public relations – analysis of media coverage
The Communication Cycle
Planning messages and analysis of media coverage both form part of The Communication Cycle: an organization sends out a message and needs to check if
the message has been interpreted as intended.
Therefore Analysis of Media Coverage is the oldest and most traditional method by which to measure the results of public relations activities, as
clippings can indicate the audience’s potential exposure to a message. However, in today’s evolving media landscape even the term “clippings” can
seem outdated. Can evaluation, in its current form, still be meaningful and if not how can the PR industry justify its existence in a world where
results and returns on investment are increasingly used for payment terms?
This assignment tests students’ practical skills at evaluation and having undertaken the task, use their theoretical knowledge to offer credible
comment on a hot industry topic.
This assignment is comprised of two parts (although submitted as one assignment):
A) Practical – Portfolio
Students will complete a media analysis exercise based on 10 editorial clippings about one company of their own choice. These 10 clippings need to be
from a selection of media eg press cuttings / websites / broadcast clips / social networks. Advertisments must not be used.
This media analysis, for each clipping ie 10 in total, should be presented in bullet points (as it will not contribute to your word count) and should
Placement: Where in the publication or broadcast it was found: on the front page of the paper or inside; as the lead story on the evening news or an
item stuck between sports and weather etc. Also include prominence eg did it have a photo for extra impact?
Audience reach: circulation of the newspaper or size of the television or radio audience
Length: print stories measured in column-inches; broadcast stories are measured in minutes/seconds
Context: news story, feature, investigative piece, editorial, column or a letter to the editor
Content: inclusion of key messages. It is not enough to simply count the number of times a company, product or issue is mentioned. Look for key
messages, such as product attributes (low price, reliability, environmentally safe, physically safe, easy to use, etc) or company attributes
(environmental responsibility, good labour relations, good community citizen and so on). Messages can be contained in the news story or in quotes
provided by customers, stock analysts or other observers/ stakeholders. (Key messages may not be repeated verbatim: they can be paraphrased or
Tone: positive, negative, or neutral
Stakeholders: who’s viewpoint is included in the article eg a key influencer through twitter or a blog / a corporate investor through a financial
news story / a customer through a facebook comment. At least three or four different viewpoints should be identified within the complete portfolio ie
not for each individual clipping.
Do not rush with choosing the company, pay attention to what is new, interesting and making headlines. Some sectors and within them certain companies
always get more coverage than others (Starbucks, Apple, BA, Tiffany’s, Barclays, BP and so on). Alternatively, some companies offer so much scope in
media terms that students have decided to follow one issue that a particular company is facing eg BP and the Gulf of Mexico crisis, Primark and
ethical trading, Starbucks and UK tax evasion etc
Companies that have been used previously include Harrods, The Body Shop, Adidas, Monster, Burberry, Nike and Starbucks.
B) Theory: students will showcase their understanding of key PR concepts including planning, communication models and evaluation within a 2500 word
report. Credible comment should be provided on how the PR industry is addressing the issue of evaluation.
For the report:
This will follow a formal report layout and should include the following headings:
Executive summary: usually one or two paragraphs which summarises the reports aims, methodology (ie the practical exercise), results and conclusion.
(This does not form part of your word count)
Background: this introduces your reader to the company, its sector and where appropriate a particular subject for analysis (two paragraphs maximum).
Also included should be a brief overall of any key issues that are affecting the sector e.g. financial crisis in banking, tourism and the environment
Methodology and Findings: This should make direct reference to academic text as you discuss the concept behind the task ie why analysis is done as
well as its role within the communication cycle. Using your portfolio as a reference point, you need to evidence that different stakeholders might
need different messages, supporting your findings with reference to PR Publics theory. Reference to corporate reputation is also of relevance here as
is evidence that you have researched current PR evaluation practice.
Conclusion: with regards to messaging and reputation and also evaluation. This is also an opportunity to offer an opinion on the subject having
undertaken the evaluation task and whether any difficulties were encountered
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