Tying public relations efforts to business goals can result in measurable outcomes that reinforce the integrity and meaningfulness of the PR function. When I began working in public relations at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta more than five years ago, there was no measurement system in place. Because we are a not-for-profit hospital system, there was no budget for measurement tools available in the marketplace. However, I felt the need to create one and obtained the support and guidance from our leadership team to pursue its development.
To this day, the PR team uses this same system to report and measure media coverage for senior leadership. Each year, we distribute surveys throughout the organization to determine the effectiveness of the PR reports that our team provides. Each time we receive phenomenal feedback. Its simplicity is one of the most defining characteristics of this measurement technique. It’s an easily understood system that could certainly be implemented by organizations in different industries.
Children’s PR Measurement System
As a first step, all media placements are entered into a Filemaker Pro database. We have a media monitoring service that sends us electronic and hard copy clips each month. We also are able to catch many placements by utilizing Google News Alerts and similar tracking tools. Each placement is accounted for and entered upon receipt or placement confirmation, assigned a numerical value, and marked “proactive” or “reactive.” A grade is then assigned to each media placement on scale of 1-4 (see examples below).
• National consumer/trade, front-page article = 4
• Local feature (print, Web, TV or radio) = 3
• Neighborhood feature = 2
• Weekly newspaper announcement, calendar listing = 1
The database does the math for us and adjusts as needed. As a team, we can use the scoring system when developing the PR plan and use it to set measurable goals. We also have the ability to sort information very easily in Filemaker Pro to provide custom-made reports (upon request) to various individuals within the organization.
Additionally, we provide monthly reports to system leaders, clinical leaders (i.e. cancer, cardiac, transplant, etc.) and marketing managers. With just a few mouse clicks, the Filemaker Pro database creates detailed PDF reports of monthly media placements for each service area within the hospital system. We compile a report for our board of trustees, and also track Web site trends/hits to determine if media placements are driving traffic to our external Web site. We also partner with advertising/marketing to ask questions in their focus groups and surveys.
With the help of this system, PR has positioned itself as an essential component to help the hospital successfully meet its business objectives. In fact, when held accountable to help drive business, public relations can make an impact in many areas including marketing, national recognition, brand identity and fundraising.
Public relations teams often are considered only publicity or spin departments and frequently work independently from the marketing function. This approach to PR can lead to isolated efforts as well as competing priorities and goals that do not utilize all of the organization’s strengths to help the business realize its full potential.
The PR measurement system at Children’s has served as a holistic approach designed to ensure cooperation and enlightenment among different departments within the hospital. It positions PR as an essential component that has a measurable return on investment and helps the business successfully meet and/or exceed its objectives.
Benefits of the System
In addition to serving as a valuable resource for the organization, the PR measurement system is also a valuable resource for the public relations manager. The manager of public relations, who reports to me, oversees the work of four PR coordinators and one PR specialist. The manager of PR conducts annual reviews with these five employees and it’s very helpful for her to be able to pull quantitative data to factor in with the overall employee evaluation.
The measurement system has also helped with the calculation of critical, bottom-line statistics. PR integration at Children’s increased media placements by an average of more than 400% the first three years of implementation. Increased local visibility helped drive brand recognition and supported the launch of the largest fundraising campaign in the organization’s history. Local media placements increased by more than 225% between 2003 and 2004. The fundraising campaign already has raised $210 million toward its $265 million 2008 goal, including a $1 million gift as a direct result of one front-page daily newspaper article.
Local brand recognition increased 212% and nonprofit awareness jumped 310%. Resources from across the organization came together to tackle national recognition and to ensure a better outcome on Child magazine’s annual top hospitals list. The organization did not make the top 25 list in 2003 but ranked in the top 10 in Child’s 2005 list. That same year, the organization hit the U.S.News & World Report list for the first time and developed a PR strategy to continue to move up.
This article was written by Kevin McClelland, director of external communications for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. It appears in PR News Guide to Best Practices in PR Measurement, Vol. 4. To find out how to order the guidebook, please visit www.prnewsonline.com/store.