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Presentation: What Does Success Look Like? Measurement & Evaluation in PR

By on Thursday, January 25, 2018

I enjoyed co-leading today a great session with Brigitte W. Johnson, APR, MSM on what does success look like for PRSA-NCC‘s 7th Annual Public Relations Issues of the Day for Nonprofits and Associations. We had some wonderful discussions about measurement and evaluation – and how it really works in the field. The thing I love about this event is that it operates on a round table format, so each discussion group is only 5-6 people. Attendees get to select 3 topics to attend.

At our table, we discussed the issues with measuring earned media and how to get away from vanity metrics like impressions or number of articles placed. We discussed doing message point analysis of media stories to see if key messages were delivered (or not), and how to do competitive research and sentiment scoring. We talked a lot about the importance of defining objectives up front and determining what you will measure before starting a new project or program. At the same time, we also assured people that it’s better to start late with measurement and evaluation, than to never start at all.

We also talked about the many tools available to assist with measurement and evaluation, getting a request to do focus groups after the fact on an already deployed campaign (been there), dealing with territorial issues inside organizations that make attributing success difficult (many people had this sticky situation to navigate), and the need to involve stakeholders in agreeing to what should be measured up front. We also talked about how challenging it can be to attribute a measurable action or input, to a particular outreach effort or tactic – for example, did those new donations come in because of a media interview or a mailing by the development department? Do we know if more donations came in from a particular part of the country than another? Where are web hits coming from and why? Do we know the demographics of our site users? We also talked about social media advertising and using A/B testing to look at ad performance, as well as gathering data from lots of sources and creating streamlined results reports for “the boss” that emphasize key achievements but not busywork.

I suggested we need to take a holistic view of measurement and evaluation, looking at many data inputs – from media relations to social media to member relations, fundraising or other types of engagement.  We also discussed that “success” for a given campaign could look very different based on what your objectives are. For example, if you care about raising money, then an ask for donations (and actual resulting donations) might be very important to your organization and to your definition of success. If your objective is greater public awareness, then a clear description of a program and what it does,  might be more important to you in a news story. Growing an email list might be more important to you right now, or connecting with long-term donors could be more valuable right now. Whatever your objective is, is where you need to measure. There is no one size fits all automated solution, as much as many people will try to sell you systems that do lots of great things with bells and whistles. Brigitte also mentioned the Barcelona Principles, which reject ad value equivalencies, and embrace a broader interpretation of how we define success in PR.

We had great discussions with all 3 rounds of attendees at our table and I was thrilled to catch up with some old friends and colleagues as well. See our slides below. They were just a jumping off point to the discussion – which was fast and furious. Contact me if you’d like to talk further about comprehensive evaluation and measurement for a communications program or campaign and how Steppingstone LLC might help.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact to discuss your projectreview our portfoliosign up for our e-newsletter). She blogs about media relations, social media, public relations, and work-family balance. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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