Measuring public relations and publicity programs | Inquirer Business
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Measuring public relations and publicity programs

10:47 PM October 24, 2013

I hate to sound corny but the harsh reality is, you can’t  measure anything unless you know exactly what it is you are measuring, and unless you have the right tools to measure with. You can’t measure your waistline with a thermometer, nor your weight with a tape measure, nor your fever with a weigh scale.

When you want to measure awareness, or corporate reputation, no amount of news pickups will tell you if you are achieving your goal. You need a tool to measure opinion, such as a survey using face-to-face interviews by Pulse Asia Research Inc. Depending on the population size or “universe,”  you will need a random sample of some 500 to 1,000 respondents to ensure accuracy of your findings, or a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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If you want to assess the impact of your publicity (press releases, photo captions, feature articles, column feeds), you still have to know what your objectives, strategies and results are. If your objective is to create awareness, the yardstick could be the increase in unaided awareness; if your objective is to sell a product, the gauge might be the incremental sales after you have done a sales promo.

Was your key message received? Maybe not if the news release was placed in the obituary page and didn’t break through the clutter. Was the message understood? Maybe not if  the message was presented in a complex, unpersuasive manner and lacked newsworthiness.

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People buy newspapers to read information. If your news release has no information that’s relevant to the reader, then you can be sure it will not be read at all.

Challenged to account for their performance, many PR practitioners resort to the use of Ad Value Equivalence (AVE). They cite the number of  “pickups,” measure the size of each in column cms,  multiply this  by the newspaper’s ad rates, and obtain the value  in advertising terms. Since a news story carries 3rd party endorsement, the media value increases four to  seven times the ad value depending on the placement of the news release.

The problem with AVE is that advertising and public relations are two different disciplines. PR author Katie Delahaye Paine says that to compare earned media with advertising  “is like hiring a plumber to redo your bathroom, and then calling a house painter to get a price quote to do the same thing.” Besides, message quality is more important than quantity of news pickups.

But if ad equivalence and media  values are not accurate measurements, then why is this practice so prevalent?  It is because they are easy to compute and they give an assessment of generated publicity that’s acceptable to numbers-oriented managers.

The author is president & CEO of Havas PR Agatep (formerly Agatep Associates), and group chair of Havas Worldwide Manila, subsidiary of Havas Worldwide with 316 offices in 75 countries. He was two-term president of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines and professor of public relations and communications in UST, Assumption College and St. Paul University.

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