Before analyzing the results of a PR campaign, it is necessary to clarify what PR means today. The primary goal of Public Relations has always been to develop relationships, to connect institutions, companies, people and establishments with their users or their clients. What has changed over time, and has even significantly increased, are the ways that brands can reach their audiences. As a result, PR campaigns have become increasingly more comprehensive, and potentially omni-channel.
Entering into a relationship with the audience is vital for any brand, regardless of the industry and turnover, and doing this in the most effective and appropriate way can be game-changing for the future of the business. The goals of a PR campaign may vary according to a brand’s needs, but the focus is always on connecting the brand with its audience in order to inform, educate, provide a new perspective, change perceptions or to even entertain that audience.
A key element of any PR campaign is a clear and precise definition of the goals to be achieved. What is the focus of the initiative? Who is the target audience? Who are the main stakeholders? Which channels are best suited to convey the message? The answers to these questions will allow the agency to develop better-focused ideas and projects, and will allow the client to have a clearer idea about the possible results of these ideas and projects. The more meticulous this stage is and the more the identified goals meet the measurable criteria (SMART), the easier it will be to define the KPIs and to measure the impact of the action taken.
The results of any PR activity can be divided into outtake, outcome and outgrowth.
- The outtake is the audience’s reaction to an action, or their interaction with it. For example: reading an article and remembering the brand mentioned in it, or judging a product as being particularly innovative.
- The outcome is a change in the audience’s behavior or opinion about a particular brand.
- Outgrowth can also be defined as a change in the audience’s opinion of the brand, but from a much longer perspective. Outgrowth is measured by the quality of the relationships upon which the company’s reputation is based. Of course, this result does not last forever, but instead, it must be continually monitored and specific actions must be taken to sustain it.
It goes without saying therefore, that the results of a PR initiative go well beyond an event, even a well-organized event, or the publication of a press release. Public relations can, in fact, change the perception of a given brand.
Ultimately, a PR campaign can be considered effective when it succeeds in influencing, changing and improving, not only the relationship between the brand and the target audience, but also communication with journalists, influencers, employees, customers and experts. It is a daily flow that makes it possible to amplify messages and to make them more far-reaching – because in the end, the best results are obtained when relations are not only understood as public but, above all, as human.
Finally, it is important to define how to measure a campaign’s effectiveness. The Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) can be regarded as an outdated and misleading parameter; in fact, the value cannot be identified with the cost, and above all, it is not appropriate to use one discipline to evaluate an entirely different one. Advertising is intrusive, while PR is engaging.
Measurement is, for all practical purposes, an integral part of the campaign itself. However, companies should not forget that measurement costs money. While it is good to ask PR agencies to do this, it is also important to allocate a budget so that measurement can be done correctly, with adequate resources and means.