Measuring PR is More Than Counting Articles

Financial institutions obsess over the number of press releases they send out and the number of stories that get published about them. But the true measure of any PR campaign's success should be outcomes and behavioral changes, not simply the volume of material generated.

How effective is your public relations program? Can you point to tangible areas of success? Can you put a dollar amount on the impact that your financial institution’s PR program has had on the bottom line?

All too often, the answer to that question is, “no.” Unlike advertising and marketing initiatives which often have a direct and measurable impact on success, the true impact of public relations programs is more difficult for financial institution’s to gauge.

Beginning With the End in Mind

At its core, any PR program is attempting to do three things:

1. Reach a particular audience with a specific message,
2. Influence the audience to make a change or take an action.
3. Create a positive effect on the institution’s bottom line.

So how can you track and measure these objectives? Back in 2011, the leading PR associations across the globe worked out a series of principles to guide measurement of PR programs. These principles, known as the “Barcelona Principles,” laid out how any company can measure PR activity gauge the impact on the business.

The Seven Barcelona Principles

1. Setting goals and defining measurements are critical
2. Measuring outcomes is better than measuring outputs
3. The effect on business results can and should be measured
4. Media measurement involves both quantity and quality
5. “Ad Value Equivalency” is not the right way to value PR
6. Social media can and should be measured
7. Transparency and replicability are paramount

The principles begin by emphasizing the need to include PR in the initial goal setting process for the institution. By incorporating PR measurement into the planning and goal-setting process, financial institutions can better more clearly establish what exactly the program is trying to achieve, and more easily define the metrics necessary to track progress.

Financial institutions need a clear roadmap for how they will measure their successes in order to maximize the benefits — with respect to their PR, or any marketing activity. That’s why the first step in any program should be to determine what it is you wish to accomplish. Public relations can be an effective tool for brand and product marketing, reputation building, advocacy, employee engagement, investor relations, crisis management, public education or community engagement. Which reason(s) are you using to underpin your public relations program? By deciding exactly what your PR team is trying to achieve, banks and credit unions can then build a framework to select the best strategies, methods and metrics.

Measuring Outputs and Outcomes

PR programs can involve a range of different metrics. One level of measurement is to examine what impact is made on a target audience in terms of progress on the sales funnel — e.g., “Where were they in the sales funnel before the PR campaign, and where did they end up afterwards? For instance, metrics can be tied directly to stages in the audience’s lifecycle:

Awareness – Does the audience recognize the name or issues being promoted?

Knowledge – Does the audience have knowledge of the bank and can they differentiate from other competitors?

Consideration – Is the audience increasing in engagement with the bank or turning into strong prospects for sales?

Preference – Is the audience indicating strong brand loyalty or stating an intention to buy?

Action – Is there an increase in sales, market share, customer loyalty or leads generated?

Within a program, executives should pay attention to both “outputs” and “outcomes.” Typically, outputs are considered to be the immediate results of a specific PR program or activity. In most cases, they represent what is readily apparent to the eye. They measure the production and completion of tactics that should lead to increased PR exposure. Financial institutions often measure outputs by tracking how often news is released, audience reach, number of impressions or share of voice — “How many articles were published about us?”

“Outcomes” aim to measure whether the “outputs” actually resulted in any change in behavior, such as increased awareness, more visits to the website, requests for information, and new sales. Common methods of measuring outcomes might involve leveraging surveys, measuring increases in online engagement, downloads of sales materials, attending events, or requesting a loan application via content flowing from a PR campaign.

While outcomes are a preferable set of metrics, it is still important to measure outputs, because — after all — you need “outputs” to generate any kind of “outcomes.”

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