky things to put a number on.
For the longest time, Advertising Value Equivalency [AVE] was our best guess, assuming an ad buy could get us the same amount of space/time in a piece of earned media. With so many different channels, tools and tactics available to us today, PR has evolved beyond AVEs, but no one standard has stepped in to quantify our success.
The good news is, we can still tell a compelling story to our management teams, clients and key stakeholders about whether or not we’re having an impact. Here are four ways to demonstrate the return on investment for your public relations campaigns.
Tie your activities to the organization’s goals
Show the execs you understand what’s important to the organization. Bring the discussion back to things they already understand and value. Different campaigns, programs and conversations come together to support the goals, objectives and overall vision of the company in ways that are not always obvious. The key to ensuring you have that link is to set your communications goals to align with the organization’s at the outset.
Do the research!
Even if it is only an annual process, take a close look at your comms plan and make sure you understand why you do what you do. If it’s only because it’s always been done – stop it! Look for the novel approach to close any communications gaps that still exist by knowing your audience front and back. Look for ways to connect and group stakeholders into publics so that you can shape the conversation more efficiently. The best part is, it’s likely that it has all been done before. Take a closer look at your competition and reverse engineer their campaigns, particularly if you are vying for the same eyes and ears.
Do the evaluation!
Bringing it home for your management teams will require you to monitor your programs throughout the process. Back up every decision you make with data. Surveys, social media engagement, reach and shares can all contribute to your success if you know the metrics that matter. Also, measure your outcomes and share your success – or your learnings – as they happen. One thing senior managers hate more than failure is surprises.
Tell your story
Facts and figures are great, but they don’t tell a story unto themselves. Think of your management as a public and craft your messages accordingly. What do you want them to learn from the presentation or report? When the metrics are more subjective, pull out and give emphasis to the most important information and tell them what it means. The point of PR is to facilitate a conversation. Treat your report, whether formal or informal, like a campaign that gives an appropriate level of context.
How do you share your results with your senior execs, clients or stakeholders? Are they receptive? Do they need some hand holding through the process? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.