You get that coveted interview in the Wall Street Journal or your company is covered by AP and the news goes mainstream and you jump for joy. While that's great news, counting the potential eyeballs that glanced at that story is no longer enough. It is specifically not good enough in a digital era where every action can be tracked.
The other main reason is that things have changed. With new media, PR means truly public relations, yet it is back to the future and you'd be well served by looking at the past to succeed in the future. Success means measuring to a variety of business goals and metrics and it needs to involve evaluation, the context of where the conversation is taking place.Measurement in PR
If we all agree that what is worth doing is worth measuring, then why is it so hard to move away from old, media-centric results?
While a recent survey of 520 PR professionals by Benchpoint™ for AMEC, the international Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, found that many PR professionals, 88% in fact, believe measurement is an integral part of the PR process (70% believe this strongly), the results show that the PR profession are still not agreed on the best tools and methodologies.Measuring ROI (return on investment) on communications is viewed as an achievable goal by the overwhelming majority of professional communicators. Yet, PR professionals still tend to judge their success criteria more by their ability to place material in the media rather than on the impact such coverage might have on shifting opinion, awareness, or moving markets, although there is evidence that this is changing.
The data indicates there are two camps -- those who measure output (clippings and AVEs) and those who measure outcome (internal reviews, opinion polls etc). See the full report here.What to measure
Before we get into any specific discussion and ideas, we need to agree that nothing gets done in PR unless it maps to business strategy. Developing relationships with publics is more aligned with communications than creating publicity. Identifying both who you want to have this exchange with and your mutual goals (outcomes) are part of it.
What you measure depends on the relationship stage you're in. How you measure it, depends on whether you're online or offline.
I like how Don Bartholomew talks about the total value of PR -- indeed, in the last couple of years, I've been focused on the brand communications piece with many posts on reputation and influence. Beyond that, he lays out neatly ideas on what to measure for each stage of the new measurement metrics.
From his post:
- Exposure to content and message -- measured as degree. For example, comment sentiment, message inclusion (like what I'm doing here with his post), search engine rank, change in awareness
- Engagement with publics -- how and where people are interacting with your content. For example, subscriptions and links (I get many of those), number of comments per post (I get fewer of these), message recall and retention
- Influence on perceptions and attitudes -- for example, purchase intention, change in attitudes, association with the brand attributes, telling a friend, net promoter index (likelihood they'd recommend your company service or product)
- Action resulted from the PR/social media effort -- for example, attending an event and stopping by your booth, coming to the store, buying a service
Measurement and knowing what to measure is something you set up to count and quantify. However, in order to evaluate whether a strategy is paying off in terms of its tactics, you need to understand the context in which it's deployed.
Context is both situational or what I call opportunistic and deliberate, or planned. Take a look at these charts published in the 2010 Social Media Marketing report by Marketing Sherpa. The first one shows how marketers are aligning objectives for new media with correspondent metric by degree of participation maturity.
The second one, tells you how effective is the integration of certain tactics to the overall achievement of the objectives. Note the correlation between what is measured and thus deemed important from the chart above with what is judged as effective in the chart below.
Notice that PR is playing catch up on new media, still. Improving public relations jumps to 44% from the initial 18% in the strategic phase.
When you start using customized and different links from social media networks to specific sites or landing pages you can really work on honing in where your traffic is coming from and interest to conversion ratio.
Context also plays a role in how you evaluate what you measure on your own Web site with analytics, in new media with a mix of content analysis and observable behavior, and offline, with research.
I've been putting together my own thoughts on the evaluation of online presence and its associated measurement based upon specific goals. We'll take a look at those components in another post.Industry evolution
All this points in the direction of putting the public back in PR measurement. I hope Deirdre and Brian will forgive my take on the title of their excellent book Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.
Look around and you will see that many PR agencies, large and small, have been learning a lot more about digital media.
My good friend Matt Dickman has been building a digital strategy practice at communications firm Fleishman-Hillard. David Armano and Michael Brito, two practitioners with a solid digital media background from the agency and from the corporate world respectively have joined Steve Rubel at Edelman in the digital practice. Search engine optimization and affiliate marketing practitioner Stephanie Agresta joined Porter Novelli in the last couple of years.
Public relations and communications can be your best allies in the world of new media. While the time has passed for controlling the message, or having the illusion that you do, and we do spinning only at the amusement park these days, to get results you need to engage actively with measurement in PR.
How do you look for opportunities to connect with your publics? What processes are you putting in place to capture the richness of digital data?
© 2010 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.