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Mind the GAP - Proof Positive of the need to measure public relations?

Measuring Public Relations

Last week saw the 2010 PRINZ Conference, Taming the Tiger, and delegates were lucky enough to have Jim Macnamara on hand to talk through his thinking on measurement and evaluation. It was great to see so many people taking diligent notes throughout his presentation and I hope that it encourages more people to make sure they have a robust and effective evaluation process in place for their programmes. His presentation concentrated primarily on media evaluation and measurement which is really only part of the work we undertake in public relations.  The main purpose of our work is to build and sustain relationships between organisations and communities, and media relations, especially old-school, mainstream media relations, is only one small part of that purpose.

I do find it truly bizarre that the nonsense that is AVE persists as well as the measurement of website 'hits' - I can't wait for the day when both disappear into the ether. Jim Macnamara spent a lot of time debunking both, although some of the research he quoted I personally believe only serves to support the myth that either of those two activities are remotely useful.

While tweeting about Jim's presentation I was sent a message asking what to use instead of AVE and so there are a few simple responses to this below - it is what I've been doing for more years than I care to measure and although simple, it is an approach that provides accurate reporting on the success of programmes.  

  • Set your outcomes and measure to those. If you are looking for an improved relationship, then benchmark your existing relationship with research before commencing your programme, monitoring how each phase of activity moves you nearer - or further away - from your desired outcome. 
  • Set precise objectives for each phase of your programme and evaluate whether or not they have been achieved. 
  • Make sure that each objective contributes to the over-arching outcomes you are working towards.
  • Use qualitative and quantitative analysis in your reporting.  There are many tools and techniques out there that will produce the data you need to track your programme and its effectiveness.
  • If you are working online, again - know what you want to achieve and why. Don't just throw Facebook pages at it and hope that will do the trick.
  • Understand and identify the communities with whom you hope to build and sustain relationships
  • Understand and identify where, when and how they get their information. Don't expect them to come to you - you need to go to them.
  • Keep your focus. Don't get too distracted with peripheral activities or groups that do not form part of your objectives and outcomes.  Be watchful, mindful and concerned, but stay on track.
  • Remember that research, planning and evaluation are a continuous process and need to be looked at holistically, rather than as siloed activities. Each stage informs the next.
Measurement and evaluation is not hard. It is an essential part of what we do and any practitioner worth their salt should make sure that they build a system that allows them to track and report with ease. If you are unsure what to do and are in New Zealand, then come along to one of the PRINZ sessions (that have been running for years now) that will help you create a system that works for your organisation and if you want some help with where to start measuring online activity, here's a paper I put together a while ago that might be a useful starting point. Download Measuring_the_social_web