Public relations (PR) is hard to define and sometimes even harder to measure. The most succinct definition is that it is a management function that executes a specific plan of action that deals with an individuals or organisations impact on public interest through its procedures and policies. PR also evaluates public attitudes.

The ways to do this could be as simple as writing and releasing a press release or something more complex like direct media relations. PR involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work as well as public activity such as community relations, crisis communications and public press conferences.

It can sometimes prove challenging to try to evaluate the effectiveness of a strategy. Over the years, the steps to analysing the effectiveness of a PR strategy have changed and become more refined.

PR can be measured on 3 levels:

  1. Outputs

This is the contact and response level. Measurement often involves determining the impact of a press release on media channels. Frequency, visits, prominence, reader contact, journalist inquiries and message impact are all considerations of outputs. The best way to measure outputs is to assign a scoring system. Base it on your target audience’s tone and reach, as well as how well the message was delivered and if it included an endorsement or recommendation.

  1. Outcomes

This term describes perception and behavioural levels, dealing primarily with knowledge, opinions and attitudes. When evaluating outcomes, the impact on target groups is measured through recognition, awareness, recollection, recommendations and purchasing intentions. The best way to measure outcomes is to use already existing material. You can use free online tools such as Survey Monkey to survey your target audience. Simply add a couple of carefully thought out questions to the survey to help determine if any of your PR activity is affecting awareness of your firm, encouraging purchase decisions etc.

  1. Business results

Business results refer to the added value of a PR campaign. This includes impact on sales levels, revenue, reputation, brand value and market share. Most businesses measure these levels, etc. through their finance department. The data can be analysed to determine if a PR campaign has had a positive impact or not.