Embracing Best Practice Standards Of Public Relations Measurement In Nigeria
PR measurement is becoming more worrisome with the way public relations practitioners equate PR performance to advertising through output measurement, using the long out-dated Ad Value Equivalent formula.
Advertising professionals rely heavily on the AIDA Principle. Ads are creatively designed to effortlessly gain the Attention of the target audience; strong enough to command their Interest, which creates Desire for the product/service advertised and finally induce them to perform the Action of buying the product or requesting for the service advertised. Therefore, it is much easier for an advertiser to calculate the impact of a campaign by relating cost of ad to after-sales volume to measure ROI (Return on Investment).
Sadly, the use of AVEs in PR places more emphasis on quantitative rather than qualitative deliverables. AVEs are calculated by multiplying the size of a story or photo by its corresponding ad value and then apply credibility multipliers on a scale of 2-4 (averagely) to arrive at the corresponding PR Value for such story or photo (on the ground that PR is at least 3 to 4 times more credible than advertising). The size of the editorial is obtained by multiplying the number of inches bycolumns the story or photo runs through.A process I find more tasking and less beneficial to the overall advancement of contemporary standard PR practice. Hence, the questions to be asked at the end of any PR campaign should be:
o What value does the campaign add to the business?
o How does the programme change public perception of the organisation?
o Does it affect or reinforce a positive change of attitude in the target publics?
o Does the programme provide a lead for other departments to explore, especially Marketing/Sales department?
Finding answers to these questions lies on pre and post campaign research,necessary tools in enhancing better evaluation of any PR campaign.
PR is socio-scientific. This implies that as people's attitudes and behaviours change, the techniques used in probing such changes should also reflect the change itself. PR has gone beyond the era of 25 news stories, 20 photo news and 30 online mentions.
Yes! You have achieved the client's target or probably surpassed it in terms of media mentions. But what overall value does it bring to the business? How sure are you that your target audience read all your stories? Even if they do, does your campaign change their attitude and perception of your client/company? What percentage change does it effect? Does your story have a stickiness effect/value? How sticky is it? Obviously, only AVEs cannot do that.
Benchmarking Advertising against PR in terms of output measurement is questionable in the first place. Advertising is 'strategically' crafted, 'purposefully' placed, and 'perfectly' or almost perfectly executed. You hardly see 'errors' in ads. How would you then equate the value of a 'perfect' ad to an ambiguous PR story with grammatically wrongheadline or body text? All ads are positive; how then would you calculate the ad values of a negative or neutral PR story? Above all, there is no scientific proof that a 2 inches by 2 columns story on the same page with a 2 inches by 2 columns ad has the same impact on the reader.
Each has its own measurement techniques valid for the respective market communications professions. However, there may be instances where PR could be more impactful than advertising. For instance, an independent report by stock market analysts on the excellent performance of a particular firm may be more effective in terms of credibility and investors' confidence in the company than an ad soliciting for public offer for new shareholders and rights issue for existing shareholders for the same company.
Contemporary PR measurement lies heavily on the use of both quantitative and qualitative techniques, through constant audience research and pure media content analysis advocated by global experts. It is about time practitioners in the field embraced that and carve a redefined niche for the profession in terms of workable and best practice measurement standards.
Senior Executive, Insights & Analytics,