The underlying premise for Delahaye Medialink was that there are three types of marketing communications: Controlled, Semi-Controlled and Uncontrolled. Unlike advertising, which is 100% controlled, public relations is at best semi-controlled since the journalist ultimately controls what will appear. To PR’s benefit, research has shown that as the communications move from the “controlled” end of the spectrum to the “uncontrolled,” credibility increases. It is the role of the journalist, acting in the public interest, which dictates PR’s “semi-controllability” and, as such, its credibility and, ultimately its unique place within the marketing mix.
Gross rating points work well for advertising and direct marketing since these are highly controlled forms of marketing communication. The Gross Rating Point is simply derived from reach and frequency (since the advertiser knows in advance when and where the ad will appear and what it will say). Any attempt to create the PR equivalent of a gross rating point would have to first represent PR’s “semi-controllability. Reach and Frequency, which are important factors in any marketing communications program, are traditionally referred to in PR as Clips/Airchecks and Circulation/Audience. The formula then would have to account for “control” or “quality” of the communications since it can’t be guaranteed in PR. We knew from the beginning that the PR Gross Rating Point would have to look something like this: (Reach) x (Frequency) x (Control or Quality) = The PR-GRP.
The challenge became “how does one define PR quality, what makes PR unique within the marketing mix --“quality” -- and then “how does one distill these measures into a single integrateable score?”
Most large companies are covered by the news media every day. Sometimes the stories are favorable and sometimes not. This is in contrast to advertising where the sponsor controls the message, the medium for delivery, and the frequency. Much talk in professional societies is currently focusing on the idea of integrating marketing communications. These discussions typically focus on advertising, direct mail, telemarketing and other forms of communication controlled by the marketer. Messages contained in news coverage are rarely considered, and yet in today's highly networked media world, stories are more widely circulated than ever, with "impressions" rivaling those of very substantial advertising campaigns. We saw this as an opportunity to develop a simple, distilled measure that would allow public relations results be fully integrated and measured in comparison to the entire marketing communications picture.
- To first identify which components constitute “quality” in media coverage and to assess their relative weight in driving recall and awareness among the target audience
- To distill these factor into an easy-to-use scoring system
- To apply this relevant analysis to a variety of public relations situations among a variety of public relations organizations
For the first phase of the analysis Delahaye Medialink focused on print media, although the research has been extended to broadcast and the Internet. We began by creating a list of possible attributes which could be used to describe a news story as “a quality story.” The list contained over 40 possible attributes, such as “a story exclusively about us ” rather than “a roundup story of ten companies,” for example.
A representative sample of coverage was gathered from a variety of news sources. A total of 12 stories were selected and then coded by expert media analysts. Some attributes were rated on a scale of 1-5, (where, for example, a “1” would be “a roundup story of 10 or more companies” and a “5” would be “a story exclusively about one company”), while other attributes were binary, in that the attribute was either present or not (presence of a company photo or graphic, for example). Each of the forty attributes was scored for each of the articles. The tone of the article was also assessed, as it would be applied as an overall factor by which the attributes would be multiplied, so that a “an exclusive story with a photo” in a positive story was just a good as “an exclusive story with a photo” in a negative article was bad. As such, a content analysis of each of the news stories was completed.
The second phase was designed to reveal the extent to which each of the forty possible attributes drove awareness and recall among the target audience. In a controlled environment, copies of each article were distributed to 1,000 people who were asked first to read and asked later the extent to which they remembered specific stories and story themes. After the data-collection and analysis were complete, certain stories emerged as the most memorable, and these stories each contained common story attributes which, it was determined, were key drivers of awareness and recall. These key attributes follow below in rank order:
- Front page/cover
- Extent of mention
- Initial mention
- Tone (which determines if score is positive or negative number)
Delahaye Medialink now encompasses the following statistical measurements in the majority of our communications research programs:
- PR-GRP: Delahaye Medialink's exclusive statistical measure that distills media relations performance to an easy-to-understand and interpretable "score" reflecting quality and quantity of coverage.
- Weighted Impact Score: Delahaye Medialink's quality score on a scale from +100% to -100% calculated for each story using measures such as length of story, exclusivity, headline and graphics. The tone of a brand's treatment in the story determines if the impact score is positive or negative.
- Net Effect: Delahaye Medialink's measurement of the total weighted reach of coverage. The circulation or audience reach of a story is multiplied by its Weighted Impact to determine Net Effect.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
Today, most of our leading clients use the above statistical measures to the ROI of their communications and make strategic decisions and changes that impact the business. For example:
A leading power service company uses PR-GRP:
As a compensable bonus measure for the Public Relations department. The client is ranked compared to the top 25 Power Service Brands in the nation. As the client meets and exceed objectives based on "The Number," bonus amounts are allocated.
To isolate and compare messages that are specific to company-wide objectives. The client is held accountable to drive specific environmental messages. The client uses Net Effect to isolate and compare their environmental coverage vs. competitors and the industry to gauge how they've performed throughout the year.
To conduct "What If" scenarios for future planning and decision making. The client recently passed on an opportunity that offered exclusive coverage in a leading daily news publication. The client asked Delahaye Medialink's account team to isolate how this story appearing in the proposed timeframe would've affected PR-GRP.
A leading appliance manufacturer uses PR-GRP:
To incorporate their measurement programs and results into a company wide Six Sigma program that guides quality controls throughout the organization.
To allocate resources towards those efforts that will result in a high score. The client continues to work with the Delahaye Medialink account team to understand the drivers and then plan their efforts around elements that will achieve higher scores.
To isolate how much a +1 positive Net Effect costs. The client continues to make budget, planning and strategic decisions based on a cost measurement that is facilitated through Net Effect results.
To bonus their public relations agency account team. The client uses PR-GRP to set account team objectives and a compensation plan based on measurable results.
Our research in developing a simple distilled measure for public relations planning, evaluation and marketing integration continues to provide the measure that public relations professionals need to work alongside and within the entire marketing communications integrated function.