Proving value

'The very first thing every PR practitioner will tell you is that evaluation is subjective, but clients demand details,' says Janice Murray, president of Toronto's Fishbowl Communications.

‘The very first thing every PR practitioner will tell you is that evaluation is subjective, but clients demand details,’ says Janice Murray, president of Toronto’s Fishbowl Communications.

And that’s the crux that props up the pseudo-science of print impressions, advertising equivalency, credibility value and article counts. Not to mention positive vs. negative coverage, key message conveyance, and the position the client attains on various industry lists. Naturally, PR firms are quick to wedge their own shores in there; some in the form of measurable objectives, others with their own benchmark data, customized for every project.

San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel Systems, a worldwide customer relationship management software vendor, believes strongly in management by objectives. Company founder Tom Siebel brags that he can find out how employees are measuring up to their own objectives at the click of a mouse, and the company makes a habit of firing the worst performing 5% of its workforce every six months. That rigid structure also applies to its PR firm.

At the beginning of each quarter, Siebel delivers a list of objectives to Fishbowl, including the number of standalone articles, platinum articles (articles in The Globe and Mail or National Post; Forbes in the U.S.), trade articles, vertical standalones, mentions, broadcast, print and telephone interviews and speaking opportunities the firm will secure. Fishbowl negotiates those numbers and Siebel determines the budget required. Updates are sent to Siebel every two weeks, and every month a complete roundup of work completed and work outstanding is delivered, complete with red flags for areas that need attention. A more detailed clipping report is delivered at the end of the quarter, including a detailed analysis of the media coverage achieved. At this point, if Fishbowl hasn’t met the objectives, it loses the account.

‘This is probably the most detailed set of measurements I’ve ever worked with,’ Murray says, ‘but we are now taking that model and applying it to our other accounts.’

Murray thinks the system could lead to performance-based incentives, or maybe a kicker. She says measurable objectives are a way to determine added value, ‘and that’s what allows you to negotiate those kind of things.’

There’s the incentive. A good PR firm watches its client’s bottom line, but the one who can prove result also safeguards its own. How are companies doing that? Strategy contacted four PR firms to provide an example of how they measure results.

Dunlop sells more tires

Josh Cobden, VP, Environics Communications, Toronto, Ont.


Goodyear Canada’s Dunlop Tires


To raise overall consumer awareness for Dunlop Tires and drive sales.

The campaign

Environics Communications developed the Dunlop ‘Tired of Your Name’ Challenge – which dared adult Canadians with the last name Dunlop to legally change their surname to Dunlop-Tire for a cash reward. The story received prominent coverage across Canada and into the United States, including front-page stories, television features and radio interviews. Conan O’Brien even mentioned it in his opening monologue. By the contest deadline, four Canadians had legally changed their name to Dunlop-Tire.


A perfect 100% of all media stories mentioned the words ‘Dunlop Tire(s)’ at least once – 25% above our objective – because the name of the initiative made it impossible not to. Many of the news stories appeared on front pages of newspapers, or at the top of the news reports in TV and radio broadcasts. Finally, the tone of the news coverage was, on the whole, extremely positive and/or humorous, with words like ‘brilliant,’ ‘creative’ and ‘effective’ often used to describe the campaign.

By Jan. 11 of this year, 49 Dunlops had expressed interest in learning more about how to legally change their surnames to Dunlop-Tire – almost five times our goal – and three Dunlops had been recruited to participate in media interviews. By March 11 (the official end of the Challenge) four Canadians had changed their surname to Dunlop-Tire – four times our goal. All four of the eventual Dunlop-Tires became enthusiastic spokespersons – also four times our goal.

After almost two years of PR

support, and with little advertising, Dunlop Tires’ unit growth (growth in product units manufactured and

delivered to the sales channel) has increased 59.8% vs. the industry average of 3.3%.

Additionally, Canadian Tire Corporation (which sells 25% of all tires in Canada) recently agreed to list Dunlop Tires in stores across Canada, a decision they attribute to the PR support for the brand. Today, more than 100 tire dealers carry Dunlop Tires.

Databeacon adds up users

Justin Creally, VP, High Road Communications, Ottawa, Ont.


Databeacon, an Ottawa-based developer of data publishing, analysis and reporting software.


To increase general consumer awareness of the company and its technology through mainstream media coverage about the company’s demonstration Web site,, a free online resource allowing visitors to analyze the data behind stories in the news.

the campaign

High Road successfully launched, securing coverage in mainstream media such as CTV Web Mania, The Globe and Mail, Seattle Times, Arizona Daily Star, Dallas Morning News, TV Guide, Yahoo! InternetLife, CBC Radio, and the Philadelphia Enquirer. Web traffic skyrocketed: out of 23,000 user sessions in the first four months, 68% clicked through to has now generated more than 60,000 unique visitor sessions, has passed the two million hits mark, and in September launched 2.0: Global Edition. The site also won a MediaMap award for ‘Site Most Useful for Journalists’ and the URL is referenced by more than 400 Web sites around the world.


We provided Databeacon with full clipping reports that included circulation numbers (to demonstrate audience reach), and the advertising equivalency value of media coverage. Unique visitor sessions and click-through rates were tracked and measured, showing that press coverage has a direct impact on Web traffic and lead generation. Additionally, Databeacon tracks sales leads generated through, which has amounted to US$300,000 in sales so far.

Heinz teaches the experts

Lisa Bednarski, director, consumer marketing practice, Cohn & Wolfe, Toronto, Ont.


Heinz Canada


To raise awareness of the health benefits of processed tomato products (a.k.a. ketchup, tomato juice, tomato sauce etc.)

The campaign

As earlier media initiatives had already built awareness of the role lycopene, an antioxidant found in processed tomato products, plays in a healthy diet, Cohn & Wolfe recommended that a new approach be taken for phase four.

The program included partnerships with third-party groups and associations to communicate program messages directly to consumers as well as to media. This included sponsorship of events, and activities with Dietitians of Canada to educate its members about the benefits of processed tomato products consumption and provide them with tools to tell the story to their patients and to media in their local markets.

There was also a partnership with the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation on educational programs aimed at teaching Canadians about the role lycopene plays in the prevention of prostate cancer.


Media coverage generated by the program amounted to more than 25.5 million media impressions with an equivalent advertising value of almost a quarter million dollars. The coverage quoted third parties (i.e. Dietitians of Canada and/or individual dietitians, and/or Prostate Cancer Research Foundation spokespeople) highlighting the benefits of regular processed tomato product consumption for overall health, and in the prevention of certain forms of cancer, including prostate cancer.

Information brochures were distributed to 5,000 members of Dietitians of Canada, resulting in requests for an additional 10,000 from dietitians for use in their practices. Calls to the hotline and visits to the lycopene information Web site increased.

At the end of November, a post-program omnibus survey measuring consumer awareness of the health benefits of lycopene and processed tomato products will be compared with results taken before the program began.

Growing numbers at the CNE

David T. Holmes, partner, Holmes Creative Communications, Toronto, Ont.


The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), in Toronto.


To take a well-known brand and strategically shift perceptions or attitudes to glean broader, more relevant media coverage and partnerships, and increase attendance and ticket revenues.

The campaign

We created themes, messages, promotional and media opportunities that would relate what was happening at The Ex. ‘See the world this summer’ was the angle. The focus was on the new wealth of multicultural entertainment and socio-cultural festivals at the 2002 CNE. Ethnic, people in the 905 area code surrounding Toronto, and border U.S. media were targeted. In light of 9/11, people were not vacationing far from home so the opportunity to ‘see the world at The Ex’ held promise and value. Proof? Attendance and total revenues increased for the third consecutive year.


Media value totaled over $1.6 million as validated by Bowdens, an established Toronto-based print and broadcast clipping service which tracks news mentions, and which can determine the advertising equivalency value of the media coverage.

CNE marketing staff also monitored daily the number of positive or pro-active media interviews and resulting coverage. The amount of positive coverage was significantly higher than the amount of negative, impartial, or reactive coverage related to accidents or incidents.

In keeping with the overall ‘see the world’ theme, new markets and media were approached to partner and associate with the CNE. In excess of $2 million worth of media partnership promotional value was attained. Sponsors and partners shared and supported the CNE brand to the tune of almost $1 million, the highest level in more than a decade.