In each company, the role of public relations and communications executives varies. However, there is one consistent underlying goal: to communicate a positive message about the brand, its products or services, corporate culture and core values to the media, general public and key constituents.

Where does Public Relations come from?

Some say that public relations dates back to ancient Greece when Grecians used semiotics, to get people to believe things and do things. Throughout history there have been numerous references to the use of Public Relations strategies from great leaders including Julius Caesar, St. Augustine, Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, among others.

As noted by the PRSA, a survey of chief marketing officers at major national and global advertisers conducted by the Association of National Advertisers found that the value public relations delivers as part of the overall marketing mix is increasing. Public relations is closer to the perspectives, objectives and concerns of corporate CEOs than any other communication or marketing discipline. Public relations also sees “the whole corporate picture,” as it relates to issues that CEOs worry about. It is a key driver of business outcomes that are critical to organizational success, these include, reputation and brand building, consumer engagement, lead generation, wealth creation, issues management, crisis mitigation and beneficial shifts in constituent attitudes and behaviors.

What can PR do for business?

So, if you are not the CEO, how can you better understand the tangible value Public Relations can bring to your organization and what tools are available to measure it? Where news is published, how many people read it and, most important, the way in which messages are perceived all have a tangible impact, but without a method for accurately collecting and analyzing such data, it's difficult to measure the effectiveness and impact of your PR efforts. BurrellesLuce surveyed public relations practitioners about how they measure the success of their programs. It showed that 42 percent primarily use quantitative metrics, with qualitative metrics (such as key messages and prominence) increasing.

PR reporting: increase brand value

First off, your coverage. The specific number of articles a company's name appears in is the simplest measure for quantifying the success or failure of a PR campaign. Knowing the number of stories a company and/or product generates as well as how that compares to the competition offers some good insight into the mindshare that a company has among reporters and those who follow the buzz of the press. Google, Yahoo! and many news sites that offer free online tools to create alerts for specific keywords, such as your company or product's name. Most deliver clips from at least a few sources, although they vary in selectivity, sensitivity and range.

Once you have the coverage, methods like AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalent), which have traditionally ruled PR reporting across the globe, can help you build you begin your valuation. AVEs pull together details about how much it would cost to advertise to get the same coverage that PR achieves in magazines, newspapers, online news websites and other media outlets. It doesn’t provide an exact measurement of the PR’s editorial credibility though, however it’s still considered a useful tool for basic reporting.

When looking deeper at coverage, we can measure how suitable the readership of the title was, the strength and impact of the coverage. PR can drive people to enquire, to call and boost web traffic, but it can’t be directly linked to the sales pipeline. It’s always important to remember that there is much more between the initial enquiry and the sale that could still affect a person’s decision – the sales staff and friendliness of the person answering the phone, the price of the product or service, and whether the person’s aim is to compare it with others. Keeping an accurate log of these clippings and being able to understand which publications covered which products and of those stories, which yielded the most results will be critical for future PR strategy planning.

Why technology is essential for PR measurement

Many of our clients have benefited from Launchmetrics Samples, allowing them to monitor and analyze their AVE as well as the emotional value of their editorial coverage. The platform has played a key role in uncovering the tangible value of their PR efforts and communicating this to senior management. One of the first noted Public Relations Professionals in history, Ivy Lee, made a strong case to prove that PR was much deeply connected to the actual relationships a company holds, being those between the company and its constituents, the press and other influencers. Have you thought about how you are managing your relationships? Is it more than just a contact listed in your Outlook? Do you understand how you are engaging with these groups throughout the year - be it events, holiday gatherings, mailings and more? How are you tracking the activities tied to this contact?

Today, successful publicists utilize key contact management systems like Launchmetrics Publisher that aggregate all of that data into one portal to be accessed anywhere in the world at anytime. Whether you go more quantitative or qualitative route, the most important thing is that you and your agency know what success looks like, whether that’s having more leads, raising awareness or targeting a market they haven’t before.

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