Public relations professionals should be able to speak confidently of the value of their work in clear and measurable terms to all stakeholders – to clearly demonstrate that public relations initiatives deliver results and a return on investment.
Robust and valid research, SMART communication objectives, evidence-based strategy and ongoing measurement and evaluation are fundamental to the public relations industry moving forward in maturity and credibility.
Accordingly, the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) has published guidelines to provide direction and assist communication professionals to undertake best practice measurement and evaluation.
The PRIA Measurement and Evaluation Framework published in 2017 contains four elements: Model, Implementation Matrix, set of Guidelines, as well as integrating into the International Association of Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) Online Tool. The Framework also aligns with the PRIA Media and Social Media Content Analysis Guidelines and templates.
These resources combine the latest Australian and international approaches with decades of knowledge on best practice research, measurement and evaluation, driven by the imperative for practical, user-friendly guidelines, methodologies and tools that pass the real-world test.
When implemented effectively and consistently, the Framework:
Enables and empowers more evidence-based development, management and evaluation of public relations programs and strategies
Assists practitioners to plan more effective communication, make better use of budgets, monitor progress and make adjustments accordingly, learn from successes, identify areas for improvement and make recommendations based on sound insights
Foster an increased understanding and appreciation of the value professional public relations brings to organisations at a variety of levels.
The PRIA Measurement and Evaluation Framework discusses 17 guidelines for best practice, including:
Setting SMART communication objectives that support organizational objectives
Establishing baseline data
Undertaking or commissioning formative, process and summative/evaluative research
Utilising measurement tools and techniques to track, monitor, assess, analyse and refine communication activities
Considering the context of communication including the impacts of the campaign on and by stakeholders, publics and society
Applying evaluation against objectives progressively throughout and at the conclusion of a campaign.
As a consequence, the Framework also highlights the need for practitioners to make the business case for investment in research, measurement and evaluation of communication, and to embed this into public relations budgets.
The PRIA Model for Measurement and Evaluation of Public Relations provides a diagrammatic overview of how the concepts can be applied, from program development and day-to-day public relations practice to analysis and reporting. Based on program logic models, its key stages are: inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes (short-, medium- and long-term) and impact. By tailoring the model with their own campaign-specific information, practitioners can create a one-page visual explainer that shows clients/management how research, measurement and evaluation are incorporated into a campaign.
The PRIA Evaluation Implementation Matrix is designed to help practitioners implement evaluation for all types of programs and all levels of budget and time. It includes more than 45 examples of strategic communication inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts; 45 examples of metrics and milestones that can demonstrate progress and results at each state; and 35 examples of research methods (informal and formal; quantitative and qualitative) that can be used for evaluation of strategic communication.
The Framework for strategic communication also comes with a set of Guidelines that incorporate both the PRIA Evaluation Model and the PRIA Evaluation Implementation Matrix.
The separate PRIA Media and Social Media Content Analysis Guidelines provide directions for practitioners to measure and evaluate media coverage and social media interactions using qualitative and quantitative criteria: reach, tone, five pre-determined, tailored quality measures. It provides an alternative to Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) and Advertising Space Rates (ASRs), which are not recommended or endorsed by the PRIA. Practitioners may find the guide and accompanying scalable Excel templates (available on request) useful as a ready-to-use-tool, as the foundation to further develop their own in-house mechanisms, or as the basis for discussion with their media content analysis provider.
Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs), also referred to as ‘ad values’, ‘ad equivalency’, and equivalent advertising value (EAV), are used by some organisations as a method for measuring the alleged value of public relations – or, more specifically, editorial publicity. However, AVEs are erroneous by definition; contrary to industry standards and guidelines; based on invalid and false claims as shown by independent academic research; and methodologically flawed on a number of grounds.
Keen for more info? The PRIA runs regular professional development workshops on Measurement and Evaluation with our resident M&E Trainer, Carol Moore MPRIA. If you wish to upskill or refresh your M&E knowledge and expertise, we recommend joining Carol in one of the PRIA workshops to ensure you can demonstrate the value that excellence public relations can deliver.