How PR Measures Corporate Reputation

Most public relations professionals know that a company’s reputation can be big factor in its long-term success. A positive public perception helps inspire employees, recruit new talent, protect a brand from negative PR, and differentiate its offering from that of the competition. When it comes to government relations and regulatory issues, a stellar reputation can complement an organization’s lobbying effort. It can even help a product or service command a higher price.

However, a PR pro trying to explain the inherent value of reputation to shareholders, bosses, clients, or investors cannot simply rely on her charisma. The idea of placing a dollar value on abstract drivers like brand attachment, image, trust, and admiration may seem improbable upon first glance. So we took a close look at the four major annual reputation reports to see how it’s done.

Measuring Corporate Reputation: Perception or Performance?

Both the Harris Poll Reputation Quotient (RQ) and the Reputation Institute’s Reptrak survey the general public, while the U.S. Reputation Dividend Report and Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies list survey corporate executives and financial analysts. Perhaps not coincidentally, those that survey the public weigh brand perception over financial performance. A pivotal part of Harris Poll and Reptrak’s research centers on measuring the “pulse” or “emotional appeal” of a given brand.
Both the Harris Poll RQ and the latest Reptrak placed Walt Disney Corporation at #5.  But they diverge on Apple and Google. Harris Poll ranks Google at #29 and Apple at #28, while Reptrak has Google at #3 and Apple at only #58! The only real difference in the two reports’ dimensions of reputation are that Reptrak considers “governance” as a driver of reputation while Harris Poll prioritizes “emotional appeal.”
measures corporate reputation
Meanwhile, the U.S. Reputation Dividend Report and Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies measure corporate reputation by surveying executives and directors from large companies as well as securities analysts.

Since both rely on a formula that takes financial performance into account, we see very different brands hovering near the top. Both reports rank Walt Disney, Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Starbucks in their top ten. But what do these rankings mean for a company’s balance sheet? Reputation Dividend’s formula links reputation to market value.

“Understanding how changing investor interests play out at the company-specific level provides the critical framework necessary to make decisions about communications strategy.” 2017 US Reputation Dividend Report

The $$ Value of Reputation

The 2017 U.S. Reputation Dividend Report offers perhaps the clearest link between reputation and value to shareholders. The Report uses data from financial variables plus its nine drivers of reputation. It states that in 2017, $1 out every $5 of market capitalization in the S&P 500 comes from “confidence underpinned by company’s reputation.” And there’s another tidbit that offers insight into its value. While 20% of a company’s value comes from its reputation, on average, the highest-ranked corporations derive more than 40% of their market capitalization from reputation. The Walt Disney Corporation finished in the top spot here, earning an estimated 52.5% of its value from its widely recognized reputation, or the equivalent of over $90 billion.

So what does it all mean for reputation stewards at other, smaller organizations? While startups may not derive half their revenue based on corporate reputation, they should proactively build a culture-based reputation that grows along with the business. Early-stage companies may not be able to adopt this type of in-depth research, but the reputation drivers used are relevant to almost any business. They can be used to help inform brand values and external messaging, supported by specific “proof points” for each.

Whether the value of reputation is measured by charting perception, performance, or both, a brand of any size or sector can benefit by treating it as a critical business asset.

A Quick Primer On Measuring PR Outcomes

For years, those doing public relations work have been challenged by the absence of concrete and consistent methods of results measurement and adoption of key performance indicators for program evaluation. But that’s changed.

Today there are sophisticated ways to measure PR success, and our data-driven marketing culture means that any business investing in PR and communications must implement a measurement strategy.

More importantly, after years of dithering, the industry has grappled with the metrics issue and agreed upon a set of standards and practices known informally as the Barcelona Principles.
The principles are only a baseline, however. Measurement of PR outcomes isn’t an exact science, so the definition of success is still open to interpretation and individual needs. But there are some basic elements to keep in mind when incorporating PR measurement into your communications program.

First, tie outcomes to business objectives. The more specific, the better. Saying “growing the business” is a fine overall goal, but to put a communications program to work, it’s important to have greater granularity and relevance to the overall business or organization.
For example, is your business well established in Europe but now ready to ramp up in America, with an eye on tech-savvy users in creative professions? Or are you seeking to connect with potential business and brand partners for future programs? Maybe you’re an early stage startup on a fast growth track, and your goal is to be acquired by a larger technology company within two years. All of the above are real life scenarios we’ve worked on; knowing each company’s specific goals enabled us to develop a successful PR program and define our wins.

Use technology tools. The most valuable data is that which offers understanding of your target audience, and how they interact and engage with content, whether in a news article, on social media, or on a website. There’s a host of accessible tools and methods to help measure everything from number of placements and mentions to growth in viewership or followers, or to track engagement metrics, SEO rankings, and conversions. Google Analytics covers many of these, and is a favorite tool of communications professionals. The Moz suite is helpful and user-friendly in tracking backlink performance, and also shows data for Twitter and search results.

Measure for quality as well as quantity. Numbers are important, but qualitative aspects like sentiment, message pull-through, and audience analysis should be incorporated into evaluation of PR outcomes — and those most likely will always require a human touch. Consider metrics such as share of voice versus key competitors, which can be significant in noisy categories.
In some situations — such as healthcare awareness, political and public opinion campaigns, and issues-driven programs — it’s important to establish pre-and-post-research to measure opinion change, intent, or actions taken.

The bottom line is that communications outcomes should rest on general principles, but they must be tailored to individual needs, budgets, and goals.
For more on PR measurement, download our free tipsheet, “PR Metrics & KPIs: A Glossary of Terms.”

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Digital Tools No Tech PR Team Should Be Without

Technology public relations isn’t rocket science (okay, except when it is!), but soaring past the competition is easier when you have the right tools. They can improve every aspect of tech PR, from wooing and winning over the CEO to achieving and reporting top-notch results. Want to make a quantum PR leap? Try some of these.

Beyond PowerPoint and Prezi. Set your presentations apart with dynamic alternatives to the same-old, same-old. PowToon brings animation to your deck. Haiku Deck is customizable for iPad, and Sparkol works best for online video presentations.

Budget better. And plan and forecast better as well. With easy-to-use online software package planguru, your tech PR team can take some of the pain out of budgeting and plan more realistically.

Make your writing pop. As any PR pro will tell you, writing well for all platforms – blogs, byline articles, pitch letters – is at least half the battle in gaining earned media attention for your product or service. The best way to be a better writer is to write, but there’s no harm in getting help when you need it. We recommend Grammarly for quick editing beyond Spellcheck. Readability-Score is also very helpful in determining how clear your writing will be to your intended audience. Finally, Grammar Girl provides easy tips to ensure that, for example, you’d never say “insure” in this sentence.

Power up your pitching. Why not arm yourself with all the tools in the toolbox? You’re probably familiar with Cision or similar databases for list creation and Muck Rack for homing in on journalists “socially,” but have you tried Pitchrate, which likens its platform to — wait for it — for media and sources? We also like PitchEngine, which microtargets bloggers and journalists with content from platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Vimeo.

Soup up your analytics. PR measurement and results reporting have become very sophisticated, and there are tools that help PR pros tell the most complete story. This includes Google Analytics, of course, but others as well. For example, CustomScoop provides customized monitoring and analysis reports. NOD3x  identifies influencers and assesses sentiment and BuzzSumo ranks content based on number of shares generated. The insights can help the PR team with content promotion, curation and article development. Talk Walker is also great for gathering social data with a “Google Alert” type system.

Questioning PR Measurement? Please Do!

While most PR professionals have moved well past counting “clips” or calculating ad equivalencies as a gauge of a campaign’s success, there is still no one universally accepted way to measure PR outcomes.

Perhaps there shouldn’t be. While no two campaigns have the same objectives or strategic roadmap, why would the results calculus be the same? Or does the clamor for an “industry standard” make a world of sense? The fact is, PR metrics are evolving just as the industry has.

Take social media. Do followers and fans and likes and thumbs ups translate into tangible benefits for the brand or business? Or are they mere vanity metrics? The answer depends on the brand, its baseline perception, and its goals.

No matter what type of PR campaign you’re running – consumer, product, or professional services PR, the metric that matters is how PR outcomes track to business results. Of course, the quality of media coverage a given campaign produces is vital, and brand reputation has real, measurable value, but the final yardstick is an agreed-upon business goal.

For an e-commerce company, this will often mean website traffic. For a financial services business with a monthly seminar, it may be an increase in attendees and the resulting engagement with the company. For a business with an aggressive thought leadership program in the works, we may pay attention to deliverables like bylined articles or speaking opportunities, but we are ultimately seeking that most precious of all intangibles, influence – the type of influence that creates new customer interest, attracts partners, and supports purchase conversions.

A less recognized part of PR measurement is inside the corporation. Merchandising positive press and social media engagement to senior management isn’t just playing corporate politics; it’s part of achieving greater awareness about what strategic communications can do and how it fits into the bigger business picture.

No matter what type of ROI for PR you seek, the most important measurement definition is the one agreed upon by the communications professional (whether inside the company or at a partner agency) and those who hold the purse strings. We have an obligation to help client companies focus on achieving goals like this “holy trinity” we’ve adopted.

Tangible incremental increase in sales tracked to earned media coverage

Quantifiable change in awareness, knowledge, attitude, opinion, or behavior that occurs as a result of a public relations program or campaign (most effective when PR is only awareness tool employed)

Marked uptick in engagement from:
• visits to website
• requests for information
• sharing website resources
• increased positive comments, (signs of ongoing relationship)

What PR measurements make it onto your must-have list?

How Do You Measure Up?

The Barcelona Principles is not the name of the next installment in the Jason Bourne series. It’s a 7-step recommendation for overhauling the way PR professionals measure results. Industry leaders representing companies and clients in more than a dozen different countries have agreed to these new global standards for measuring and evaluating the results of their work.

In the “old” days, it was enough to share a stack of clips with a client without examining the tone or the outlets all that carefully. It was impressive to rattle off advertising equivalencies without taking into consideration who was absorbing the information and what their likelihood to act might be.

The Barcelona Principles make the case that PR practitioners should make a renewed commitment to measurement as “Job 1.” My contention is before you implement the principles, you need to know your audience.

Ask yourself these questions first:
1)      Is your client comfortable with an existing measurement metric that works for both of you?
2)      Is your client willing to invest the recommended 5% of pr spend in overhauling the existing results measurement method?
3)      Are you willing to take the time to educate your client in the newer measurement systems available?

Every client will be different, and ultimately a customized approach to measurement may well be the answer. What do you think?