Press "Enter" to skip to content

MRP 101 – Measuring for Success!

A long-standing issue in the communications field is that of proving the return on investment for PR initiatives. Since the profession is not and will likely never become scientific, it has always been difficult to quantify our impact. A communicator can rarely stand up at a general meeting and explain that this letter to the editor changed 568 public perceptions thereby saving the client $8500. Don’t even think about justifying a word-of-mouth campaign to the finance department responsible for your budget!

In order to bring our profession to the next level of accountability, the Canadian Public Relations Society and International Association of Business Communicators joined together to showcase a new tool being presented as one of the biggest steps in reaching a level of standardized evaluation of our work – Media Relations Rating Points.

The Media Relations Rating Points system (MRP) is being called a cost-effective, simple measurement that gives professionals apples-to-apples comparisons of Media Relations initiatives. By predetermining customized evaluation criteria (key messages, inclusion of photo, quote from spokesperson – what you want to hear and see in the media coverage) for each campaign, a simple point system then offers a direct rating out of ten to quantify your success. Over 300 users representing over 1300 clients have already incorporated the system into their practices.

What does all this mean? Well, let’s find out by evaluating my own media campaign. In November of 2007, I was a finalist in the CBC Radio Canada Writes competition. [Despite crashing and burning in the first round, I still maintain the rights to hold this over the heads of my peers until the end of time.] As such, I made numerous radio appearances and was interviewed for both local newspapers in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We’ll use my media coverage to illustrate how the MRP system works. Read on!

Evaluating a campaign

To start, let’s pretend that I had already chosen my evaluation
criteria to be qualities that would improve my image as a strong
professional in the public relations field while showcasing my creative
ventures on the side. I would get one point for each of the following
criteria if present in any coverage:

• Photo
• Example of writing
• Professional background
• Mention of All Rights Reserved (volunteer-run literary journal)
• Mention of No Ordinary Rollercoaster (personal/professional blog)

The other five points in my rating of ten come from the general tone
of the coverage. Five points for positive, three points for neutral
(nothing but the facts), and zero points for negative. Here we go!

Article: Local librarian vies for victory on Canada Writes
Outlet: The Saskatoon Star Phoenix
Media Type: Newspaper
Date: November 13, 2007
Reach: 60,000
Tone: Neutral
Photo: NO
Example of writing: NO
Professional background: YES
All Rights Reserved: NO
No Ordinary Rollercoaster: NO
Coverage Rating: 4/10

Article: The Write Time (no longer available online)
Outlet: The Chronicle Herald
Media Type: Newspaper
Date: November 20, 2007
Reach: 114,000
Tone: Positive
Photo: YES
Example of writing: YES
Professional background: YES
All Rights Reserved: NO
No Ordinary Rollercoaster: YES
Coverage Rating: 9/10

Article: Local is finalist on CBC contest
Outlet: The Daily News
Media Type: Newspaper
Date: November 20, 2007
Reach: 22,000
Tone: Positive
Photo: YES
Excerpt of writing: NO
Professional background: NO
All Rights Reserved: YES
No Ordinary Rollercoaster: NO
Coverage Rating: 6/10

docked a point because in the original print article, I was referred to
as Brian Boudreau throughout. Normally, these bonuses and demerits
would also be predetermined to isolate misinformation or highly
negative coverage.)

Determining your results

The average rating for my media campaign? Based on these three
articles and the criteria behind my MRP, I am at 6/10. I could do a
similar measurement including the radio coverage for more complete
results, but you get the picture.

A six isn’t so bad considering I wasn’t speaking to the media with
any of my criteria in mind, but where I really shine is my
cost-per-contact ratio – another suggested method of quantifying media
relations initiatives. I reached 196,000 people without spending a
dime. Actual campaigns can be broken down by dividing your budget by
the total reach resulting in your per person cost.

The web 2.0 factor

If you become a MRP subscriber, the system collects and processes
all the data for each piece of coverage that you enter into a template.
The system breaks down your audience impressions very accurately based
on the precise airtime for television and radio, or the distribution
levels for the specific day of your print coverage. That being said, I
can’t help but feel that the system is ill equipped for the new world
of news.

Online sources are included only if they attract around 3000 unique
hits each month. Also, if a print article has been evaluated in its
hard copy, the online version readership is ignored to avoid inflating
numbers. Both points make sense as far as accuracy is concerned;
however the true nature of the web is being lost in the shuffle.

The blogosphere acts as a giant word of mouth chain – one blog can
tip off dozens of others as the story or video winds its way across the
web. Many of the readers will catch the story before it makes its way
to the premier blogs with enough readers to be caught by MRP. Also, as
more people are reading their newspapers exclusively online, MRP should
be incorporating online subscribers to avoid missing the engaged
web-readers whose RSS feeds weed out all but the articles that truly
interest them.

MRP offers a solid foundation for campaign evaluation but I hope to
see its evolution catch up to that of the changing news environment
around us. Visit the MRP website to download a light, six-page PDF outlining how it works as well as the template they use to collect their data at no cost.


  1. Judy Gombita
    Judy Gombita January 29, 2008

    Ben, I was at the (information) launch party for the Media Relations Rating Points system (MRP) back in the fall of 2005, hosted by the Canadian Public Relations Society. It was very clear that this was an initiative/project of CPRS, the national association for public relations practitioners (i.e., there was no “joining” with another association at the front end). I suggest that the visionaries/CPRS members who volunteered so much of their time should get full credit for its development and implementation.
    Perhaps you meant to indicate “endorsement” of it as measurement tool, which is good. I hope more associations with some affiliation to PR/media relations are looking to endorse it, too. We don’t have enough Canadian-specific resources and case studies, that’s for certain.
    More information on the impetus and development of the Media Relations Rating Points system can be found on the Canadian Public Relations Society’s website:

  2. Ben Boudreau
    Ben Boudreau January 29, 2008

    Hi Judy,
    Thanks for the clarification. Here on the east coast this fall, the tool was presented/endorsed at a joint session between the two associations. Sorry if there was any confusion as to the creation of the program itself.

  3. Elizabeth Kay
    Elizabeth Kay February 4, 2008

    I’m happy to see that you have written about MRP. I have been reading a lot about it lately to try to better understand it and how effective it is. I enjoy the example you used to illustrate how it works.
    I do think that MRP is a good and efficient way of measuring a public relations campaign. It can be used for any type of media and it is great for tracking total impressions and calculating cost per contact.
    Saying that, I think you are right that it is not yet designed to measure the effectiveness of online media sources. Blogs and online versions of print articles are gaining in popularity every day. Its true there must be a limit on measuring these to protect accuracy. However, by doing this it devalues the use of the Internet and word of mouth.
    Just because a blog receives less than 3,000 unique hits a month does not mean only that number of people are informed about the topics on it. People are constantly discussing blogs and current affairs with their friends and colleagues. It is our job as professional communicators to read multiple newspapers a day. Increasingly more of this reading is being done online. People are still reading print newspapers, but they are not reading as many as they used to. Instead of getting several papers delivered to them, they may only get one or two and reading the rest online.
    MRP is definitely a more efficient way of measuring the impact PR has in the media than advertising equivalency values. But it still needs to develop further in order to effectively measure all aspects of media.

Comments are closed.