New framework for measuring PR effectiveness puts spotlight on strategic planning

By Debby Penton

Strategic planning is the single most important factor in determining the value that PR delivers to the business with ad-hoc activity nothing but a distraction according to our new report, PR Vital Signs, which also sets out a brand new measurement framework for PR effectiveness.

PR Vital Signs reveals that setting clear performance objectives and having the plans in place to achieve them holds the key to delivering business-focused outcomes. It also reveals that the maturity of the PR function is critical in determining its overall effectiveness and this is unrelated to size, budget and experience; instead, maturity indicates the ability to respond to the challenges of the new communications landscape and this has the greatest influence on PR success.

Our study looked at whether today’s organisations are set up so PR delivers optimal value in today’s constantly evolving communications environment. Those organisations that scored highly in PR maturity were most likely to deliver business results and to be extremely effective at reputation management. These are exciting findings that provide huge potential for those organisations looking to make their PR more effective, and the good news is that even the smallest player can aspire to this.

We commissioned the report in conjunction with Dr Bill Nichols, a former PR agency chairman and industry veteran and lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University and Henley Business School. The study tested and validated the new PR framework with over 80 organisations from the UK and US, exploring every aspect of PR, from technical skills such as writing and pitching, to softer functional elements including creativity and planning capabilities.

The in-depth report reveals the findings from the research as well as sharing actionable insights on how to improve your organisation’s PR effectiveness, including ensuring all campaigns are founded upon research-based evidence, placing more emphasis on strategic planning and not dedicating too much time and resource on ad-hoc activity.

Our study only served to confirm that traditional measurement methods such as media coverage and Advertising Value Equivalents are largely ineffective when it comes to understanding the impact of PR upon desired business outcomes, such as sales and brand reputation.

The behaviour of PR teams is a much more accurate indicator of success. Factors such as responsiveness to emerging communications issues, the ability to manage the unexpected effectively, and having well-tested procedures in place for new challenges are all key indicators that relate to the maturity of the PR function.

If it is to continue to grow and earn respect as a serious discipline, the PR profession needs to find new ways to assess the effectiveness and value of the PR function.

Our ambitious project has made it clear that PR needs to perform as a strategic business function and the maturity of the PR function could be the missing link to improving its effectiveness.

Putting in place the processes that allow teams to respond quickly to changes in the external communications environment, while maintaining a focus on clear strategic goals, may well define the successful PR function of the future.

The full report is available on the link: http://www.emlwildfire.com/white_papers/pr_vital_signs  

About the author

Debby Penton is a director at top 10 technology PR agency EML Wildfire. She also chairs the PRCA Technology PR Committee and judges the PRCA and PR Week awards.

EML Wildfire and Bill Nichols will be conducting a second wave of research in the first quarter of 2014 to develop these initial insights and recommendations.

To take part in the survey and benchmark your organisations PR effectiveness against the industry, please fill in the questionnaire found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PRVitalSigns .

www.emlwildfire.com

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