Some PR professionals are ignoring the wider benefits of media analysis
at a cost to company reputation, says Dermot McKeone
Media analysis is in good shape right now, and I happen to think it will
survive with ease. If it does, it won’t be any thanks to the more
obsessive advocates of PR evaluation, many of whom are missing a bigger
picture. The publicity surrounding the fledgling media analysis industry
has been driven by the need for PR campaign evaluation to such an extent
that the wider benefits of media analysis have sometimes been ignored.
The big picture I’m referring to above is the profile of The Company Plc
- with all its warts and pimples - which corporate communicators need
to study carefully from various angles if they are going to enhance the
company’s reputation. By evaluating a public relations campaign, and
analysing only the coverage they have generated proactively, they are
shutting most of this picture out. It’s like trying to appreciate a
painting by looking at bits of it through a microscope.
The trouble is, for many companies the big picture sometimes looks a
little tarnished. While their proactive PR may be of high quality, there
are forces that are working against it. A variety of influences - both
inside the company and outside it - can cause this. Perhaps a
manufacturing division has offended a local council with its noxious
emissions; perhaps a disgruntled ex-employee has betrayed a
confidentiality with disastrous consequences. A simmering industrial
relations problem, an adverse ombudsman’s report, or the departure of
one or two key executives can also add a few unwanted brushstrokes. And
of course none of these are the communications professional’s ‘fault’.
So, as often as not, coverage of such items don’t get included in the
This is a shame because the unwanted, problematical bits of the picture
are sometimes the most important. If your campaigns need the creativity
of a Cezanne and a Degas, then the problem areas need the genius of a
Viewing the big picture can bring benefits of other kinds. For a start,
there is a good case for funding it from resources other than the PR
budget - the market research budget for instance. A campaign evaluation
is more difficult to fund from anywhere but the PR budget. And a broad
picture provides the communicator with hard evidence of trends in
message deliver and image development, irrespective of what has caused
them - evidence which can be used to fight internal battles. As such, it
give the enterprising communications professional (in-house or
consultancy) the chance to broaden his or her sphere of influence.
The rewards for looking at the big picture are high. The charts and
graphs that represent the warts-and-all picture of an organisation’s
media profile have a place on the boardroom table even if they aren’t
pretty enough to hang on the wall. And the communications professional
who has the will to present such a picture in the boardroom can be said
to be one of the true guardians of the company’s reputation.
Oh, and by the way, you can also use media analysis to find out how
effective your media relations campaigns have been.
Dermot McKeone is managing director of Infopress Communications