Share of Voice in PR – the quality of clippings conundrum

Effectiveness is always difficult to measure in PR. Does a two inch thick coverage report at the end of the year justify your annual PR agency spend of internal budget? To some degree, online PR is making measurement easier, but not all articles or online mentions generate a link directly to your contact or product pages and even if they do, people may not always click. If PR is your only marketing activity, then of course measurement is easy, but more often than not, PR is part of a marketing communications mix.

When I first started in PR, AVEs (Advertising Equivalents) were used, but they are dying out. Unfortunately, most organisations are not willing to pay for the detailed analysis of media coverage, including tone of voice, confirmation of the key messages being mentioned and share of voice.

A collection of cuttings may be useful to justify your budget or even your job, but really they need to be in the relevant press. Will the local newspaper target the prospects that really matter? Isn’t effectiveness about getting the right message in front of the right people?

Quality coverage or a question of perception?

I have seen pages of coverage including obscure blogs which are treated equally. The exercise of putting together this information takes an intern or an account executive maybe half a day a month (depending on volumes of course)…..but with no analysis or ranking, the information is really just a list of questionable worth. Thick or long as the document may be in reality it’s probably not even looked at by most clients or your bosses.

There is also a question of perception…..how do you measure that? Traditional methods such as PR audits which include interviewing stakeholders and media to find out their views on your organisation at the beginning of a campaign, and at regular intervals in between. To do this properly, it’s time intensive, but really does provide a good quality benchmark.

There are many clippings agencies that handily collect coverage in one place, with circulation figures for print magazines and sometimes accurate readership figures for online coverage, but the analysis is often lacking. Analysis may consist of names of publications, how many articles in each publication, comparison of countries. This quantitative analysis is great, but where is the qualitative analysis – they often don’t cover tone of voice or the relevance of a publication or website to your target audience. There is always an assumption that a PR will always target the right publication, but as we all know some publications are more right than others.

PR measurement – where to start

So where to start? Who doesn’t want to know how many column inches competitors get compared to your efforts? The ideal scenario would be to go back to your boss saying that when a journalist talks about your type of product, we always get a mention and are often the first company to be mentioned or the one that gets the largest chunk of the article. You want to dominate the share of voice, whether it’s around mobile accessories or venture capital.

By analysing where your competitors appear coupled with a real understanding of where your customers or prospects hang out online or which magazines/papers they read, PR effectiveness can be measured in a more meaningful manner. This is where share of voice can contribute to justifying PR spend.

A benchmark at the beginning of the campaign is a valuable view of where your PR efforts should be focused.

We have been working with clients to provide share of voice analysis and this is based on a few main criteria such as key competitors and key publications. By monitoring these, we can identify which competitors are most aggressive or successful with their PR activities and which media and journalists write about a client’s topic the most often.

Samples of what we have found is the themes of news announcements most likely to be published, which companies dominate an industry term and media that our client should consider as top of their hit list….there are always a few trade journals per sector so understanding which ones cover your niche most often is a useful tool.

Unfortunately, monitoring share of voice is time consuming if done manually and expensive when bought as an external service. Luckily one of our team is an ex-programmer so the tool we use has been developed in-house.

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