How effectively is your PR/communication department performing? And how well are you dealing with your internal stakeholders?
The important thing is to identify only the matters for which the communication team has sole responsibility. For example, corporate reputation isn’t valid to use as a full indicator of PR performance because corporate communication is only one input into the factors that form a corporate reputation. In fact, other factors are much more important, such as the behaviors of employees in the perception of customers and other stakeholders.
There is no single, simple, comprehensive tool or techniques for measuring the effectiveness of a PR team. Usually a combination of different measurement techniques is needed because PR activities typically include several different communication processes, each requiring tailored measurement. Nevertheless, you can ask these questions to find out how well your team is performing:
Your choice is to initiate efficiency measures or effectiveness measures, or both.
Efficiency measurement requires an understanding of your communication group as a production system that processes inputs such as staff time, information and resources into products such as newsletters or into services such as time spent in providing advice to management. Efficiency measures can be used to assess your group’s performance in terms of ratios of inputs used for producing outputs, eg “How many hours of PR staff time does it take to produce a newsletter?” These measures become more useful when:
Effectiveness measurement requires an assessment of performance compared to an agreed standard. The measures are often based on organizational goals and objectives. Example: “The PR department will attempt to increase by 25% the awareness of [a certain organizational goal] by readers of the employee newsletter.” Effectiveness measures tend to be less quantifiable than efficiency measures, and therefore need to be carefully set. For instance, readers of the employee newsletter may also be informed about organizational goals by their managers or via your organization’s intranet, etc.
Criteria can be qualitative, quantitative or a combination of both. Qualitative measures are used to gain the responses of a small sample group to identify the range of opinions on a subject, to get a general sense of opinions at the start of an activity, during an activity to check how well it is progressing, or to test stakeholder attitudes at completion.
Qualitative measures tend to be more in-depth and comprehensive and bring in more elements than quantitative measures, which provides the numbers, quantifying the number of people who think or act in a certain way about the topic in question – before, during or after a communication activity.
For example, a qualitative measure might be to determine whether a lawmaker perceived a recent meeting with a staff member from your PR department as being informational, persuasive or coercive. A quantitative measure may be to count the number of times the lawmaker’s advisers met with your staff member to get more information on a particular legislative bill.
The PR effort may be measured at the individual level, at the team or specific project level, or at the departmental level. Different measures apply at different levels.
A valuable task is to document the number of products and services provided by your department. You are likely to be surprised at how productive your area is. Some departments produce more than a thousand separate products and services annually!
Typical products are: speech notes, a written response to an information request from an operational manager, the monthly employee newsletter, a training session on the new media monitoring software or social media activities.
Typical services are: informing a senior manager about an issue by email, consulting to an operational manager about a specific issue or dealing with the media.
The key aspect is to determine how well your products and services support your internal stakeholders/customers, and hence the organizational goals and objectives.
In a practical sense, the most important stakeholders are those who pay or approve payment of the bills, ie your boss, the highest-level person or committee who approve the PR budget, etc. You need to satisfy these stakeholders as a priority as well as other senior management who deal with the department. You may engage in joint activities with other departments like HR or Marketing, and so they may agree to pay some of the cost of your work on joint projects using social media, photography, sponsorship, etc. You need to keep them satisfied with the perceived value for money they receive. There are also indirect or associated stakeholders who gain from the services of the department, but who don’t necessarily contribute to the cost of those efforts.
Your PR team shouldn’t assume what your internal stakeholders want. You should listen to your stakeholders and work back from the stakeholders’ expressed needs rather than thinking in terms of your department’s existing outputs. A tactful education and information campaign should also be conducted continuously with stakeholders to help them understand what is on offer and help them when they are uncertain what they want. Then conduct negotiations with these stakeholders to mutually agree on the available product or service’s features, cost and timing. You need to agree with those stakeholders about a suitable measure of their satisfaction with your product or service.
Your department should be run as though you are, or will be, facing limited resources, ie limited staff, funding, equipment or time. Even if times are good today, you should assume that cuts could be made tomorrow. Accordingly, you can ask your internal customers/stakeholders to prioritize their need or desire for your PR products and services.
A typical question to establish this would be along the lines of: “If next year we could only provide you with a fewer number of products instead of the number we currently provide, which could you do without?” Another question for a similar result could be along the lines of “What is the minimum number of times a year we could provide you the service (say, an employee newsletter) and still achieve your objectives for it?” The responses would be a valuable guide in planning the future needs for PR products and services.
Every product or service requires committing some organizational resources, especially funding. Cost estimates to produce the relevant products or services should be reviewed in conjunction with accounting staff. These estimates should be provided to the respective stakeholders so they understand the costs involved. Their feedback will help your decision-making about being able to provide future PR products and services.
Does the head of your PR team have the trust and respect of senior management? Is that person perceived as having the skills, experience and knowledge to be accepted at a high level? Is that person perceived as being an administrative manager, essentially supervising technicians – or are they perceived as being a strategic manager who can participate in organizational decision making? Do you have in place a process to interview senior management about their perceptions of the team’s performance, ideally using a third party to run the process?
Communication teams need to demonstrate they are at least as adept at corporate planning and strategy implementation as other departments. Can you benchmark your department’s performance against other departments within your organization. An alternative is to compare with the equivalent PR departments of other organizations within your industry sector – or even from other sectors.
Does your team have a good reputation? Do you conduct a structured review of the overall level of stakeholder satisfaction with your PR team’s services and products? A valuable way to find out what managers and/or relevant staff from other departments think of your team is to conduct a periodic satisfaction survey. The results will be an important guide to the opinions about your group’s performance. By including a question about each of the various broad categories of services and goods you provide, you are able to focus on the relative standing of each factor, and to respond to improve performance where needed. The results of an actual satisfaction ratings survey of a public affairs team, shown below, will help your thinking:
The results from an actual survey are shown in the table below to indicate the types of categories being reviewed in the survey questions. Suggestions about more probing questions are also added at the bottom of the table:
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