Measuring Success: A Model for Evaluating 
the Success of Military Media Relations 


introduction 
statement of problem 
literature review 
rationale & 
research question 
method 
discussion 
references 
appendix 
authors 

home 


 
Method 

The U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps are participants in this study.  Each military service has different goals and objectives within each of their major commands.  Foremost to PA functioning, the public affairs staff should establish media relations goals and objectives that are consistent with overall organizational goals. In order to effectively measure a media relations program, the staffs within each major command of the military services should determine the key messages they want their target audiences exposed to through the media. 

Phase I: Creation of the preliminary model 

Material (The base model) 

A television media news clip analyses(Appendix C) was created in 1999 by the Public Affairs Media Relations Division at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. That model provides a base for capturing and showing quantified data resulting from the divisionís media output. 
The first analysis, the 1999 Year-to-Date Monthly Summary, tracks a variety of elements.  The elements include the number of Air Force Academy television news clips that aired each month, the total length of air time, an advertising equivalency value, the editorial slant (whether the stories were positive, negative or neutral), and whether the stories were coordinated as a result of the media receiving news releases or the media relations staff responding to their queries. 

The second analysis, the 1999 Year-to-Date News Channel Summary, tracks the number of Air Force Academy news clips aired by each of the local and regional television stations in Colorado Springs and Denver, Colorado, the total air time given by each news channel, an advertising equivalency for each news channel, the editorial slant each news channel focused on and the number of times each news channel generated their Air Force Academy stories through news releases sent to them or by initiating queries with the media relations staff.  Each analysis also provides a better view of the data on graphic charts, establishing a baseline for 1999 that can be compared with future trends. 

The Air Force Academyís media relations staff conducted an analysis of each television news clip aired about the U.S. Air Force Academy, which included the length, advertising equivalency and editorial slant of each story.  The length of the stories were measured in seconds, then transformed to minutes in the final report to show more relevant results.  

The advertising equivalency, used by many public relations firms as a cost measuring tool, determines the amount of advertising it would have cost the Air Force Academy had the media relations staff wanted to pay to get that particular information out to the public.  The advertising equivalency was calculated using the advertising rate cards from each television news media in the local and regional areas.  The cost per second multiplied by the total length in seconds produced the advertising equivalency for a particular story, usually in the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. time slots. 

The editorial slant was divided into positive, negative and neutral news coverage.  Content of each story was analyzed to determine whether the stories were reported in a positive, negative or neutral way.  Stories that consisted of neutral content were usually those that mentioned the Air Force Academy, but had no positive or negative impact. Whether a story was coordinated by the Public Affairs staff initiating a news release to get the media out to the Academy to cover the story or whether the Public Affairs staff responded to a media request to cover a particular story was also counted. 

By taking the total number of each element in the analysis and dividing those numbers by the total number of stories aired, percentages were generated to provide a better look at the editorial slant.  By taking the total numbers of stories coordinated through news releases and response to queries, and dividing those numbers by the total number of news releases sent out by the media relations staff, shows percentages and how effective the media relations staff was in getting media out to cover stories at the Academy as compared to working stories in response to media queries. 
Also, a count of the number of times each particular news station, including each reporterís name, covered stories at the Academy were logged.  The length of the news stories, advertising equivalency, editorial slant and coordination through news releases and response to queries were also analyzed for each news station.  The results showed which news stations covered more stories, positive and negative, at the Academy. 

The information data and graphs shown on the year-to-date monthly and news channel summaries were generated through information and data that was input into a Microsoft Access database (See link at http://briefcase.yahoo.com/tonyhillfile). 

The Media Relations Effectiveness Model  

Using this preliminary model, this research adds more data and expands the usability of the model to cross service lines. By adding further elements and allowing for the local establishment of goals and objectives, the newly-created Media Relations Effectiveness Model (MRE Model) expands the effectiveness of this measure of success. 

The preliminary step in creating a localized MRE Model is to establish media relations goals and objectives that are consistent with overall organizational goals and objectives.  It is also necessary to create a Microsoft Access database that generates monthly news clip analyses.  We use the Air Force Academyís base model as a guide to input information and data.  The database input form (Appendix B) includes a section for listing the key messages for each story as well as whether the media relayed the key messages to the public.  Also, we include a section to measure whether the stories reported by the media were balanced or unbalanced (i.e. both sides of the story were told).  The remaining sections include the subject of the story, date, news channel covering the story, reporterís name, name of the newspaper, whether the story was positive, negative or neutral, whether the story was coordinated as a result of a news release or response to query, the total column inches of the story, the total air time in seconds of the story, the cost of advertisement per column inch, the cost of advertisement per second, and the calculated advertising equivalence.  Also included are areas to list organizational goals and objectives, whether the goals and objectives were achieved, who the spokesperson was, whether the audience was local or national, and whether the subject was a recurring event.  Once the database input form is created, reports can be created with appropriate calculations to automatically generate monthly news clip analyses. 

The levels of measurement that will be analyzed through the database are consistent with the seven approaches introduced by Freitag (1998).  The analysis will effectively measure the following organizationís media relation's ouputs and outcomes.  

The seven variables measured include: 
Goals and objectives -- Monitor newspaper clippings, as well as radio and television news clips to determine whether key messages about the organization were relayed to the target audience.  Track the number of the organizationís key messages that were reported in the media.  

Production --  Monitor newspaper clippings, as well as radio and television news clips to quantify the organizationís media output.  Track the number of stories about the organization that were covered by the media, as well as the number of news releases and response to queries generated by the organizationís media relations staff. 

Coverage -- Monitor newspaper clippings, as well as radio and television news clips to determine a more detailed amount of organization coverage by the media.  Track the total column length of articles reported in newspapers and the length of air time on the television and radio news.  

Content analysis --  Conduct a content analysis on stories reported about the organization in the newspapers, and radio and television news.  Determine the editorial slant of the stories; that is, whether they were reported in a positive, negative or neutral way.  Also, determine whether the stories were balanced or unbalanced, meaning the organization was or was not able to tell its side of a story.  In addition, keep track of the number of times a story was coordinated by the media relations staff initiating a news release to get the media out to the organization to cover a story or whether the media relations staff responded to media requests to cover stories.  Include percentages to provide a more effective view of the measurements. 

Advertising value --  The advertising equivalency is used by many public relations firms as a cost measuring tool to determine the amount of advertising it would have cost the organization had it wanted to pay to get a particular message to the public.  The advertising equivalency is calculated using the advertising rates obtained from each newspaper, and television and radio news station.  In radio and television, multiply the cost of advertisement per second by the total length of the storyís air time in seconds to obtain the advertising equivalence.  Multiply the cost of advertisement per column inch by the total column inches of the story in a newspaper to determine its advertising equivalence. 

Distributing -- Monitor each newspaper, and radio and television news to determine the number of times each news media covered stories about the organization as a result of organization news releases or response to queries.  Also, track the editorial slant of each news media, whether the stories were positive, negative or neutral.  Include the advertising equivalence for each news media and whether each news media reported balanced or unbalanced stories. 
Impressions -- Determine the number of viewers and listeners for television and radio news, as well as newspaper readership to obtain impression, the predicted number of people in the target audience exposed to the organization's messages. 

Phase II: Conduct Pilot Study 
Test the MRE Model 

A copy of the MRE Model will be sent to public affairs officers within major commands of each military service to obtain feedback on whether the model would be an effective way of measuring their media relations programs.  Since the model is created on Microsoft Access, it could be sent on a floppy disk, or by allowing access to an Internet site for downloading.  Instructions on adding applicable areas to localize the model would also be provided. Following the initial introduction to major commands, copies of the MRE Model will also be provided for subordinate units to increase dissemination.  

Survey the services 

A survey of public affairs officers within major commands in each of the military services will be conducted to obtain feedback on whether the variety of measurements within the MRE Model would be effective elements of measuring their media relations programs (Appendix D). 

Phase III: Diffusion 

After evaluating feedback from the PA community and adapting the model, we will disseminate it to major commands for their local distribution.  The major commands will implement the MRE at subordinate levels as a method of measuring the successes in individual organizations, and in the command in general, as data could be submitted easily to the major commands from the subordinate units. 

Based on the diffusion of innovations theory (Rogers, 1983) the following areas must be considered when attempting to disseminate the MRE Model: 

Relative advantage -- The MRE will create a standardized method of evaluating and measuring media coverage where none have previously existed. Additionally, it will bring units into alignment on their style of measurement. 

Compatibility -- The MRE uses a computer program commonly found on government computer systems. 

Complexity -- After the initial addition of local goals and objectives, and a brief training period on the uses of Microsoft  
Access, the system is simple, and does computations itself. 

Trialability -- The initial model has been used for 24 months successfully by the U.S. Air Force Academy, Directorate of Public Affairs.  Additionally, since there is no cost involved in installing the MRE, trialability will be simplified. 

Observability -- Results of the USAFA study are available online so units can evaluate the success of that program to determine if it would be of benefit to them. 

It is important to note that even without the acceptance of the MRE at major command levels, individual units may find the model useful in answering local commander's queries on media coverage of the installation/organization.  Additionally, it effectively eliminates the need for complex logbooks, as the database is maintained on a computer system.