Table of Contents
Several public relations campaigns have been paused or disabled due to the fact that they lack value. The notable harsh realities for corporate existence make it quintessential for practitioners of public relations to demonstrate the value of every campaign (Macnamara, 2014a). Every organizational activity especially in hard economic situations is measured by means of analyzing the relative benefit for every firm. Any public relation departments incapable of proving value cannot influence decisions on policy being implemented in order to influence its future prospects (Dozier & Broom, 1997). Evaluation provides a platform for a practitioner to assess the success and effectiveness of their efforts, reassure the management of how effective their efforts were and develop future plans (Macnamara, 2014a). Since public relations are naturally intangible, any action to assign a value to specific activities is difficult to accomplish (Hobbs & Owen, 2016). In most cases, the problem prompts practitioners to employ erroneous measures that are often incorrectly applied. Just like any other public relations practices, the process of evaluation is carefully planned from the time a program is implemented to its completion. Any evaluation effort that is crafted after completion of a campaign often produces generally inappropriate and incomplete data (Watson, 2012). When it is incorporated in the general plan, every component is constructed with focus on further measurement of success. Thus, evaluation and measurement are essential elements necessary for increasing professionalism in the field of public relations. In order to illustrate the practicality of these concepts, SAMSN communication campaign and ‘Share a Coke’ Global campaign act as good role models for testing modalities of evaluation and measurements of PR campaigns. Survivors & Mates Support Network launched a campaign for the purpose of raising public awareness of the consequences occurring to male adults experiencing any kind of sexual child harassment. Media relations as an industry have reached maturity, so that evaluation and measurement are important elements that sustain the level of professionalism in the field.
Goals and Objectives
This measure is meant to alleviate the common measurement problems in public relations. Even though it is often used for the purpose of evaluating the performance of employees in an organization, its fundamental elements can be employed in evaluating work groups, programs and projects. The aim is to prepare advanced statements, especially during the planning phase, about legitimate expectations from the launched campaign. Objectives are normally compared to all accomplishments in order to assess the success of a campaign (Likely & Watson, 2013). In this context, the objective of SAMSN communication was to raise awareness about the positive effects of services offered by SAMSN on the survivors of sexual assault and fundraise for the network in order to enable it to expand the workshops held for survivors and their supporters in South Australia and NSW in other states. The campaign also served a role of educating the public on the importance of the services provided by the network and its benefits to the society and garnering at least 1000 social media discussion posts by the end of 2018 when the campaign comes to an end (SMSN, 2016). SAMNSN campaign also sought to facilitate up to 25 One Day Workshops for supporters and survivors in all states of Australia with participation of at least 8 individuals in every workshop, as well as raise $75,000 for expansion of one day support workshops for male survivors in Australian states and later raise another $75 for funding employment of social workers (SMSN, 2016). On the other hand, Shake a Coke campaign was aimed at stirring a digital conversation among consumers of Coca-Cola products and sharing their personal experience through social media tools with the #ShareACoke hashtag. Another objective was to draw the attention of 10 million teenagers in the US who were having a negative perception of Coca-Cola and at the same time increase market sales through a personal connection within the USA (IPA Social Works, 2015). In the process of evaluation, objectives are compared to the accomplishments of the campaigns.
Application of the concepts underpinned in the measurements of objectives was proved to be effective in the evaluation of a PR campaign. In SAMSN communication campaign, goals and objectives were measured by analyzing the feedback received from the participants of the program in a bid to assess how people were responding to the program. A good example is an eight week group program. First, the campaign checked the number of people who responded to the group and found that it managed to successfully engage 175 men for the participation in the eight week program (SMSN, 2016). In order to evaluate whether the campaign enabled the organization achieve its core objective or mission, customer feedback formed the most important part of this process. This is because in public relations, the way people respond to an initiative launched in different avenues can inform the planners whether it will be effective or not. In this case, feedback suggests that the five participants found the group program significantly helpful particularly in relation to the feelings of guilt, anger, shame or other negative emotions, together with secrecy issues, poor self-esteem, problems coping, depression, anxiety or other mental health problems, as well as the feelings of vulnerability and difficulty identifying whom to trust. At least half of the participants found the group helpful or maybe helpful in respect to all these issues. Some also found that the group helped them in respect to sexual difficulties, relationship difficulties and urges for self-harm. This implies that the communication campaign was successful in bringing 175 men together to discuss their issues. Thus, measuring of the goals and objectives has proven to be an important way of evaluating the success of the PR campaign.
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On the other hand, the success of Shake a Coke campaign clearly shows when the objectives are measured. For instance, media reports indicate that it was very appealing to the millennials as it increased their intake by 7% (IPA Social Works, 2015). The campaign gave more room for customers especially the younger population for self-expression and was also greatly appealing to those who adhered to the principles of individualism. According to a report published by an independent Egyptian news outlet, “it fostered an egocentric trend that appealed to younger cultures hence became a huge part of egocentric movements in the world.” In terms of sales, the campaign saw an increase in sales volumes and revenues by 11% compared to the rate of the previous year and another increase of 1.5% and 10% in share and velocity respectively (IPA Social Works, 2015). Therefore, measurement of objectives enabled Coca-Cola to assess how instrumental the campaign was in increasing sales volumes across the world and changing the perception of teenagers.
Media analysis has become sophisticated and more important. In fact, special organizations such as International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication were created for the purpose of providing professional help in evaluating the quality and quantity of media coverage in print, online and broadcast (Eisenmann et al., 2012). Evaluation must always correspond to the messages, objectives and target media and audience (Likely & Watson, 2013). The key factors considered in this kind of evaluation include the type of issue, size and demographics of the audience, the targeted audience, key messages being communicated, contribution to specific objectives and the levels of positivity, accuracy, negativity and inaccuracy (Eisenmann et al., 2012). In SAMSN campaign, the practitioners considered the sensitive aspect of the key message being passed to the male population in Australia and how they could amplify the message to secure funding of most of its operations. The key messages were “SAMSN offers services that make a real difference to the lives of male survivors of child sexual abuse and those who support them. The issue of child sexual abuse is the one that concerns all people in Australia because of the number of men affected and the impact the abuse had on their lives, the lives of their loved ones and society in general” (SMSN, 2016). Their print and online articles were featured in the following news websites, Blue Mountain Gazette, Newcastle Herald Sun, Gippsland Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Sydney Morning Herald. As for TV broadcasting, news reports and interviews appeared on the following programs: ABC Lateline, ABC News 24, ABC TV News (SMSN, 2016). On the other hand, ‘Share a Coke’ campaign was mainly driven by social media but advertised on all media outlets across the world considering that Coca-Cola is a global brand. Both cases illustrate to what extent media analysis is an important aspect of any public relations campaigns because without the possibility to choose the most suitable media channels and content, a campaign cannot reach the intended media and have the required impact on the viewers.
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Return on Investment
This is an approach in evaluation employed in different ways in public relations as an ultimate metric for identifying and expressing the value of the PR exercise in an organization (Macnamara, 2014). Despite being developed in the field of financial accounting, it is appealing to the public relations as well, as it shows the financial “bottom line” resulting to the senior management before and after certifying a PR campaign. In any campaign, ROI have four variations used to evaluate media publicity. The first is Return on Impressions, which is based on the assumption that when a campaign garners a particular number of impressions on the media, it will effectively spur awareness and then a certain proportion of viewers will transform their behavior and attitudes (Macnamara, 2014). Secondly, Return on Media Impact is a variation that compares the sales data and media coverage over certain duration of time in a bid to determine the cause and effect, while Return on Target Influence employs surveys before and after exposing a particular content on the media for the purpose of evaluating changes in intentions and awareness to buy some product (Macnamara, 2014). Lastly, Return on Earned Media deals with the effect of a particular campaign on the media used, such as the number of followers gained on social media network. In the case of ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, Coca-Cola measured the Return on Investments in terms of the increase in sales volumes (3.3% increase compared to the previous year), gaining of the competitive advantage amidst competitor discounting (2%) and significance increase in teen incidence, which later occurred by five points within eight weeks and translated into 1.25 million more teenagers. In terms of Return on Impressions, the video used in the campaign garnered more than 50 million impressions and enjoyed another 1.4 million mentions through #ShareaCokewithCam, which eventually became the top trending topic across the world without additional effort. On the other hand, SAMSN set ROI saw new referrals and increase in funding. For instance, in their annual report, the network indicated that it received 175 new referrals for the services it offered and about 80% of those cases were self-referrals. From these cases, it is clear that ROI enables organizations to foster accountability in all of their campaigns.
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Data collection tools such as questionnaire are instrumental in measuring the objectives of the campaign especially in terms of its further impact on people’s life. Such tools reveal the actual thoughts of the public hence providing accurate information regarding a public relations campaign. In fact, such tools enable an organization to access personal stories and divergent views regarding their efforts hence gauging progress in meeting the goals in the short and long term. For instance, in SAMSN campaign, the results of the evaluation questionnaires allowed the participants to realize that the 8-week group program for adult male survivors of child sexual assault was very beneficial for their recovery. In particular, it helped them to overcome the feelings of guilt, anger and shame. The program also helped to overcome the participants’ need to keep their abuse in secrecy, to address the issues of low self-esteem, trust and relationships as well as deal with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. On the other hand, Coca-Cola never employed any tool for data collection during the campaign except for social media tools used for evaluating the campaign. Without employing any data collection methodology such as questionnaire and interviews, the company was unable to get personalized feedback from consumers in the market. Consequently, it can be assumed that the campaign failed to reach its full potentiality since there was not personalized negative feedback that they could use for improving the campaign. In this regard, their methodology for evaluation was ineffective but the SAMSN campaign was effective considering the achievements already mentioned. Therefore, data collection tools are vital elements of evaluation of a PR campaign and the above revelations provide relevant insights in gauging the timely progress of the communication campaign in order to enable the organization to fulfill its vision and mission.
Social Media Evaluation
Social media has enabled public relations to achieve maturity and its evaluations make PR exercises more effective. Social media measurement is important for measuring the activities of an organization, attention drawn to the brand, level of awareness and actions taken as a result of these interactions (Paine, 2012). Currently, the Big Data digital communication enables every organization to measure many issues associated with the presence on social media. Social media evaluation is an important part of the impact analysis that measures the results of all PR efforts (Lai & To, 2015). It enables quantitative measurements of the results that might help in future planning and demonstration of the value of organizational decision-makers (Hobbs & Owen, 2016). To assess the impact of PR campaign regardless of its size, the emphasis should be laid on audience response, audience coverage, environmental mediation and campaign impact.
The first point addressed in the course of any evaluation is whether the target audience was reached. At the initial phase, it is imperative to provide answers regarding the extent to which the target audience was exposed to different messages and the specific unintended audience received the messages (Lai & To, 2015). In SAMSN campaign, this measurement focused on the number of men with the history of sexual assault that were reached and also the number of people who had no interest in such issues but gained access to such information. On the other hand, Coca-Cola measured the number of teenagers and consumers of Coke who agreed to participate in their online initiative and the number of new customer who started consuming their product as a result of the campaign. In both cases, the two basic measures were employed in answering these vital questions. First, accurate record keeping was used to detail the exact messages that were created and send them to the audience employing the system for tracking releases (Macnamara, 2013). Whereas it is easy to obtain the first measure, it is of zero value without the second measure. In other words, immense publicity is of zero value unless it reaches the intended audience. Thus, to accurately measure the publicity on social media, SAMSN campaign calculated the organic reach for each post for the period of a month on all social media outlets. The planners also considered all positive and negative mentions, number of clicks, retweets, and shares. Also, SAMSN has implemented an online survey to solicit members’ feedback about how well SAMSN currently addresses survivors’ needs and what issues could be addressed in future service planning, particularly in regard to the monthly drop-in meetings and volunteer works for SAMSN membership. The estimated number of participants in this survey also provided an insight on audience coverage. For Coca-Cola, audience coverage was measured according to the number of uses of the #ShareaCoke on Twitter and Instagram, which was found to be 89,000 and 496,000 respectively, the ratio of visits to virtual bottles and the number of views on YouTube and other video channels.
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Following an assumption that a message passed by a campaign has reached the target audience, a practitioner must be able to evaluate the responses to such messages. In most cases, this kind of information is obtained via different pre-testing methods for messages. Social media reactions always provide accurate measurements of responses (Macnamara, 2013). For instance, for the Coca-Cola campaign, practitioners measure the share rate, which tuned up to be 14% when measured against 3-5% benchmark for more than 800,000 virtual bottles on Facebook (IPA Social Works, 2015). Also, practitioners checked the share of #ShareaCoke hashtag among public relations-driven posts, and organic celebrity posts, which ended up eliciting about 13.6 million impressions and another 381,424 expressions, while the engagement rate and impressions reached 7.8% at 1.5% benchmark rate and 51 million respectively, and the influencer tweet was promoted by the company which eventually delivered 13.88% rate of engagement and like rate (8.7% or 3.79 million of fan impressions) (IPA Social Works, 2015). On Facebook alone, the click rate was 11,760 shares equal to 2.26% (IPA Social Works, 2015). Additionally, Coca-Cola gained 9000 new followers since the start of the new campaign and contents of college humor was promoted with 50 million impressions (IPA Social Works, 2015). SAMSN communication campaign also measured the audience response on social media by the number of views and impressions of their promotional videos, shares, likes and comments on their social media posts. However, it is important to note that unlike ‘Share a Coke’ campaign on social media, SAMSN have not launched a rigorous social media campaign that could see it garner massive following similar to that of Coca-Cola. Their social media campaign is a failure compared to the ‘Share a Coke’ carried out by Coca-Cola despite the fact that the campaign addresses a volatile issue in the society that can trigger emotional responses across the world. Thus, their model is not effective considering that they have not made huge investments in sponsoring posts on social media to attract a great number of followers and elicit responses from time to time.
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