CARMA joined forces with the Institute of Public Relations Singapore (IPRS) to organise a panel session focused on PR measurement. The panel included perspectives from Andrew Nicholls, Managing Director at CARMA Asia; Lien Xiuwen, Partner at IN.FOM; Foo Chek Yee, Head of PR, APAC at Cushman & Wakefield; and was moderated by Jian Yang, Managing Partner and Head of Strategy, Distilleri.
The panel began with the moderator posing the ever-crucial question regarding the right metrics to be used in place of Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE), which has persisted in PR measurement despite lacking academic support.
The panellists acknowledged that AVE’s longevity can be attributed to its simplicity. The search for an alternative straightforward metric is a natural inclination. However the media landscape itself is complex, and therefore, a simplistic approach is insufficient. Furthermore, professionals may struggle to prioritise this due to time constraints or perceive it as too expensive.
What are challenges with PR measurement?
Effectively demonstrating the numbers and impact of PR efforts to internal stakeholders is another significant challenge. Chek Yee illustrates an all-too-familiar scenario commonly faced by PR teams, “If my spokespeople are quoted in the Financial Times, and someone books in a meeting with them soon after, was that a direct impact?”
Furthermore, among younger generations who have different media consumption habits, and with the increased prevalence of social media platforms such as TikTok, simply focusing on the number of articles may not be sufficient if the target audience is not engaging with traditional media channels.
Let’s accept the fact that PR measurement is complex. As Andrew puts it, “There is no off-the-shelf approach to PR measurement that can be universally applied to every organisation.” Factors such as company size, industry, market position, whether you are a challenger brand or an established player, operating in a new or mature market, these all have an impact on the measurement approach.
These factors directly influence what PR teams can or cannot do, the budgets allocated, the expectations they have, which then informs how we at CARMA can support its clients in gaining fruitful insights for action.
How do we know that our PR efforts actually had an impact on our target audiences’ mindsets?
We can break down measuring impact to something as simple as See, Think and Do.
What has the audience seen, heard or experienced, whether that’s on TikTok or on the radio? What are they doing next as a result?
Surveys or focus groups are an important data source for what the audience sees, thinks or does. Search data is also a valuable source of information; people don’t search for something that they’re not familiar with or thinking about.
Media coverage is one of the more common methods used to evaluate a PR campaign. But the overarching objective of obtaining media coverage is because PR teams want to maintain a certain mindset, implement a new mindset, or change an existing one.
Our job is to drive the conversation to understand the true objectives of the PR team. Ultimately, it is about ensuring that the work being done is not merely evaluated on its output, but whether it has delivered the intended outcomes and resonated with the target audience.
How does AI come into play in PR?
With developments in natural language processing, AI is capable of understanding, analysing and providing output close to how the human brain would.
AI is a powerful tool, especially when making sense of large volumes of data, or helping teams react quickly to a breaking news story.
But simply relying on dashboards and automated analytics may fall short in telling the complete story or providing the necessary insights. We need to recognise the continued importance of human expertise in PR.
The depth of understanding and the ability to explain the “why” behind the data requires human involvement. Contextual understanding, critical thinking, and comprehending the client’s objectives are vital elements that humans bring to the table.
Despite the buzz surrounding AI, it is essential to remember that it complements human efforts rather than replacing them. AI can enhance PR practices, but human involvement remains crucial in effectively conveying the narrative and extracting valuable insights from data.
How should PR professionals transform change from within?
When the need for revamped measurement arises, it is often because someone within the company has recognised the need for improved reporting. This individual might be new to their role, or find the existing reporting methods confusing or inadequate when showcasing performance.
Yet in many cases, there may be stakeholders who are used to a specific way of reporting, and are resistant to new change. The best approach is to retain those familiar metrics while introducing additional insights and measurements over time.
As the usefulness and value of the new approach becomes more apparent, it gets easier to move away from counterproductive practices and embrace more insightful reporting methods.
Common questions that PR professionals can ask to set themselves on the right path are: How their PR campaigns are performing, whether their measurement practices align with industry standards, and how can they do better in demonstrating impact?
The ultimate goal is to provide meaningful and actionable information that aligns with best practices and addresses the organisation’s objectives.
Xiuwen concludes the panel with her thoughts on putting numbers behind PR performance, “Embrace numbers as they can be your greatest allies. Don’t shy away from them. Instead, find ways to bring out the impactful story they tell.”
She continues, “This can be achieved by engaging in conversations with internal stakeholders and enlisting their support on this journey. It all comes down to two key factors: curiosity and an open mindset.”
Beyond the discussion
In sharing her closing thoughts, Juat Muay, President of the IPRS put forth that the while the work of PR is inspiring, the business of delivering PR results is challenging.
In the course of organising this event together with the IPRS and team, the IPRS establishes its position that while the value of PR work is not disputed, it is the evaluation and final numbers attributed to PR work that must be fair and equitable.
This will be the next step for the industry as a whole.