Statement of best practice in measurement and evaluation

This statement is intended to support entrants to the 2016 CIPR Awards. It is drawn from the CIPR Research, Planning and Measurement Toolkit (PDF), the Barcelona Principles and the work of the International association for the measurement and evaluation of communication (AMEC).

If you would like any guidance or assistance in the research, planning and measurement section of your 2016 CIPR Awards entry, please contact philm@cipr.co.uk and he will endeavour to get back to you within 48 hours.

Principles of best practice

  • All media output, whether online or offline, should be evaluated for the outcomes it brings about
  • Outcomes should be evaluated against goals
  • Goals relating to the business/organisational goals of your client/employer, or at least to the stated aim of the activity included in all planned public relations activity
  • Output measures are not a sufficient measure of public relations activity
  • Advertising Value Equivalence does not represent the value of Public Relations – including AVE in your award submission will guarantee a zero mark in the measurement and evaluation section
  • Measurement must be transparent, understandable and replicable to be valid – you should be able to explain the provenance of any statistics included in your submission
  • Media output should be evaluated using qualitative as well as quantitative metrics
  • Social media cannot be effectively measured using a single tool or metric.

Glossary

Input

Background information and research including, for example, an analysis of current organisational perceptions, to inform the initial planning and providing benchmarks against which to measure later:

  • The PR brief (information on organisation / sector)
  • Desk research and original research (to inform content of PR materials)
  • Pre-testing (messages / materials understood)

Output

Literally, what messages go out from the organisation? This is a measure of a quantified nature that can analyse the degree of exposure and audience reach, but cannot explain to what extent people's opinions or behaviour have been influenced. Many PR campaign measures are built around outputs, but this does not allow PR practitioners to demonstrate the positive impact their work has had on an organisation and its objectives. For example:

  • News issued and coverage monitored (media measurement)
  • Website launched (traffic analysis)
  • Event staged (who and how many attended?)
  • Research survey conducted (to inform strategy and plan)

Out-take

The extent to which the audience is aware of the message, has understood and remembered it and their response – some of which can be tracked online in real time via tweets, blog comments or online community threads. Information from a sample of the target audience during the course of a campaign can provide confirmation that the campaign is working, or an early warning that the tactics or strategy may need adjustment. For example:

  • Analysis of coverage (media measurement)
  • Online tracking of comments and feedback and engagement with audiences
  • Is audience 'getting message' and likely intentions? (Qualitative / quantitative research)

Outcome

Measuring outcomes should be the focus of PR measurement, so that the positive impact on the organisational objectives can be clearly articulated. Measuring outcomes is about understanding the degree to which PR has changed people's awareness, opinion and behaviour. This is the most valuable form of measurement: concrete proof such as a rise in sales that can be traced to PR, focus groups to confirm a shift in behaviour, or simple observation. Outcome is the strongest basis for estimating a return on the PR investment, and the source of valuable information to be fed back into the research, planning and measurement process and the client's or organisation's strategic planning. For example:

  • Results versus objectives.
  • Hard' evidence (quantitative research, sales, numbers, a vote passed)
  • 'Soft' evidence (qualitative research, observation, anecdotal)
  • What did each PR / research method contribute?
  • What was the return on PR investment?
  • What lessons for next time?

Further reading

  • Public Relations Metrics, Research and Evaluation (Van Ruler, Vercic and Vercic), Routledge, 2008.
  • Measuring Public Relationships (Delahaye Paine) KD Paine and Partners, 2007.
  • Evaluating Public Relations (Watson and Noble) Kogan Page, 2007.
  • The Business of Influence (Sheldrake) Wiley, 2011.