Alexis Bajalia was the 2019 Winner of the Grunig PRIME Research Fellowship. As part of her fellowship, she had to complete a solo-authored research paper on a challenge facing the PR industry. This is a summary blog post of her research paper

Knowing that media tracking is a primary way in which public relations professionals measure the success of their public relations efforts, this paper explored whether commonly measured media metrics like frequency, reach, share of voice, and tone increased or decreased over time for five companies. The findings revealed that these metrics did not statistically significantly increase over time. Implications for public relations professionals about how to make sense of media metrics by extracting insights from data, rather than solely relying on increases in these metrics, are provided.

The researcher conducted trend analyses of five companies’ media metrics from their media analysis reports over time. The five companies met three considerations for selection in this study. First, the companies must have received media analysis reports from the same measurement company for at least 12 consecutive quarters (three years). Second, the companies’ metrics must have remained consistent throughout that date range. Third, the companies must have tracked at least two common media metrics, such as frequency (e.g. hits or clip counts), reach, share of voice, or tone. Tableau software was used to construct graphs showing the metrics’ progress over the years and to determine whether increases or decreases in metrics were statistically significant.

Key Findings
– While some trend lines of companies’ metrics appeared to show increases over time, those trend lines did not reach statistical significance.
– Five metrics among the five companies showed statistically significant decreases over time.
– Results of the trend analyses indicated that consistent tracking of common media metrics did not predict statistically significant increases in those metrics over time.

Implications for Practice
Reliance on increases in common media metrics like frequency, reach, share of voice, or tone to demonstrate the success of public relations efforts may set public relations professionals up for disappointment. This study exemplifies the importance of not approaching public relations measurement from a backward looking “What did we do?” or “How many did we get?” approach but from a forward looking “What does this mean?” approach.

In addition to tracking whether their organizations are garnering more media hits or reaching more people over time, public relations professionals should take part in media content analysis to extract deeper insights from their analytics reports. Such insights might include whether key messages were relayed in news articles, whether media placements appeared in media outlets that the organization’s target audience reads, or whether the content included in articles about the organization can point to gaps in the competition, thought leadership opportunities, or changes in stakeholders’ attitudes.

Read the full research paper here.

Alexis Bajalia is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Relations at the University of Florida. Her research interests include public relations measurement and evaluation, stakeholder communication, and health communication. She was the recipient of the 2019 International Public Relations Research Conference Top Student Paper Award and the 2019 Grunig PRIME Research Award presented by PRIME Research and the Institute for Public Relations. Alexis’ thesis is published in Public Relations Journal. She currently serves as Public Relations Chair for the AEJMC Graduate Student Interest Group. She received her BS in public relations and MA in mass communication from the University of Florida.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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