Advancing communications measurement and evaluation

The New Frontier: Public Relations and Advertising Working Together

PR and advertising working togetherReaders of The Measurement Standard are among the most sophisticated PR measurement aficionados in the industry. Whether social or traditional media, I’d wager a TMS subscriber has a good sense of how to create a measurement program that works, and likely already has a good one running.

But no matter how proficient we may be in the art of non-paid media measurement, it’s just the beginning of where the entire marketing-communications function is going. You’ve heard this from the Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission, AMEC, PRSA, and other organizations in the PR space. Rest assured our friends in advertising and marketing are hearing the same type of message on their side of the fence.

No longer is it enough to look at one discipline; rather, we’ve got to look across the spectrum to see how one type affects another. The good news is that we’re all grappling with this now, and so we will see incredible new discoveries and methodologies in the years ahead.

So call me impatient. I’ve had my eye on the intersection of paid advertising and non-paid media for a long time. I’ve been struck by some interesting work done by an advertising creative effectiveness organization, Advertising Benchmark Index (ABX). ABX collects advertisements for clients and their competitors in all media types, and runs them past a panel of several million people for scoring.

They’re not just looking for ‘likeability;’ in fact, their work shows that ‘likeability’ is not a big factor in what makes an ad ‘effective.’ Rather, what matters is a variety of scores having to do with whether or not an ad gets the message across (sounds like PR, doesn’t it?), has a clear call-to-action, and meets a point of relevance in the audience. It’s an interesting service for folks who need to run the most effective ads at all times, and scrap those that aren’t pulling their weight, so as to maximize budget effectiveness.

That’s all nice for advertising, but what about PR? Well, it turns out that traditional and social media PR campaigns can affect how advertising is received by the target audience and essentially multiply its effectiveness many times over. Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1. A major department store ran an apparel TV spot where the spokespersons in the ad were moms who were on the TV show The Amazing Race. ABX pre-tested the ad and it received a decent score of 111, which means it is 11% above the “average ABX ad.” However, when this ad ran 15 days later, the score was 124, which is well above average and 12% higher than the pre-test score. ABX typically sees a variation of +/- 3.5 points, so a 13-point difference is very significant.

As the ad was airing, Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who lost her arm when bitten by a shark, was receiving tremendous publicity. She had agreed to be on The Amazing Race, which was in the midst of announcing the new season. Bottom line:Lots of publicity which improved the ad score.

Chart of how PR helps Ads for Amazing Race

Example 2. The second ad featured the U.S. military and the client’s commitment to hire soldiers. The ad pre-test took place in mid-September, and the scores were “slightly above average.”

However, when the ad aired during the week of Veterans Day, amid all the associated PR and social media hoopla, the ad scores increased by a statistically significant 7 points, or 6%.

PR Helps Ads

These examples demonstrate how public relations can impact the success of an advertising campaign, multiplying the effectiveness of the ad spend. Since a paid media spend is likely the highest cost in the marketing budget, to be able to show PR campaign success impacting multi-million advertising buys is an effective way to demonstrate ROI!

Turning this around, advertising can also impact a PR campaign. For example, suppose you ran a major PR campaign, in the middle of which you also ran an advertising campaign. If you look at quantitative and qualitative media analysis scores before and after the ad campaign, you are likely to find that the paid media  increased the effectiveness of the earned media. However, do beware: The only way to see any real results is to make sure your PR work is measured accurately. With best-in-class measurement tools from Salience Insight and CARMA, for example.

When PR and advertising are working together rather than in silos, this kind of analysis can demonstrate a win-win all the way around.

So, let me wrap up this column today with a big announcement: I am truly so impatient about exploring the new frontier of cross-functional measurement that I have joined Advertising Benchmark Index as Vice President, Brand Manager. This move brings to a close almost four years of my serving Salience Insight and/or CARMA International in PR measurement. The best part is that Mazen Nahawi, CEO of Salience Insight and CARMA, is excited about what our companies can do together to bring cross-functional measurement to you. So, rather than say “goodbye,” I look forward to interacting with you, dear reader, and with my former colleagues moving forward!

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Angela Jeffrey

Angela Jeffrey

Angela Jeffrey is Vice President Brand Manager for Advertising Benchmark Index. A recognized measurement evangelist, thought leader, writer, and speaker for PR measurement and evaluation, Ms. Jeffrey created PRtrak™, one of the first analysis tools to cover print, broadcast, and internet coverage. Most recently, she served as Strategy Director US for Salience Insight and CARMA. She is also a long-time member of the IPR Measurement Commission.
Angela Jeffrey
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  1. Joe Smith

    You are making quite a leap of faith without any supporting data. I suggest you try to prove what you conjecture.

    1. Angela Jeffrey

      Joe, I included two examples in the article and could easily have included dozens more if there were space and time. You are correct that more work is needed to fully characterize the relationship between PR and paid advertising, but I would hardly characterize this as a leap of faith.

      All PR academics teach the importance of before/after survey work to test the ‘potential’ effects of a PR campaign. Same process here. The survey used an ocular technique to obtain responses to ad creative before/after a PR campaign. You are right – this is not ‘proof.’ But when this type of work is included in market mix models, it has improved their accuracy.

      If you have a real interest in this work, we’d welcome additional off-line discussion.



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