Public relations are a potent and efficient marketing communications tool. Many companies have had positive experiences with PR practices and have achieved great business results, a high level of publicity and returns on their investments. However, many PR practitioners and PR agencies' clients are greatly interested in a more precise evaluation of their campaigns' results through PR measurement. Public relations agencies and self employed practitioners would have even more clients if they could present their target customers with certain criteria for PR measurement and prove the value of public relations for their business promotions.
However, there are not many criteria that can be used for PR measurement. Even though up to eighty two percent of PR professionals admit that they need a sort of PR measurement system, and only five percent of all PR agencies and practitioners, such as the Paine PR Company, have a budget for the actual PR measurement. In many cases, not only the uncertainty of how public relations results can be measured hinders PR agencies from taking steps in that direction. The expenditures of PR measurement can be very high, since it requires a lot of researching work to be done.
Considering the lack of particular standards for PR measurement, many PR agencies and practitioners evaluate the outputs of their public relations efforts instead of evaluating their outcomes. The outputs of public relations campaigns are quite easy to measure. PR professionals simply present their clients with the information on the PR coverage in the media they have been able to produce. They tell them about how many press releases, articles, stories and other publicity they were able to get out in the media. According to this principle, the more media coverage a company receives, the better outcome is.
Undoubtedly, such approach to PR measurement makes some sense, since if companies and brands can receive big media coverage and publicity, they can have more chances for creating or changing people's perceptions about them. However, such approach does not allow to make clear assumptions as to what particular outcomes any of the given public relations practices have produced and it does not permit advertisers to detect some problems that may occur, for most of the times along with public relations campaigns, companies carry out their advertising and other promotional activities.
The good news is that there is one more criterion for PR measurement and it can really give a possibility for advertisers to evaluate their PR campaigns' efficiency and to detect some possible problems. It is the comparison of companies' quality and quantity of PR campaigns with their competitors' ones. Such approach makes it possible to evaluate not only the outputs, but the outcomes of PR activities as well, as what you compare is not only the media coverage, but also business outcomes, such as the sales rates, customers' preferences, prescription volume, physician visits, etc. Such approach to PR measurement was researched and proven to be useful by Philadelphia-based PRtrak/Surveillance Data, Inc. They have conducted over one hundred and forty different studies during the past two years. Basically, they have discovered that the company, which has a bigger communication with its target audiences, as they have called it - 'Share of Discussion', wins the race.