Standard PR evaluation benchmarks?

Posted on: March 20, 2009

I have been involved in discussion recently on the formation of an Evaluation Standard for government PR. It has brought together PR consultancies, evaluation providers and government communicators to seek consensus on the subject.

My role as the token academic has been to prepare discussion papers and facilitate discussion. To set the basis for discussion, I asked everyone to agree definitions for key metrics of PR evaluation such as Opportunities to See, Prominence of Mention, Reach, Tone, Effectiveness and Results. We used the IPR’s Dictionary of Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation, edited by Prof Don Stacks, for this. Despite its cross-Atlantic pedigree, everyone agreed with the definitions.

The reasoning behind this initiative is that government, in its many forms, is a major purchaser of media analysis from commercial suppliers. It wants a ‘level playing field’ of metrics so that comparisons can be made between campaigns and also between methods of communication. For advertising and direct marketing, it has a bank of common metrics used but, for PR, media evaluation suppliers provide different bases of analysis either via algorithms or ‘PR value’ calculations. The dreaded Advertising Value Equivalence is also used in some circumstances, which is an interesting concept suggesting that governmental communications is related to revenue generation. So it is a bit of a muddle.

The first stage of discussion has been positive and we await the next stage. So my question is what would you include in a set of standard PR evaluation benchmarks?

Have we already identified the key terms or should measurements like ‘volume of articles’, ‘event attendees’, ‘behaviour change metrics’ and ROI be included? There are many other factors that could be considered at Output, Out-Take or Outcome levels. Your views are welcomed!

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Tom Watson

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