|Review of Literature:
Freitag (1998) states that it is “essential more than ever, for PR practitioners to devise a set of tools, and learn to use them, that demonstrate to CEOs, directors and bosses that we are contributing to the good of the organization in concrete, measurable ways” (p. 42). Freitag (1998) offers 12 tenets for measuring the effectiveness of public relations programs (Appendix A). In addition, Freitag (1998) expands upon the 12 tenets of measurement and offers seven approaches for measuring the effectiveness of public relations programs.
The first approach is production, considered by Freitag (1998) as the lowest level of measurement. Production quantifies the output such as tracking month-to-month or even year-to-year the number of news releases generated, media queries received and photos distributed. Freitag (1998) suggests obtaining these measurements is a very useful process because it gets the public relations professionals in the habit of tracking and measuring their effort, providing a foundation in which to build a higher form of measurement.
The second approach to measuring the effectiveness of public relations programs offered by Freitag (1998) is distribution, which includes tracking the number of media representatives and outlets where news releases were sent. Freitag (1998) considers this measurement a little better than just merely counting products.
Measuring coverage is the third approach by Freitag (1998). Measurement in this area includes a content analysis of print and broadcast coverage such as the sum of column inches and minutes of air time that result from media products and activities generated by the public relations staff. This type of measurement begins to hint at effects of the output rather than just quantifying the output.
Impressions constitute the fourth approach of measurement offered by Freitag (1998), which predicts the number of people who were exposed to the news coverage. Such items as newspaper circulation in addition to audience size for the radio and television stations where coverage was aired or published, multiplied by the number of occurrences, provides the number of people or impressions exposed to the coverage.
Advertising value is the fifth form of measurement offered by Freitag (1998). This value is calculated by multiplying the advertising cost per second and the total number of seconds or the advertising cost per column inch and the total number of column inches of a story or article. This a very impressive statistic because it includes a monetary value and targets and calculates what the cost would have been if the public relations staff had purchased comparable air time or column inches to get those particular messages out to the public through the media. Freitag (1998) warns that producers, editors and reporters have control of the content that will be released compared to an actual advertisement, but will be more persuasive to a skeptical audience than an advertisement.
Freitag (1998) offers content analysis as the sixth form of measuring the effectiveness of public relations programs. This measurement includes counting the number of key messages cited in addition to the themes that were positive, negative and neutral. According to Freitag (1998), the analysis can also include other categories such as placement of an article, meaning the article has more weight if it is placed on page one above the fold rather hidden deep on an inside page of a newspaper.
Goals and objectives is the final form of measurement offered by Freitag (1998). This measurement the heart of what public relations programs should be designed to do, and this is what affects the attitudes, opinions, knowledge and behavior of the organization’s intended audience.
Freitag (1998) says that the public relations staff needs to be prepared before taking on this form of measurement, and suggests using focus groups and surveys for measuring goals and objectives. The focus group gathers appropriate participants to discuss a particular issue and indicates what people think about an organization and what the organization can do to help improve the relationship with the public or community.
Surveys can be generated and sent to a particular audience to obtain feedback on an organization and determine if the public or community is receiving the key messages and heightening its awareness about the organization.
Freitag (1998) explains that there is an expanding body of literature that offers a variety of approaches and techniques for measuring the effectiveness of a public relations program, and that the use of computers and databases expands the possibilities even further. It is important that the public relations function demonstrates value to the organizational vision. Incremental advances in effective measurements will get simpler once an established foundation of techniques are perfected.
Uses and Gratification Theory
The uses and gratification theory discusses the ways people use media to satisfy their needs (Blumler & Katz, 1974). Three basic findings are given about the uses and gratifications theory. First, it assumes a proactive audience that seeks the media to satisfy its needs. Second, it assumes people choose what they want to see or read, and finally, it assumes that different media compete to satisfy those individual’s needs (Katz & Kahn, 1978).
The relationship between the elements, including individual and mass media, content, alternative channels of communication, and the consequences of media choice are all areas that must be investigated. (Infante et al., 1997)
McQuail (1987) defines four common reasons for media use. These include:
Information -- finding out about relevant events and conditions in immediate surroundings, society and the world, seeking advice on practical matters or opinion and decision choices, satisfying curiosity and general interest, learning, self-education, gaining a sense of security through knowledge.
-- finding reinforcement for personal values, finding models of behavior,
identifying with valued other (in the media), gaining insight into one's
-- escaping, or being diverted, from problems, relaxing, getting intrinsic
cultural or aesthetic enjoyment, filling time, emotional release, sexual
The agenda-setting theory implies that the media does not tell us what to think, but tells us what to think about (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). According to this theory the mass media has the ability to transfer the salience of items on their news agendas to the public agenda. Agenda-setting theory contrasts with the earlier theory of selective exposure and reaffirms the power of the press, but gives more credit to readers and viewers for selecting their choices.
Funkhouser (1973a, b) documents a situation in which there is a strong relationship between media and public agendas and in which the twin agendas do not mirror reality, but fails to establish a chain of influence from the media to the public. Additionally, Iyengar and Kinder (1986) conducted an experimental study which confirms a cause-and-effect relationship between the media's agenda and the public's agenda.
The transference of issues to attitudes is referred to as framing. McCombs and Shaw (1972) emphasize that the media influence the way we think. A "media frame" is the central organizing idea for news contents that supplies a context and suggests a particular issue. This is done through the use of selection, emphasis, exclusion, and elaboration. McCombs and Shaw (1972) suggest that the media not only set an agenda, but also transfer the importance of attributes to issues and events and stress that framing is inevitable. Additionally, they contend that the media may not only tell us what to think about, they also may tell us who and what to think about it, and perhaps even what to do about it.
Establishing who sets the agenda for the agenda setters is key. McCombs and Shaw (1972) claim some scholars target major news editors or “gatekeepers,” while others point to politicians and their spin doctors. However, they add that the current focus is toward public relations professionals.
Understanding, evaluation, acceptance, social/economic/political constraints, adaptation to specific situations, time, money, and the expertise of change agents all influence the adoption of an innovation. Diffusion is a process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time (Rogers, 1983).
An innovation is an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new. Uncertainty about an innovation is alleviated by three types of information: hardware (information about the innovation), software (information about how the innovation works), innovation-evaluation (information about how well the innovation works). There are five main elements in the diffusion of innovations (Rogers, 1983):
Relative advantage -- The degree to which an innovation is perceived as better than the idea it supersedes.
Compatibility -- The degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters.
Complexity -- The degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to understand and use.
Trialability -- The degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis.
Observability -- The degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others.
Diffusion takes place within the context of structures of social relationships based on power, norms, and public acceptability (Rogers, 1983). The adoption of innovations can have unanticipated, unintended, and unfavorable consequences on a social system.