The full five-stage process of planning, research and evaluation works as a virtuous circle through which the end results are fed back into stage one of the planning process for the next campaign:
Audit: where are we now?
Gather information and conduct research to build a foundation for the PR campaign or programme:
- Public relations brief
- Public perception
- Media profile
- SWOT analysis
- Issues and problems
- Which messages are working and which are being rejected
- how advertising and public relations are working together
- how perceptions about you compare with competitors
Setting objectives: where do we need to be?
Align publicity objectives with the goals and objectives of the organisation. Public relations objectives should not exist in a vacuum:
- Objectives should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant
- and timely
- Audience identification and targeting
- Message development
- Desired responses
- Co-ordinated advertising and public relations messages
Strategy and plan – how do we get there?
Which type of research should we use?
- Media evaluation to analyse media coverage (outputs)
- more detailed research to see if audience has understood the message
- Research into the message has had an effect on behaviour opinions
- Qualitative research e.g. focus groups
- Quantitative research: numbers
Ongoing measurement – are we getting there?
Steering, adjusting and improving the PR programme
- how are we doing – what have we learnt from measurement?
- Comparing research results with objectives
- What should we carry on or stop doing?
- What are the reasons behind unexpected results?
- Are the effects attributable to public relations or any other
- communications activity?
Results and evaluation – how did we do?
Quantifying the outcome
- Were the objectives met?
- Return on public relations investment?
- What can be fed back into the process for next time?
- What can inform future business decisions?
- Invest in public relations evaluation. You should be spending 7-10 % of the public relations budget on planning, research and evaluation. the cost of evaluation should be included as part of the total budget and not split out. the type, level and cost of bought-in research should reflect the total budget and be proportionate to the objectives set at the outset and the desired results.
- Use planning, research and evaluation before, during and after every campaign, depending on the level of measurement required and afforded. End of campaign results evaluation is meaningful against pre-set benchmarks. Measure whenever it will provide information that will be valuable to improving the quality of the programme.
- Carry out thorough audits and research to identify potential areas for exploitation, and issues which need careful handling.
- Understand your audiences and media. Research at the start of a campaign will give a clear indication of who needs to be targeted and how best to reach them.
- Test your messages. sensible testing with a select group of the target audiences will provide invaluable information and enable messages to be tailored and targeted successfully.
- do not use Advertising value Equivalents (AVEs). they are weak and imply public relations is a substitute for advertising, when the two disciplines have different roles. AVEs take no account of positive or negative coverage, or the value (or damage) of editorial endorsement (or criticism). High quality editorial endorsement cannot be bought, so to put a value on it by using equivalent advertising space costs is misleading.
- Define what worked and what didn’t. like any other activity you should make sure that mistakes are not repeated, and you know what worked best.
- Improve the next campaign. Feed what you learn about the most successful
- tactics, the audiences that responded best, and the most appropriate timings and
- media into planning for the next campaign.