Five ways the digital world is making PR measurement a reality

While PR has always been dismissed as immeasurable and beyond evaluation, this is no longer a valid thought as campaign strategies increasingly embrace practices and areas that overlap with marketing and advertising spheres. With the domain of PR stretching the paradigms of communication to include digital media and bloggers, print and traditional media has become only one aspect of its outreach. There is an intrinsic need felt to devise a matrix that is applicable across the different types of PR activities to measure outcome and impact. This will result in a clear understanding of who a client’s target audience is, what aspect of their personality we are appealing to, what is the change in behaviour we wish to bring about, etc. and help us update our PR mechanisms as per contemporary times.

Unlike advertising measurable that are connected and driven by sales, PR measurable ought to be both quantitative in terms of number of press clippings, likes on the page, hits, visits, followers, downloads, views and comments as well as qualitative like the demographics of the audience, tone, sentiment, level of engagement, and resulting impact on attitudes, awareness and loyalty. This directly affects brand reputation, relationships and Return on Investment (ROI) in the long run.

Today every PR activity generates some conversation, and some reaction for a brand in the digital world, which can be linked as an outcome and impact of that activity. In order to gauge the PR outcome of a certain media activity, we need to emphasize on and monitor such activities that drive greater and more penetrative brand searches and brand conversations on the web. An analytics team at the agency’s end can closely work with the internal web analytics team at the client’s end to compare the brand impact in the digital world on various parameters:

Stories: With different parameters, we can easily compare what kind of activity has generated what kind of reaction.  So whatever the kind of stories - media profiling, a trend story, a special PR campaign or a business story, it is imperative to compare the outcome of different kinds of media stories and the result associated with them just by studying the brand conversation and searches triggered through these stories in the web world.

Publications: This might not look so difficult but tied to that one story are several parameters in our matrix to evaluate it and its desired impact. With intrinsic and meticulously charted metrics, one will be able to simultaneously understand which story in what kind of publication with what kind of readership generated what kind of reaction or impact. 

Geographical: One can derive insights from brand search results for a press event between dates to compare the same. A city-wise comparison helps decipher where the brand is playing a dominant role and influence.

Inferences can be drawn between parallel PR activities across different media. This will let your think tank understand which media or social platform to target for better visibility. All this data can be analyzed week per week and month-on-month to draw consistent conclusions about the engagement driven by the PR exercise through the year. This is what broadly falls under publication/social media platform mapping and if you thought that is all that can be done in terms of measurement of PR movement; we have barely touched the surface!

Social Seeding: The same story that is pitched to traditional media may also be circulated to bloggers, across client Facebook pages, relevant Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and via tweets further boosted. An individual scanning of each category will tell you how active your readers are through your social media shares and on which particular platform so you can work at increasing traction on others.

If we are able to compare the outcomes of stories, the geographical impact, and impact by a publication or blogger, and social media platforms, it will further help in planning the future course of action. This measurement practice is based on a very simple theory - any measurement or research is based on the study of a sample (portion) of an absolute number. We can treat the overall reaction that a PR activity gets on the digital world, which is measureable, as a sample and predict the reaction that the said activity would have generated offline by seeing the web trend.

Competition mapping: Through this measurement practice, one can easily compare the traction an agency is driving for its client vis-à-vis its competition by comparing the very same matrix and analyzing the conversation being driven by their competition in the digital world.

With the evolution of the digital world and the digital platform becoming the first source of information for end consumers, this kind of measurement can start producing actual trend and impact assessment. PR after all is not only about building relationships but credible ones at that.

Constantly analyzing our PR effort with such measurement will not only help the client to understand the impact of an agency’s PR effort but will also help the agency in strategizing towards maintaining a rapport with the client’s target audience, through purposeful and meaningful PR that induces right conversation around the brands. We are actively engaged in directing brand searches that are driven through both direct traffic and referrals to see what is actually spurring publicity. This is done on a parallel basis for immediate competitors as well to accurately ascertain the client’s market position across the media spectrum.

In the fast-paced digitally evolving world, PR outcome can now be easily measured both qualitatively and quantitatively. Only those who can keep pace with the changing face of media and consumer behavior will be able to emerge powerful and sustainable.

Kunal Kishore Sinha is founder- director, Value 360 Communications

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