Measure What Matters - Public Relations and Behaviour

Posted by Joe Walton on 07/02/2013

As I mentioned in my last post, setting objectives and measurement should be one of your New Year’s resolutions.

It is often a concern that measurement can be time consuming, expensive and difficult. Jargon, acronyms, surveys and statistical training can send people running for the hills.

Yet, these tools are often unnecessary. The most important things to measure are not in the heads but in the actions of your audience. Actions are visible and a lot easier to measure – certainly for smaller organisations – and if you want to measure the impact of PR this is where to start.

The Valid Framework Metrics

Last year, I helped organise the CIPR Scotland’s Social in the City series of events. In the final session Hugh Anderson from Forth Metrics came along to talk about PR evaluation. His slides are embedded below or you can view it on their SlideShare profile. I share it because it’s a great introduction to PR measurement.


Hugh does a great a job of introducing the Barcelona principles that guide the latest thinking on PR evaluation, explaining why AVE’s are useless and introducing the Valid Metrics Framework, a guide to developing a measurement system.

AMEC Framework PR measurement

AMEC, the group behind the initiative, who have been pushing measurement in PR, have information on applying this framework across many different sectors on their website. Head over there after you have finished reading this article.

Behaviour as the ultimate goal

In the framework, the bottom right hand box is the sweet spot. All other activities - including press coverage, events, social media and the plethora of PR tactics at your disposal - are intermediaries to these final concrete objectives.

You might notice, that in the example above, for a public education campaign, as you get closer to organisations goals in the bottom right the more directly observable measurements become. They are observable because they are physical behaviours and down to one person not an aggregate of many individuals.

Many of these offline measures can be gathered from records and transactions (financial or non-financial) between you are your stakeholders. For example, a spreadsheet to record incoming calls or counting visitors to an office would be an efficient way to measure behaviour.

Online technology and free analytics software have made measuring behaviour cheaper, quicker and more automated. As behaviour moves online it becomes easier to measure. By adding an online component to a campaign such as an information pack or signing up to a newsletter,  you can see success as visitors navigate your site.

Using behaviour to prove success

Behaviour can also be valued. This is usually financial (saved or gained) but could be the probability that someone will support a cause or time donated to an activity. Intermediates such as a change in reputation are harder to value. If you want to prove success to those higher in the organisation find ways to measure behaviour – then work out the relationship to your communication goals.

The question often comes up about where to attribute success for your campaign. Should it be advertising, marketing, coverage in the press or online word of mouth? The truth is it isn’t easy to tease out these relationships and nearly impossible with only a single window of information. By using different calls to action and measuring each channel over time a clearer picture will emerge. The use of goal report and funnels in Google analytics can help as well

A few final tips

When it comes to measuring behaviour in a PR campaign, it’s worth considering the following:

  • Do you already have the ability to measure behaviour in place? Is the data being collected?
  • If the way to measure behaviour isn’t obvious can you build calls to action into a campaign to help measure success?
  • Measurements need to be stable over time so comparisons can be made.
  • PR and communications activity can be correlated with a change in behaviour. I.e. if the PR is a success then the behavioural measurement should move in the desired direction.
  • Measure what you need to. Because you can measure something, doesn’t always make it worthwhile.
  • Set in place behavioural measures before a campaign starts. That way you can see change.
  • Communication is a form of behaviour. Measuring recommendations and advocacy are easier to see than ever online.
  • When it comes to measurement, don’t give yourself a hard time if it isn’t perfect. Measurement itself is a project that can be improved over time

Once you have the habit of measuring behaviour as part of PR campaign, outputs such as press coverage, events, social media activity or speaking engagements can then be attributed to the organisation’s success. 

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About the Author

Joe Walton is a consultant at Real PR and Secretary of the CIPR Scotland. His main interests sit between communications, psychology and technology.

You can follow him on multiple social networks including twitter and Google+.