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How to measure publicity.


Too often, says media analyst Katharine Paine, software marketers literally measure their public relations coverage by the inch. "Quantity of coverage tells you very little," Paine argues. The real test of a campaign is whether your messages are getting through to your intended audience." To measure publicity success more scientifically, Paine developed a sophisticated (and fairly costly) tracking system that her company now sells to large technology companies and PR agencies. But Paine's basic techniques can be applied by anyone who can afford a clipping service and a few hours with a spreadsheet. Even a one-time statistical snapshot of a company's publicity efforts can be an eye-opener. However, Paine points out that a much better use of her tracking system is to measure public relations impact over longer periods of time--not just at isolated moments. Her tracking system is designed to provide continuous feedback about the changes a company makes in its publicity strategy. "Measurement is always a comparison tool," Paine says. She adds: If you can't change something--such as a defective product-- measuring the public relations impact is usually a waste of time." Paine suggests that by monitoring six basic quality measurements, a company can tell if its overall image is getting better--or worse: * Overall tone: The simplest goal of a public relations effort is

to create a favorable climate of opinion about the company and

its products. "Too many people say, 'an article is an article.'

You really need to ask if an article leaves the reader more or

less inclined to buy the product." To measure the overall tone

of a company's coverage, Paine hires independent readers to

classify every article or press clip about the company as

positive, negative, or neutral. Paine's research suggests that,

on average, press coverage tends to be about 32% positive, 11%

negative, and 57% neutral. * Key messages: Are the company's important marketing themes--for

example, its price leadership or its channel strategy--actually

getting through to readers? Paine asks clients to define the

messages they hope the press will pick up--a useful exercise by

itself--and then has her readers track how often these messages

actually show up in the company's press coverage. (To ensure

objectivity, Paine recommends that press clips shouldn't be

evaluated by the same people who helped define the company's

marketing themes. "PR people can spot a 'key message' a mile

away," she notes.) * Audiences: Usually, a company gets press coverage in a variety

of publications that reach different audiences--end-users,

dealers, investors, etc. "You're naturally going to get a

different mix of messages in each publication category, so it's

a good idea to measure how you're doing with each audience,"

says Paine. * Top-tier publications: Every market has a few publications that

are especially influential, so Paine tries to track their

coverage separately. Surprisingly often, she says, companies

don't seem to distinguish between influential and irrelevant

press. She recalls one client who regularly pitched 150

different publications, "most of whom weren't at all interested

in what the company was doing." * Quotes: Finally, Paine monitors quotes by key executives,

because she's found that the tone and content of these remarks

closely correlate with the company's image. In one comparison

we did of four competitors, the company with the most negative

coverage had the most negative quotes by its president." Katharine D. Paine, president, The Delahaye Group, 97 Lafayette Rd., Hampton Falls, N.H. 03844; 603/926-3600.
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Title Annotation:public relations
Date:Nov 8, 1991
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