30.06.19 / Posted by jirehconsult

Should coverage be the sole measurement of how good a PR practitioner is?

Increasingly PR coverage is being used to justify marketing spend for a project or campaign. Whilst the bulk of the marketing spend might be in putting together the events (physical, hybrid or fully virtual) or in OOH, PR is nevertheless expected to deliver a wide extent of coverage as the measurement of success. I often wonder the logic.

Coverage is a noun that means dealing with or directing attention to something, as provided by the Cambridge Dictionary. Its inherent meaning, however, can vary based on the industry it is used in, ranging from finance to insurance, to sport and even media.

Let’s take sport as an example. Football clubs are spending increasingly astronomical amounts of money on players and fees. It is perfectly reasonable then to assume they have insurance clauses to protect their investments in the event an undesirable outcome. Insurance helps clubs mitigate their potential losses should the player suffer a serious injury leaving him out of action for months on end. This does depend on the type of insurance and its coverage, or extent of protection provided. Extensive coverage of course comes with greater premiums, which is an unfortunate tradeoff in a capitalist system.

With the amount of revenue generated by these premier football clubs, it would be highly unlikely they would cannot afford the most detailed and extensive of insurance contracts. It was reported in 2019 that Manchester United raked in a whopping £590 million (over RM3.2 billion) in revenues, with almost 35% of that derived from television rights. The Premier League undisputedly the most lucrative league in terms of coverage rights, as broadcasters pay a pretty penny to air matches live. Again, in this context, the meaning of coverage changes to the extent to which something is covered. It can also loosely be the section of public reached by a medium of communication.

It is this form of coverage, media coverage, that is the bread and butter trade for PR professionals.  Many brands only set quantitative targets for media coverage, be it in terms of value or number of clips. However, it is equally if not more important, to take into consideration qualitative metrics of media coverage.

Media coverage can further be described as the way of information is presented; be it news, entertainment or as infotainment. Media coverage can affect the extent of information dissemination as well as influence audience opinion. Not all publicity is good publicity, contrary to popular belief. Negative coverage can damage companies and people alike while positive coverage can help create a better image, bolster public opinion and contribute towards a good reputation.

Hence, PR assignments should not just be about chasing numbers. Having a target set for number of clippings and value may be a good baseline to work toward, but it should not be the sole metric to judge a campaign or the ability of the PR practitioner. I would argue having lower quantity but more in-depth, compelling story and angle is where the true value is in shaping public opinion. I wager there may be a few people who agree with me.