PR Evaluation – A Practical Approach

‘Experts’ suggest that 10 percent of the PR budget should be devoted to evaluation. That’s a lot of resources, especially for a small budget PR campaign. But with clear objectives it should be possible to devise common-sense measures of return on investment and the real impact of a campaign. Adrian Maguire of online PR specialist, outlines ten things you should do and ten things not to do.

Ten Things You Should Do

1. Think beyond budget. The reason to evaluate is not to justify the budget, but to assess that a campaign, its process and methodology are producing results.

2. Back to basics – set goals and objectives. Unless objectives are explicit and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely) – then it is not possible to devise a meaningful form of evaluation.

3. Select key performance indicators based on campaign aims. KPI’s should reflect the goals – so think about creating tangible outcomes wherever possible.

4. Use surveys to measure soft issues. Even with soft issues, where the aim may be to influence attitudes and shape opinions, rather than immediately change behavior, pre and post campaign research can indicate how opinion is moving.

5. Build in tangibles. For marketing based campaigns build in a response channel that can be monitored – an advice line, dedicated e-mail channel, response form for information, and so on.

6. Monitor traditional media. Media coverage is the starting point for many traditional evaluation techniques. Sign up a good media monitoring company, brief them thoroughly, and keep them in the loop about what you are issuing, when and to whom.

7. Monitor new media. In many areas, the web is more influential than traditional media. Sign up a specialist new media monitoring company who can monitor web appearances for you and also, if required, review newsgroups, blogs and RSS feeds.

8. Google and DIY. If you don’t sign up a new media specialist then you can at least DIY by selecting key words and phrases that you can search on Google pre and post campaign to see how your clients ownership of and ranking against these key concepts has changed. Also, Google provides a free ‘Alerts’ service where you set a keyword and Google will notify you of appearances. Other services include Google Analytics, Alexa traffic rankings and don’t forget your own web site traffic statistics.

9. Multiple objectives require multiple measurement tools. Where a campaign has mixed objectives you may need different evaluation techniques for each. There may be a need to combine both quantitative and qualitative measurement techniques. Again this reinforces the case for keeping the objectives clear and simple.

10. Borrow budget. In many cases behavior will be subject to multiple influences – PR, advertising, direct mail, incentives, sales activity, and so on. This is a good reason for the cost of evaluation to come from a general marketing pot, rather than just the PR budget.

Five Things You Should Not Do

1. Don’t take all the responsibility. PR doesn’t drive sales and profitability so, though clients will let you take heroic responsibility for this, explain that you are the messenger and others usually carry this forward to action. Measure the PR contribution, not that of others.

2. Don’t disparage advertising value equivalent (AVE). Academics and those promoting more elaborate, and expensive, performance measures hate AVE. The merit of AVE is that they are low cost and quantify performance in simple monetary terms that all the management team, but especially the bean counters, can understand.

3. Don’ rush to judgment. Many traditional media have a natural cycle that spans many months and opinion shifts often happen slowly. While it is tempting to seek an early measure of campaign effectiveness, the true impact may not be measurable until several months have passed.

4. Don’t rely exclusively on clipping services. Do additional media research over and above that provided by the clipping service. If you discover they are missing references, let them know and agree with them measures to improve their performance.

5. Don’t believe in magic bullets. There is no single evaluation technique that meets all needs.

© Ainsworth Maguire


Adrian Maguire has been a member of the British Chartered Institute of Public Relations since 1990. He is a co-founder of - an online public relations service that provides an affordable way for companies and organizations to send press releases, place feature articles, raise their profile, attract more customers and build web site traffic. Adrian is also a founding partner in

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