As clients demand greater accountability, PR practitioners are
focusing on how best to evaluate their campaigns. But for those new to
evaluation, the range of methodologies on offer can be confusing. Media
content analysis and press cuttings is the most commonly used technique
but a range of acronyms such as AVE (Advertising Value Equivalents) and
OTS (Opportunities to See) also promise benchmarks against which
agencies can evaluate their efforts.
The Association of Media Evaluation Companies has a web site
(www.amec.org.uk) which attempts to bring some clarity to media
monitoring but, in an industry which is increasingly placing evaluation
at the heart of the client promise, keeping abreast of new techniques is
Looking to the latest innovations, Carma International says its ’Reach
and Frequency’ methodology helps agencies by providing figures that can
be equated to advertising research. ’In addition to measuring volume and
circulation figures, we use national readership data to calculate reach
and frequency, and occasionally gross rating points,’ explains Peter
Christopherson, Carma’s business development director.
’If you book an ad campaign through a media planning agency, you may aim
to reach 80% of your target audience on five occasions - the cost will
depend on size of ad, edition and placement. By using the same media
data to ’post-rationalise’ a PR campaign, you can calculate ’Reach and
Frequency’ and link this to the cost of the campaign, which is more
effective than calculating the cost of having ’bought’ the space in the
Both Christopherson and Mark Westaby, managing director of media
evaluation agency Metrica, warn PR agencies against evaluating their own
’PR agencies keep coming up with their own systems because their clients
demand evaluation. They don’t have access to the same audience figures
and readership studies as us. They may say, ’we got great coverage’, but
is it getting through to the target audience?’ asks Westaby.
Media evaluation agency Mantra aimed to offer a more comprehensive
service when it launched Mantra Quick last year. This allows PR
practitioners to evaluate their campaigns for a one-off fee. Partner
Brian Moore says there is no limit to the number of clients it can
serve, but does advise users, which include The Red Consultancy, Firefly
and Cambridge County Council, to take more in-depth analysis to a
specialist. ’Mantra Quick is our own software,’ explains Moore. ’We sell
it as a full service, with training, updating, a telephone helpline and
advice on how to get the best use out of it.’
In the media monitoring field, Durrants Press Cuttings also introduced a
new software system last December which automatically faxes clients
notification of their broadcast mentions.
Normally, media monitoring companies telephone clients with details of
the broadcast tapes they are offering. Sales manager Richard Stobart
claims that Durrants is cheaper and quicker than its competitors and the
service takes less time out of a busy PR practitioner’s day.
’We are following the European trend,’ he says. ’Our software systems
compile the reports automatically, so we don’t have the overheads of a
massive sales team.’ Durrants’ overseas department deals with 96
countries so agencies can be confident that monitoring on international
campaigns is comprehensive.
Tools for planning
Over the past year, PR practitioners have found that their clients
expect more from the evaluation service they provide. This, explains
Stobart, includes ’filtering’ media coverage according to its value.
’There is so much media around these days that the big clients don’t
want every last mention of themselves, such as passing references.’
Planning is another important service that PR practitioners are being
asked to perform more frequently.
Claire Spencer, planning director of Manning Selvage & Lee, says: ’The
planning process must be fully integrated to evaluate a campaign
properly. Unless you have a clear definition of the target audience from
the outset - both demographic and pyschographic - no evaluation, however
good, will be able to prove the effect of your activities on that
Westaby agrees: ’The media analysis we do is no good if you can’t relate
it back to the business objectives that the client is trying to
Metrica has just launched a new planning tool called Comm-Map
(Communication Measurement, Management and Planning). ’The system helps
you plan, weight and prioritise your objectives and then adapt your
programme effectively,’ explains Westaby. The tool has already been used
by Tandem, now part of Compaq, to help define and refine its goals and
The need for more robust evaluation is showing every sign of gaining
momentum. PR agencies which wait for clients to request evaluation
before acting, may find they are sidelined in the future.
MONITORING MINDSTORMS’ IMPACT
Manning Selvage & Lee
PR campaign: pounds 15,000
pounds 1750 (additional)
In January 1998, Lego Group appointed Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L) to
build a campaign around the launch of Lego Mindstorms. The product was
to receive a big push in October 1998, in time for Christmas.
The campaign, which was not supported by advertising, relied on planning
and research to identify its key users and strategy. The key was to gain
’Big Brother’s’ endorsement, to help position the Mindstorms set as
’cool’ and technologically advanced in the eyes of the target audience
of 12- to 14-year-olds.
MS&L was charged with evaluating the success of the campaign in the UK
market. It worked with CIA Medianetwork to evaluate the reach of the
target audience, Metrica to evaluate the success of message delivery,
NOP to track awareness and propensity to buy, and Carrick James
Childtrack to measure the percentage of product awareness, using a base
of 808 seven- to 14-year-olds.
Prior to the October push, MS&L conducted a media tour of men’s and PC
magazines, including T3 Magazine and PC Format, using a prototype of the
In October, the national press and broadcasters were targeted to reach
parents and children directly. Coverage included The Big Breakfast and
BBC Radio One. Third-party endorsement was secured from the cybernetics
department at the University of Reading, which had examined the
educational value of the set.
According to CIA, one in six males aged 16 to 30 were reached on average
1.3 times. Metrica reported that 93% of the coverage stated that Lego
Mindstorms was a ’cool’ or ’must have’ product.
The campaign’s impact, which was monitored by NOP, revealed 36% of
parents with 10- to 16-year-olds were aware of the product and one in
three intended to purchase.
Carrick James Childtrack found that 21% of respondents were aware of the
product, 11% had tried it and 73% of them wanted to try it again.
Lego reported that 20,000 units were sold from October to December 1998.
This article was first published on Marketing