If measuring the success of your public relations performance remains a mystery, you’re not alone. Many brands seem to have a tough enough time understanding exactly how public relations work, much less quantifying their results. To help demystify the space we’ll look at proving the value of PR using consumer and market intelligence.
Specifically, we’ll take a brief look at the following topics:
- Proving the value of PR can be challenging
- Tracking the media coverage impact
- Using credibility to counter a crisis
Before we jump in, here are a few public relations statistics of interest to contextualize the conversation:
- A 2019 study found that only 45% of public relations communicators have a crisis communications plan on standby.
- 65% of public relations professionals believe that skillful use of data analytics will have the most impact on the industry’s future.
- Globally, the PR market is forecast to grow by over 10% in 2021 to $97.13B as companies emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
With that, let’s take a look at some of the issues brands face.
Proving the Value of PR Can Be Challenging
Let’s start off by defining exactly what PR is to clear away any vague notions. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines it as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” In a nutshell, public relations alter public perceptions for the betterment of your brand or institution.
Yes, marketing campaigns do that too, and that’s probably where some of the confusion comes in for most people. The key difference is that PR is all about reputation management that uses earned media to build public trust or mitigate a crisis. PR uses traditional and social media as well as public speaking engagements to tell a brand’s story and build rapport. And it doesn’t just target consumers but seeks to shape the opinion of the public as a whole.
The question that remains for many brands is how best to judge their performance on the PR stage. PR is a long game to build up your reputation over time. But as new events and engagements unfold, you can track them with your social listening and data analytics tools. Doing this allows you to measure key metrics such as sentiment, article count, reporters, mentions, impressions, domain traction, etc., in much the same way as you’d track your brand health metrics or marketing campaigns.
Here’s an example from when the NHL had to get out in front of the narrative when a referee was caught on a hot mic saying he “wanted to” call a penalty against a particular team. On the social side of things, you need to know where people respond and how they feel about your message. These are numbers with which you can compare changes to your brand health metrics as they occur.
Setting up key metrics to measure around your PR initiatives gives you actual numbers to work with as you strengthen your brand’s reputation over time. Not only will doing this help you to streamline your PR strategy, but it’s an added boost to your consumer intelligence – and your media intelligence as well.
Tracking Media Coverage Impact
In the world of public relations, you need the ability to glean every article that impacts your brand for the ultimate in media intelligence. And that means tracking coverage in the news by sorting for every attribute you can get your hands on. Determine where your efforts are maximizing impact and where you could use a boost. Conversely, in times of crisis, you can see where the fires are burning the hottest, so you can center your attention there.
Depending on your needs, you can track your media movement and dial in hard on source attributes such as:
- Reader Interest by Age
- Source Country
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We also need to know which reporters cover us the most and what kind of traction they get – in addition to all the reader intel we can gather. We can measure keyword usage in stories around our brand to ascertain which ones penetrate the deepest. Location mentions are invaluable nuggets of intel for targeting your reputational growth to areas that could use a boost. With all of these attributes, we can dig into the sentiment around the stories to grab media intelligence on perceptions. After all, that’s what PR is all about.
Whether you’re building credibility and reputation, or the storm clouds are brewing, you need a microscope to form media intelligence built on precision. Your data analytics tools need to be capable of delivering numbers to the questions you need answered. That’s what tracking media coverage impact is all about.
That said when your next story hits the media make sure you’re capable of jumping in and capturing the numbers behind it. Here’s what that looks like on a timeline for the NHL’s recent referee incident. It’s colored by source quality, so you can see mid-tier and niche media is driving coverage, and top-tier sources just showed passing interest.
Using Credibility to Counter a Crisis
Your reputation is the gold standard that backs the public’s trust. During the good times, you need to measure your PR initiatives so you can lean into what’s working well. You also need to discard or tweak what’s not, so you are minimizing wasted time, energy and human resources.
And while it may be a long time in-between crises, the stronger your brand reputation, the surer your footing when the inevitable strikes. When it does, the strength of your reputation will help to mitigate how far the public’s mood swings. However, at the onset of a crisis, you need effective communication – and you need it fast.
In the study we referenced earlier, a disappointing 55% of public relations professionals do not have a crisis communications plan at the ready. This, quite simply, is gross negligence and a misunderstanding of how a swift response can keep a situation from spiraling out of control.
Case in point, the NHL isn’t playing around with their reputation. If fans can’t trust referees to call games fairly, then there is a severe credibility issue. And anyone who follows sports already knows that bad calls are a source of instant outrage. That being the case, the NHL’s PR department released a statement first thing in the morning after the game where the ref was caught on a hot mic.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 24, 2021
If you noticed, they referenced the integrity of the game twice. You work hard to build credibility, and you cannot afford to let it erode away in a crisis. Act fast in the moment by preparing beforehand.
Sporting events and franchises offer a great window into the world of PR and crisis management. That’s because nowhere else is there such a tightly woven fabric of prominent personalities. Missteps abound in the sporting world, and the drama adds to the appeal. But the NHL handled the situation effectively, as evidenced by how quickly the social and media conversations died away. If they left it to linger too long, they would have watched their credibility evaporate.
If you are not using consumer and market intelligence to build your brand’s reputation and put a PR action plan together, then you’re playing with fire. Literally, this is what the NHL had to get out in front of. It’s a fireball of social sentiment.
Using traditional and social media analytics provides a two-pronged approach to safeguarding your brand’s reputation. Consumer intelligence gained from social media and news media readership will tell you exactly where your reputation stands right now.
Media intelligence will give you the same intel on the flip side of the coin. Using them in tandem to analyze and strategize your PR approach will provide you with the most holistic viewpoint of public perception. Not only that, it’s the best way to quantify a subject that remains vague in the minds of many.
Are you ready to move your PR game to the next level? Reach out for a demo, and we’ll help you put concrete numbers to your public relations metrics.