First MAG of 2012!

I can’t believe it’s New Year’s Eve already!

To celebrate the New Year MAG has had a bit of a facelift. With a new cover artist we decided it was as good a time as any to give the magazine a new look. January’s issue is online only while we iron out any glitches with the new layout but we will be back in print in February with lots of new features.

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Evaluation, evaluation, evaluation

It’s all very well creating a stunning PR campaign but what’s the point if you don’t understand why it was successful or in some cases unsuccessful.

It has always been hard for public relations to show the true value of it’s work. The old system of AVE’s (Advertising Value Equivalent) is flawed in many ways, AVE rates on the basis that advertising and public relations hold the same value, this is not the case. An online advert doesn’t hold the same worth for example as an influential blogger writing a positive piece on a product or service. In traditional media such as newspapers there is no value that can put on a positive mention in an article on the front page the same can be said for a piece on the BBC. This is because you cannot buy advertising on the front page of a national newspaper or on a BBC TV station. In my (humble) opinion when people use AVE’s they are just being too lazy to produce a proper evaluation.

With the hard financial times we are currently in people want to get the most out of their money, so now more than ever clients want an accurate evaluation of their PR activity. Presenting them with a couple of press clippings and AVE’s is not going to cut it anymore. It’s important to provide your client with an accurate evaluation not just so they know you’ve done your job, but also to see for yourself what has worked well and what may not have worked so well. It’s also a great way to show how valuable PR really is, historically when times get tough communications departments are the first ones to be cut this is a huge mistake (obviously!) but if you provide the CEO with an evaluation of the work you have done he can see just how valuable PR is to the business.

So now you know how important an evaluation is, how do you produce a good one? Firstly you need to remind yourself of exactly what you wanted to achieve from the campaign, once you have done this you can evaluate whether the campaign was successful or not. Depending on what your campaign planned to achieve will largely determine what evaluation techniques you will use, however below are a few examples of techniques you can use that are more valuable than just AVE’s:

Audience coverage and response the basic of all tools is to monitor whether your message has reached your intended audience and if it has, what their response is to their message. This can encompass some of the methods below, and essentially is the foundation of your evaluation.

Digital Media Monitoring as I have spoken about in previous posts is integral. Monitoring what is being said about you online is incredibly important as consumers value online opinions more and more, it is also a valuable evaluation tool. Keeping track of online conversations during the time of the campaign can be a useful tool for audience awareness. There are various programs that can do this for you including Google Analytics and Lithium.

Media Mention tracking, including the likes of press clippings are still a good tool to use in conjunction with other methods. For audiences that read newspapers the value of pieces in newspapers will be hugely beneficial. In order to understand how beneficial you need to obviously know how highly your readers hold the opinions of journalists and newspapers.

Evaluation is such a huge task there are entire books, research papers, agencies and associations that focus solely on the subject. Public Relations still doesn’t have a universal evaluation process and I’m not sure this is entirely a bad thing. Public Relations campaigns can vary so hugely and like I said depending on what you want your campaign to achieve will determine what evaluation techniques you need to use. I agree there should be some official guidelines on how to produce an in depth evaluation, however I don’t believe standardising the process is particularly helpful. However there is one thing that I think all evaluations need to show, they need to demonstrate how effectively you have reached your audience and how the audience has responded, because if your message isn’t reaching you’re public you have definitely failed! How you monitor this though, is dependent on your campaign

Timing is everything!

The internet and social media has made it infinitely easier for consumers to contact companies about their products and services. This is fantastic for the consumer as they have direct contact, and in most cases it’s beneficial for the companies to hear what their consumers have to say. However when the feedback is less than complimentary these comments can snowball and cause significant damage.

Listening to your customers and valuing their opinions is very important for companies, as without loyal customers (in turn buying products or services), there really is no point to a business. So when they have something to say about you, you need to listen and take note. With the popularity of blogs, social media and forums soaring, consumers can talk to each other about their experiences as well as talking to the companies. It is integral that companies monitor these online conversations so that when something negative is said they can prepare a response and have it instantly posted.

Public Relations is all about creating and sustaining a positive reputation, and today this is done partly through instant online communication. The important of communicating with your public today is no different to before the internet was so popular and user generated content was the norm. Back then if a company didn’t react quickly to a crisis or a negative comment made about them, then the public would start to loose trust in them. For example when Coca Cola had had their recall in Belgium during the summer of 1999, the main factor in escalating the crisis was CEO Douglas Ivester’s silence on the whole thing. Today there is no excuse for CEO’s not responding to a crisis, a statement can be made immediately and posted onto a company’s website. In some cases you can prevent a crisis simply by watching what the public is saying about you and officially responding where appropriate. People want to know what is going on and they hate being left in the dark, so to avoid idle gossip it is hugely important to keep them informed and it is now than ever.

There are various tools out there that you can use to monitor your online mentions. There are online web searches like Ice Rocket or Addict-o-matic. There are social media specific monitoring tools like Brand Watch and Radian6 (more can be found here) You can even track mentions of your company on YouTube videos and other sites that host video via Google Videos. A lot of these services are completely free allowing any company to monitor what is being said about them, whether it be your local cafe or major international businesses like Starbucks. Even if your business doesn’t have an official social media presence it doesn’t stop people using Facebook or Twitter to talk about you, where user generated content is concerned anybody is fair game which makes it all the more important for companies to invest time into tracking what is being said about them.

It really is integral for any serious business to have measures in place so that they can act fast and respond quickly to user generated content like blog posts or Facebook comments, especially when they are negative to your company. You can’t afford to ignore the influence and importance of these online conversations, in these situations timing is everything the faster you can respond, the better the outcome will be.

Demographics: why you need to know who you are talking to.

It sounds obvious but sometimes I wonder if people actually think about who they are trying to talk to when they put out a message or campaign. Not only is it very annoying being targeted by something completely irrelevant to you, but it’s also a costly mistake to make.

One of the first things I learnt on my PR course was about publics and identifying your audience. So it seems bizarre that people would get something so basic so wrong. With online advertising becoming big business we are inundated with often irrelevant advertising that most of the time just annoys us. Public Relations thankfully has a more sophisticated approach to segmenting their target audience to ensure that the messages they are trying to get across, reach the right people. That’s not to say that PR can’t make some questionable audience decisions too.

With the internet making Global communications as easy as nipping down to the local newsagents, audience identification is important now more than ever. It’s all to easy nowadays to advertise your company on Facebook using the demographics tools they have in place, segmenting your audience by age, gender, marital status etc. but I have a problem with this. Being female, and engaged I am the perfect ‘target’ for wedding adverts advertising venues in Scotland and photographers in Cornwall (to put it into context I live in Cheltenham) Facebook even uses this scenario as a case study. My problem with this is they have used this tool to narrow down who they think would be interested in these products (no real problem so far) but 1. I don’t live in Scotland or Cornwall 2. I already have my venue and photographer 3. why only target engaged females, what about grooms organising their weddings or gay couples! It may sound like I’m nit picking here but when you’re paying out for an advert or campaign why not take a bit more time to work out exactly who you want to communicate your message with to get the best value for money.

Much like Facebook’s demographic advertising their are tools out there that can help you decide who you want to target:                                                                                            Geoplan offer a paid for service where you can identify demographics by using information from the 2011 census to target different variables (the more variables the more you have to pay) they also offer a customer profiling service where they use GIS mapping software to enhance customer databases.                                                             Experian offer Mosaic UK described as a “unique consumer classification based on in-depth demographic data” Mosaic uses trends within the UK to form it’s tailored demographics. They have 155 ‘Mosaic types’ in 67 ‘household types’ and 15 groups that create a 3 tier classification.                                                                                                  Adobe also have their own social media demographics tool Adobe SocialAnalytics. SocialAnalytics is part of the Adobe Marketing suite powered by Ominture. It uses customer insights to develop targeting strategies for new customers across hundreds of digital channels.

These are just 3 examples of the types of software available to help you identify your audiences. It’s important to remember that with any software like this, it’s likely that you will still miss out certain members of your potential target audience, like the earlier Facebook example. It’s beneficial to have degree of knowledge of the types of people that you think you need to communicate your message or product with before using one of these tools so that you can cross examine the results, a bit of a belt and braces method.

I’ll be honest the mention of socio-economic demographics doesn’t instantly inspire me to write a post, but audience identification is essential not just for a successful PR campaign but for a successful PR professional. If you can’t work out who you should be targeting your message to then your in the wrong profession! Although the tools out there can take most of the leg work out of segmenting your publics, it is always a good idea to check through the results and make sure that you have covered all of the publics you want to communicate your message with.