If there’s one thing that is always brought up over drinks between a PR and a journalist, it’s scoring. If the journalist is lucky, they won’t be having a pint with one of those PRs that moan about scores (or are pressured to by their bosses) but it’s true to say that even the most relaxed PR staff can really get down about review scores. Sometimes it’s inevitable and sometimes it’s those scores that hit you like an electric car.

It’s a PR department’s job to try and achieve the most positive coverage possible and to generate pagination in influential and widely read publications or websites. The staff in those departments are judged on their ability to meet these goals. That’s pretty clear. What isn’t clear is the way in which PR departments traditionally judge coverage. The average tracking document and coverage report will take the publication, circulation, pagination and maybe a  choice quote or two. But it seems to me that if you are to track publicity for your titles accurately then you have to look a little deeper.

Surely the value of a piece of coverage should be judged on more than the number of pages and circulation. All too often, coverage is given a financial value equated by multiplying the pagination by the cost of an advert in that publication. For example, a 6 page preview in a magazine with an ad rate of 2 grand a page will have a value of 12K. But that figure is actually meaningless. Firstly, editorial coverage is designed to educate, inform, entertain… an expression of opinion. Would a 6 page article that rubbished a game or a 4 page review giving it 2/10 be worth thousands of pounds? It would actually be the opposite, costing sales and public opinion. The true value of a piece of coverage can only be judged using deeper criteria:  Circulation, pagination, key messaging covered, audience, tone… and this is where it gets impossible. A busy PR staffer would have little time to analyse each piece of coverage and judging tone suddenly becomes as subjective as the always controversial review scores themselves. You wouldn’t be able to get away with a simple digital Good / Bad system… at least a five star rating of tone would be required with 3 stars as neutral commentary (a simple news piece or non-commital preview).

PR should be judged in terms of its use, not its value. PR is for selling games, so, does a piece of coverage make someone more likely to buy a game or not? Maybe some kind of equation is required? i might have to leave that one to the philosophers. All I can say is that great PR hits the right people with the right message at the right time and is nothing to do with the price of the paper it’s printed on. Online statistics will help give a greater analysis of the true value of coverage. If I secure a three page preview on a website how many people click on it? How many of those people click through to the second and third page? How many people click from the preview to a shop? These are the sort of statistics you can track. Real people, real behaviour.

Still, it’s clear that the simplest way to judge a successful PR campaign is the number of covers a game achieves… and that’s not even beginning to get into the horros of metacritic slavery.

“I got 10 coverz can i haz bonusz plz?”