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PR measurement: it’s all in the mix

What is good PR measurement? According to the first three Barcelona Principles, it starts with the right goals and shouldn’t only focus on outputs, but also on outcomes and organizational performance. So let’s look at the fourth Principle, which states that PR measurement should combine quantitative techniques with qualitative ones. In other words: it’s all in the mix.

Quantitative analysis: a good starting point

Measuring the number of clippings – or how many articles your messages generate – is a good way of evaluating the effectiveness of your PR efforts. The graph gives a clear view of the number of clippings per day in January 2017. It shows for example that there is a peak of mentions in the media on January 17th. This information is a good starting point, but it has a limit. Truly understanding the background of this peak is impossible without qualitative analysis.

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Adding quality: adding depth to your analysis

A lot of mentions on January 17th. What does it say? Not much. For a comprehensive analysis of news coverage quality, you need to take into account qualitative aspects. Answering the following – not exhaustive – list of research questions is a good way of getting in-depth knowledge about the media coverage of your organization or brand.

  • Sentiment: What elements are positively – or negatively – covered by the media? Does your coverage show negative or positive valence? And do neutral voices outnumber the biased ones?
  • Proactivity: Are media keen on including your marketing campaigns, press releases and sponsoring activities? And do they include quotes and interviews with your spokesperson(s)? Do you get mentioned without communicating proactively?
  • Key messages: What are the main messages media express about you? Do these messages correlate with the foundation of your communication? In other words: how are your messages reported and received by the media?
  • Brands: Do media support your brand’s image? Which other brands stand out in your coverage and who holds the highest share of voice? In other words: how are your competitors doing?
  • CSR: Do media communicate about your CSR activities? If they do: how do they do it?
  • Framing: Who is leading the conversation in your coverage? Independent experts? Competitors? And what do they say? Are they positive or negative? And what is their view on your campaign?
  • Media: Which journalists are your key influencers and what do they focus on? What are your top media and what is the difference in tone of voice?
  • Visibility: Does your news reach the headlines? Or are your messages somewhat hidden in the media? And how many people do you reach?
  • Industry: What is the media’s perception of your industry? And which developments have an impact on its reputation?

These qualitative aspects enrich the PR measurement and provide you with insights you can use to improve your PR activities. That is why VCA always uses the mixed-methods approach. Now let’s look at a real case, and discover how we help Brussels Airport Company in understanding their media coverage.

Brussels Airport: not an island

Brussels Airport Company has a lot of stakeholders: employees, local residents, the government, airline companies, clients, and suppliers among others. Needless to say: the company is always in the news. “And thus, we value the quality of our coverage higher than the quantity. We want to know how the media writes about us, which messages they bring across and what sentiment they add to it”, says Anke Fransen, Media Relations Manager at Brussels Airport Company. “A high number of clippings isn’t a guarantee of good coverage, let alone a guarantee that our messages are well perceived. We need that information as input for our communication efforts.”

When launching the Strategic Vision 2040 of Brussels Airport, it was important to capture all voices in the debate. “Our Strategic Vision 2040 is a high level plan of what we want, and could do in the next coming 25 years. However, we obviously don’t live on an island and we want to include every stakeholder involved”, explains Anke Fransen. “A qualitative media analysis helps us to capture all voices. And to respond quickly to common questions or concerns.” Brussels Airport Company reaches out for conversation. It uses traditional media, as well as social media, its website and a dedicated magazine for local residents (‘Connect’). The company is also starting a dialogue group: Forum 2040. “That’s where all stakeholders will discuss our common challenges for the future.”

Qualitative PR analysis helps Brussels Airport Company to capture all opinions and concerns. “Combined with all other communication platforms we have with our stakeholders, we can truly understand the public opinion and its evolution over time”, concludes Anke Fransen.