Data and Metrics You Can Use at Your Nonprofit to Win Budget Dollars

Many in-house PR professionals have developed effective tools to link their performance to the revenue and profitability goals demanded by their brands and organizations. But how do you elevate the function of PR within your organization when you operate in a non-commercial sector?

As a government organization, this is a question we took seriously at Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) when creating the “100% Middle-Earth Campaign,” which aimed to leverage the media profile of “The Hobbit” film trilogy to increase tourism to the country where the movies were filmed. Here are some communications and ROI issues the organization encountered and how it addressed them.

  • Link PR activity to business outcomes. When you don’t have sales figures to rely on, it can be difficult to identify the effect that PR is having on consumer behavior. In the case of the 100% Middle-Earth Campaign, we knew that the films had strong appeal, but we needed to prove a link between our work and the ultimate consumer behavior we were trying to influence—that is, booking a New Zealand vacation.

By identifying the point during the consumer journey the campaign was targeting potential visitors, we were able to use increased preference for New Zealand as a key measure of success that contributed to a rise in visitation, which was a business outcome.

Tools to help measure campaign outcomes.

• Research. Make sure you’re enlisting your research team to help show the link between PR campaigns and key business outcomes. At TNZ, one issue was that our monthly consumer research primarily focused on measuring advertising’s impact. As the campaign was led by PR, not advertising, we had to reconfigure the entire survey. Here are some ways research can help you create and measure your PR campaigns:

• Choosing the right media channels. Surveys with your target audience can tell you what outlets your audience is reading, watching and engaging with online.

• Measure one or two key indicators of impact. For example, TNZ measured preference for the destination by asking potential travelers where they ranked New Zealand on their bucket list. Research showed that more people ranked New Zealand first or second on the list during the time that the 100% Middle-Earth Campaign was in market.

• Don’t forget to use follow-up research. As well as surveying potential visitors, TNZ also asked people who had visited New Zealand since the first “Hobbit” film what had inspired their choice; 1 in 5 U.S. visitors cited “The Hobbit” trilogy as a factor in their decision, indicating that the campaign had inspired visitation.

Partner data. Your organization may not be selling, but many times your partners will be. Using partner data can show real market impact and firmly link your activity to consumer behavior. Build shared data into your reporting; for instance, TNZ used partner data to show that during the campaign:

• Airlines had received increased web traffic and bookings

• Tour operators reported many more enquiries about New Zealand vacations

• “Hobbit”-related tourism products had seen a significant increase in visitors

Key-message penetration. This is one qualitative measure that can be easily incorporated into reporting. Start by identifying four to five key messages that are the most important to your campaign, and evaluate the media coverage you generate to see whether they are reflected.

For the 100% Middle-Earth Campaign, we measured a mix of core brand values and campaign-specific message points about film-related locations and tourism products.

• Core brand values about people and experiences were reflected in 80 percent of campaign media coverage.

• Campaign-specific messages about film locations and products were reflected in 95 percent of coverage.

• Key message penetration was measured using a third-party monitoring service that objectively reviewed whether each story included these messages.

ROI and AVE. ROI is a key measure that always will be crucially important to the bottom line of a business. AVE is a much-debated metric that many PR have dismissed. Still, measuring a basic dollar value as an advertising equivalent can be helpful in demonstrating the value of PR to the C-suite.

For the 100% Middle-Earth Campaign, for example, we set a basic AVE target for earned media coverage the campaign generated.

By no means was AVE the only campaign measure, but showing ROI allowed us to secure significant additional campaign funds from the New Zealand government.

CONTACT: Adriena Daunt is PR manager at Tourism New Zealand. She can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the August 17, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.