Proving PR's Worth

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The question of how to measure the impact of PR has long bedeviled communicators. Traditional monitoring services offer an after-the-fact outline of a campaign's success in terms of media relations, but tell you little about its persuasive power with patients and physicians. Focus groups can offer direction, but are a poor predictor of impact. Communicators have been starved for numbers they can take into a budget planning meeting, where they must hold their own against comparatively data-rich media like advertising and sales.

“Communications people are operating with blinders on,” says Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. “Everybody wants a seat at the table, but if you don't speak the language, you won't get it, and the lingua franca of the C-suite is numbers.”

Impressions aren't enough. “Measurement is probably the wrong word for what a lot of firms are doing,” says Katie Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners. “They're measuring what the media says about them. But are they getting their message across?”

Key to developing an effective program is having well-defined objectives, says Marita Gomez, VP at Cushman Amberg (formerly of HealthInfo Direct). “In a world in which consumers and physicians are being bombarded through many different channels, a stack of clips is not an effective measure,” says Gomez. “You need to know whether you actually persuaded somebody or changed their behavior.”

That's changing as communications becomes a more central part of the marketing mix and modeling grows more sophisticated. Proctor & Gamble, recently developed an effectiveness measurement model for external relations that can weigh communications against any other element of the marketing mix and demonstrate ROI.

“For people working in multi-disciplined areas, it gives them the numerical and objective argument for increases in brand PR budget,” Hans Peter, P&G manager of external relations for global household care, told PRWeek. “The results reinforce the need to bring in PR early.” P&G's model uses an “impact score,” weighing factors like whether or not a brand was mentioned in the headline and if a logo was visible in a photograph that ran. “When these elements are present, they're much more likely to be remembered,” says Mark Weiner, president of Delahaye, which worked with P&G on developing the model.

Weiner says his firm's measurement has consistently shown that PR delivers the highest ROI—around $6 per dollar invested, as compared to $1.30 for mass advertising and $2.30 for trade promotions.

Argenti has been working with Fleishman-Hillard on a model designed to project the potential impact of a campaign on a brand, using impressions and other data collected internally or from services like Biz360, Delahaye or Factiva. The firm is working with three pharma companies and is in talks with three more, says Peter Verrengia, regional president of Fleishman-Hillard and managing director for consulting worldwide.

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