Regular meetings with a medium sized PR firm were all about one thing. They reported clearly arranged and printed clippings mentioning our real estate project. If a project had more than just a couple of clippings and at least one of them was issued in a nationwide media outlet, the current month was considered a success. In less successful months we had to be satisfied with articles on obscure websites nobody had ever heard of.
I am not trying to say this is a norm in the entire public relations industry. However, measuring success by number of clippings is still considered as the standard. With increasing online communication, maybe we have moved to counting impressions or reach instead. Nevertheless this same approach says nothing about the core point of our intentions – communication effects.
An approach that is based more on intuition or experience than on data or measuring is really common in PR in general. Let`s be honest, how often people from the communication fields make decisions based on data? I would say very rarely.
Data should replace intuition
The most common tool serving as a source of data and measuring in PR is an opinion poll. However, obviously, you cannot conduct an opinion poll after each press conference or every relevant business decision. But with the emerging power of social media and more generally, online communication, ways of evaluating communications are surprisingly easy to find. Here is a list of data sources that are available to work with:
1. Media outcomes – daily monitoring, archives, etc.
2. Public feedback – discussions, forums
3. Social networks – content or interactions
4. Internal platforms for communication
There are many ways to use this data for analysis, below are some examples for a new perspective.
1. Communications networks – are based on relations between two or more agencies. This method helps us to understand what the subject position in a certain group is or how information is spread within the group. The key feature of network analysis is identifying influencers, people with the biggest communication impact among group members.
2. Content analysis – is intended for work with huge text files, like media archives or social media comments. Text analysis is basically a survey of existing opinions on specific topics and could be a quick and easy replacement for opinion polls. With evaluation of social media comments you can measure customer feedback of a new product or company initiative in real time.
3. Group affinity – is based on individual preferences, but indicates affinity of an entire group to the media, opinions or influencers. It helps us to recognize the target group (employees, customers, etc.) since it shows its inclination in comparison to the rest of society. This analysis enables us to set the communication, for example to choose a proper media type or influencer who reaches our target group.
These options are just a few examples of how to practice PR based more on facts and data than pure intuition. Nevertheless, the most important task for those in communication is something which is routine in different areas – i.e. measuring everyday efforts.
P.S. We are not working with the mentioned PR agency anymore. Not because we were not satisfied with its outcomes, but because without numbers, we have not been able to persuade project management of its added value.