As PR professionals and measurement advocates, many of us spend a great deal of time talking and writing about how important it is to measure public relations activity in a real, quantitative way. It’s important to be able to support PR activities with numbers-based evidence to prove to a client that the process works. Proper measurement demonstrates the value of having a PR program, and can guide future efforts so that results are more predictable—and more successful.
The reverse is also true: clients should use measurement to assess their PR agencies—for many of the same reasons.
I have yet to meet a client who isn’t interested in seeing results from their PR spending. Using measurement to determine the effectiveness of programs can help a company see how PR programs stack up against internal efforts. (Just make sure to compare apples to apples.) One of the clients I worked with during my stint at an agency routinely compared test market performance by assessing the number of sales in test markets where our PR work was being performed against markets with no PR presence. It was a smart way to observe differences in the success of each test market.
If you don’t have a measurement plan for your PR firm in place, it can be hard to see where adjustments might need to be made in a program. There’s nothing worse than running a full campaign over the course of months and then finding out that the effort fell flat simply because the social outreach component focused on the wrong platform, or used ineffective wording in the promotional materials, or any other number of small, easy-to-correct-had-you-known type items. If you’re measuring your PR firm during a campaign, these are the types of things that you can ask to be adjusted—if your PR firm hasn’t already suggested modifications first.
Determining how you will be assessing your PR firm’s performance ahead of a program is important. It will allow you to determine clear objectives for the program—even if it’s just to collect data to see how PR performs versus marketing efforts, or to see how internal PR efforts compare to the work of an agency. Comparisons such as these provide solid data on program performance, allowing you to spend limited resources wisely.
An external PR firm might have more success with an earned media program than an internal team because they have more people with existing media relationships, whereas an internal PR team might have a better result with a social outreach program due to deeper brand knowledge and awareness. Testing and measuring will allow you to see this and work this knowledge into programs—and budgets—going forward.
When you’re measuring your PR firm, sometimes the results won’t make either party happy. Having real numbers and data to reference will make tough conversations about performance about the data rather than personalities—or the overall relationship. This is important because it’s always possible you may want to engage the PR firm in the future for another reason or another program better matched to the firm’s capabilities.