Image credit: Richard Bagnall

Richard Bagnall: Evaluating and measuring public relations

Richard Bagnall: Evaluating and measuring public relations

In our final article on public relations, Richard Bagnall explains how evaluation can highlight strengths and opportunities

Richard Bagnall is one of the UK’s leading experts on measuring communication, having been in the business for 20 years. He says there have never been more tools and platforms on the market claiming to measure the success of publicity.

“Some are free, some are very expensive. But funny as it might sound, measuring the success of your campaigns is not about the data, charts and dashboards – it’s about measuring what actually matters.”

So how do we do this in a meaningful, cost effective and efficient manner?

“Well, it’s about relevance. It’s about starting with a laser-like focus on what you are trying to achieve – your objectives.” 

As Sarah Pinch has pointed out, your communications and publicity objectives should be closely tied to the outcomes that your organisation is looking to achieve. These might include raising awareness, increasing sales or driving traffic to a website for example. 

“Once you are clear on the organisational objectives that your work is looking to support,” says Richard, “you can work back from there, by asking:

  • What are the appropriate communications strategies and tactics?
  • What does success look like in each case?
  • What are the targets that you want to set for your work?” 

Dart hitting target 

Photo © Vizzzual.com

Targets

These should be set across four categories – inputs, outputs and then the outtakes and outcomes you’re looking to support. Richard explains:

“Your inputs are the things that you alone can control. Think of this as your project plan. Who are you going to contact? Are you going to use press releases? How many and to whom will you send them?

“The outputs are the content analysis measures that this then generates. So the volume of press cuttings, the number of retweets, the “likes” and “shares” generated etc.

“The outtakes are where you look to understand what your target audience thinks after being exposed to your content and the outcomes are where you align everything back with your organisation. What has happened as a result of all of the great communications work that you have done?”

For Queen’s Young Leaders, outcomes could mean more people volunteering to help with your project, more donations or in-kind support, more customers or funding.

“A lot of the data you need to tell the story of your publicity’s success will already exist within your organisation,” says Richard, “It’s a question of joining the dots.” 

Richard recommends free resources on the website of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC).

What evaluation tells you

Evaluation is not about passing or failing, but should highlight strengths and opportunities.

“Good measurement should look both backwards and forwards,” says Richard, “It should help you to correct course mid campaign – to stop spending effort on tactics that are clearly not working, and direct them instead where they can have better impact.”

So media evaluation can save you time and money, but Richard points out that there are perhaps more valuable benefits. “It should provide insights about your communities and audiences that you may not have known existed.”

Of course, identifying your audiences is a key part of any public relations strategy and vital for effective communication.

“Listen to the audiences you want to engage with and tailor your messages so they can hear you,” says Richard. “Many people still think standing on top of the mountain and shouting – or its modern day equivalent – will make people listen. It doesn’t!”