Media evaluation in the digital era: How PR must work more efficiently

 By Chris Lee

PRs spend too much time on media evaluation due to Hisham El-Marazki, CEO of PR Gym, a media database provider. Having worked for many years in the world of media evaluation, the founders of PR Gym say they had seen at first-hand how much time PR professionals “waste on media evaluation” and set about creating a different approach.

“It’s not that media evaluation is an unimportant activity,” El-Marazki told NMK. “Far from it: media evaluation is vital to understanding how well a PR campaign is working, to understanding where you are getting coverage, how successfully that coverage is conveying your key messages and ultimately the value of that coverage.”

Measuring what matters

The issue PR Gym’s founders had identified was that PR professionals were spending so long on media evaluations. According to El-Marazki, PRs were going through the laborious process of contacting the publication to find out circulation figures, audience demographics, and advertising rates, then carefully adding it all to a spreadsheet which they would eventually send to the client.

“The client would be unlikely to look at these dense, unappealing reports and even less likely to be able to use them as the planning tools they were intended to be,” he said.

The only alternative, El-Marazki argued, was to outsource it to one of the industry giants such as Gorkana, Precise or Kantar. These operate vast automated systems where computers scan articles looking for key messages and sentiment, and generating reports.

“These computers are unable to spot ambiguity, humour, double entendre and so on. Accuracy suffered,” El-Marazki said. “It all seemed such a waste of time and effort. And, to be frank, who has time to waste these days? It set us thinking: what could PR professionals do with a free half-day every week? One day we will have time for culture, exercise, family and so on. Until then the UK’s PR professionals are stuck on an endless treadmill of client meetings, press release writing, media sell-ins, and AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) calculations.”

Five top tips for streamlined media evaluation

According to El-Marazki, there are five simple things every PR professional can do today to save time:

1) Get someone else to do your AVE calculations, such as the PR Gym system

2) Liberate yourself from the inbox:

Studies have proven just how addictive e-mail can be. Dr Thomas Jackson of Loughborough University found that it takes an average of 64 seconds for people to recover their train of thought after an email interruption.

“So if you check your email every five minutes that is 8.5 hours a week you spend trying to remember what you were just doing. It is time to take action,” El-Marazki said. “Turn off notifications so email no longer invades your space. You go to look for it. Resolve to only look at your email twice a day, and let people know that is what you are doing – set up an auto-respond message if necessary. And surprise people by responding to their email with a phone call. It cuts down the number of back-and-forth email exchanges, and will encourage some people to call you next time they need to make contact.”

3) Work out what steals your time:

“For anyone who has worked in an agency, to hear timesheets mentioned in the same breath as time saving might seem odd. For agency staff they are the irritation at the end of the week that stops them completing client work or going home,” he added

El-Marazki highlighted as a tool that allows users to quickly track what they are spending time on and essentially to produce their own timesheets.

4) Accept that not everything needs to be perfect:

“Everybody wants to do their best at work. No one likes producing work which is just good enough. Yet, this constant striving for perfection can be highly damaging, not only to our work-life balance, but also to our performance,” he added.

5) Put the Internet to work for you:

El-Marazki believes the Internet makes our lives so much easier in so many ways. Yet, while this does in many ways free up our time, very few of us use the Internet as time-effectively as we could. We spend hours scanning shopping sites, opening and reopening banking apps, refining our Google search terms and flicking through irrelevant social media updates from people we barely know.

For example, If This Then That is a platform that allows users to set up a series of rules so that what is interesting to them on the Internet comes to them rather than the user having to go out and find it. For example, users can set a rule so if a photo of them is posted to Instagram they receive a text message.

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