Benchmark your PR with research - Dooley PR

How to show your client their money was well spent

Evaluating PR is important for any agency. It allows you to see if your strategy is working, and gives you the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t.  

Sometimes it can be hard to determine if your PR efforts are working because not all of them will result in immediate action. Public opinion and goodwill can take longer to improve than the timeframe you’re working in.

To help determine if your strategy is working, it’s a good idea to start off with a baseline measurement against your objectives. This gives you a point of reference to begin with — something you can measure your efforts against. A baseline measurement can be anything from current social media statistics, web traffic, public opinion, or behaviours of your target audience. Determining a baseline for your strategy’s objectives can also improve the accuracy of your evaluation.


Why evaluate

1. Measure the results of your objectives

By setting objectives at the beginning of a strategy, you outline what you want to accomplish. You should be evaluating whether or not you reached your objectives and where you need to still do work.


2. Measure coverage earned

Have you pitched to the media? Reached out to bloggers or social media influencers? You should be evaluating how effective your publicity was. We use services such as Meltwater to assist us with media and social media monitoring. Meltwater gives us access to tools such as media lists, quality scores on your PR outreach, and detailed insights reports.


3. Improve future campaigns

Evaluating the overall effectiveness of PR allows you to address areas that might not have worked or revisit any areas that could use improvement in the future.


4. Measure against budget

Did you go over budget? Could you have saved money in certain areas or invested more money into others? By evaluating whether or not you stayed on budget can help with planning in the future.


5. Return on investment (ROI)

Did you partner with a blogger for a sponsored post or pay for space in a magazine or on social media or a native advertising network? It’s important to evaluate the reach of that investment and determine if it turned into favourable action for your efforts. With the attention span of consumers decreasing, and the competition for their attention increasing, you can no longer strictly measure the ROI in terms of traditional dollars. There’s more to a successful PR than money.


Ways to evaluate

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is information that cannot be counted but measures attitudes and responses from your target audience. It can be used to give insight on how people feel about things. A common way to get qualitative research is by asking people open ended questions. Focus groups are a great option to generate discussion and get feedback from a group of people who are relevant to your strategy. However, a drawback to qualitative data is that it is more difficult to apply statistically.


Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is data and information that can be counted and measured. It provides statistical facts and can help you numerically represent your data. A common ways to get quantitative PR data is through social media and Google analytics. However, being able to see how many people visit your website does not tell you how they felt about the website.


Research tools

At Dooley Communications, we use a variety of methods to evaluate our PR efforts, such as:

  • social media analytics
  • website analytics
  • conversions (which can be defined in many ways)
  • developing our own proprietary online and email surveys
  • omnibus surveys
  • customized phone and online surveys
  • and also focus groups.

We compile research by using our own resources as well as different research firms. Probe Research is one of our research partners. They offer a quarterly omnibus survey as a cost-effective option to poll Manitobans. Omnibus surveys include questions from multiple organizations asked during one survey. If you have only a small number of questions to test, omnibus surveys like this one can be highly effective.
You can pay for asking one question within the survey or multiple questions within the survey.

The Probe quarterly Omnibus surveys 1,000 randomly chosen Manitobans, which includes 600 Winnipeggers.

What to look for when evaluating

Evaluating Objectives

When evaluating PR campaigns, you need to determine your objectives first and think carefully about what results you want to measure. Think about what success looks like and what you think is reasonable to achieve. Your objectives should be measurable, and time bound in order to effectively evaluate them.

Communication effectiveness

You should also be evaluating the effectiveness of your communication tactics. Did the messages reach their intended audience? Did the messages resonate with the audience? Has your campaign led to a change in public opinion or behaviour? It’s important to evaluate if your message increases awareness, creates an attitude change with your target audience, and results in them taking action such as visiting your website or whatever your strategy entails.

When to evaluate

1. Research at the beginning

Later results will be meaningless if you don’t have a baseline.


2. Researching throughout

It might be obvious to evaluate once everything is said and done, but how about along the way? By checking in with your objectives and evaluating how your communication tactics are performing, you’re able to make adjustments along the way. Digital tools make it easier than ever to monitor campaigns in real time.


3. Researching at the end

Evaluating when you are done helps you see how your tactics performed, and to make note of what can be improved for next time.


About the author

Ashlyn Peterson is a student intern at Dooley Communications. She is currently finishing the Creative Communications program at Winnipeg’s Red River College.

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