If you’re new to PR measurement and evaluation, or just need a refresher, here’s a handy guide to the ABCs of media intelligence, including a few reminders of the expertise available to make your measurement journey trouble-free. Let’s begin by noting that “ABC” stands for Always Be Counting, a good mantra for anyone who wants to use the wisdom born of data to improve their communications programs.
Here we go:
A is for AMEC, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications. With more than 160 members in 86 countries worldwide, AMEC is the world’s largest media intelligence and insights professional organisation. The AMEC website has many invaluable resources for the measurement newbie and old hand alike. 2021 is the 25th anniversary of the founding of AMEC. Happy Birthday AMEC!
B is for The Barcelona Principles, the core standards of good measurement and evaluation first agreed upon at the 2nd AMEC International Summit in 2010 and now in their third iteration. It will benefit you to become familiar with them, as they are the foundation of best practices for your measurement efforts. CARMA’s commercial director, Jason Weekes, has provided an excellent summary of Barcelona Principles 3.0
C is for Cost Center, which is all that too many PR teams and agencies are perceived to be if they don’t measure their effectiveness in a meaningful manner. Good measurement demonstrates that your PR results further the business goals of your organisation. If you don’t prove your value, then your budgets, salaries, and jobs may be jeopardised.
D is for your measurement Data. It’s what you analyse to tell an impactful, compelling, and memorable story about the effectiveness of your public relations. Data is vital, but it’s easy to drown in if you don’t plan carefully. Read more at “Using Data to Tell The Story You Want to Tell.”
E is for Evaluation, a vital step in understanding the story your data tells. Did your PR efforts achieve the desired objectives? What value did those efforts bring to your organisation? What are the next steps to improve your communication strategy?
F is for Focus groups, one of the most valuable tools of qualitative research. Focus groups typically ask open-ended questions to small numbers of respondents, providing deeper insight than survey research of larger audiences. When trying to understand the out-takes and outcomes of communication, research is crucial.
G is for Google Analytics, an important (and free!) source of data on how visitors find and use your website. You’ll find it easy to use for basic web metrics, but you might need some help to get it up and running and set it up effectively.
H is for Human powered research, coding and curation, a critical capability you will want from your measurement and evaluation partner. Automated data collection, analysis, and reports alone cannot match the nuanced evaluation and insight that humans provide, nor do they provide the context or critical thinking.
I is for gaining Insight, the goal of the analysis of your measurement data. And, by the way, a specialty of CARMA’s Client Service consultants.
J is for Journalists, an increasingly rare breed, but still a vital link between you and your audiences. Treat them well. Use your monitoring data to understand the interests of journalists and other influencers so you can build better relationships with them. Read more at “Four top tips for media monitoring success.”
K is for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), the metrics that best quantify the progress your organisation wishes to make. When you are able to demonstrate how PR activities impact KPIs, you’ve hit the measurement jackpot.
L is for Landscape analysis, research done to evaluate an organisation’s business environment. It is typically done before beginning a measurement program so as to better define competitors, objectives, benchmarks and stakeholders.
M is so important it warrants two entries:
M is for the Measurement Maturity Mapper, AMEC’s free measurement and evaluation planning tool that helps PR professionals plan and resource and improve their measurement and evaluation programs. CARMA’s leadership team were instrumental in its development and can advise you on implementing it at your organisation.
M is also for Media Monitoring, a primary source of data on the effectiveness of your PR efforts, and a vital tool to understand your organisation’s public image, that of your competitors and peer group, as well as for critical horizon scanning. Read more at “How to start media monitoring in just 15 minutes per day.”
N is for ‘No budget’! Without a budget it’s more difficult to work with exactly the information you’d like, but still possible to surface meaningful information. Read “No Budget, No Problem!”
O is for Outputs, Outtakes, and Outcomes, three types of objectives of communications programs. Jason Weekes, our Commercial Director for Europe and the Americas, says: “Outputs refer to what you put out to target audiences, outtakes are what the audiences understand from your comms, and outcomes are what audiences do as a result.”
P is also an important entry, and warrants three entries:
P is for PRCA, the Public Relations and Communications Association which, along with ICCO (The International Communications Consultancy Organisation) has CARMA as their exclusive global Media Monitoring & Analysis Partner. Working together with the PRCA and ICCO, CARMA supports their mission to elevate the profession through best practice and accountability.
P is for Proof of value, too. CARMA equips you to use your data to tell the stories that prove the effectiveness of communications and the value of PR. NB the value of PR is never an AVE – an Advertising Value Equivalent metric. CARMA’s Richard Bagnall has written a handy white paper listing 22 reasons that AVEs are not the value of PR if you need help convincing colleagues to move on from this flawed metric.
P is also for Planning. In the absence of a SMART plan, with clearly defined objectives and targets, meaningful communications evaluation is impossible. The insights gleaned from the measurement and evaluation program are in turn invaluable for planning future PR efforts and adjustment of ongoing programs.
Q is for Qualitative and Quantitative research, both vital for good measurement and evaluation. Qualitative research typically involves detailed questioning of small numbers of individuals, as in focus groups and interviews. It is most useful when exploring ideas and experiences in depth. Quantitative research involves the systematic collection and analysis of numerical data from large numbers of people or examples, as is typical with surveys.
R is for ROI, or Return On Investment, a specific financial formula that calculates the results of a monetary investment. PR practitioners often use the term ROI in an inaccurate fashion when attempting to express the effectiveness of their work. Without a financial objective, the value a PR program generates will be different from a true ROI. Word to the wise: People who deal with finances are often not tolerant of those who use the term loosely or incorrectly. If in doubt, express your measurement results in terms of outtakes and outcomes that impact desired organisational objectives.
S is for SMART public relations program objectives, which are precise enough to allow effective measurement and evaluation. SMART objectives are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
T is for Target audience, a subset of your entire audience defined by some specific characteristic. Your measurement target audience is typically the stakeholders that a PR program is designed to impact, and thus those you wish to test to understand to what extent that program was effective.
U is for Understanding the story your data is telling you. The insight you gain from your data will inform tweaks to your ongoing programs and will provide a solid foundation for planning future programs. Measurement and evaluation isn’t just about counting and auditing, when done well it is about informing and guiding too.
V is for Vanity metrics. These seductive numbers, frequently very large – for example mentions, likes, views, impressions, and shares—are easy to collect and tempting in their superficial importance. They provide, however, few opportunities for insight and actually carry little meaning, being disconnected from any credible outcome that your organisation would like you to support. Worse, they often take up time and attention that could be used for more valid and valuable measurement techniques. Read more at “Beware of vanity metrics.”
W is for Writing measurement reports. A well written evaluation report will convey a measurement story for presentation to your boss, your board, or your clients. An effective report is clear and concise. It speaks to the objectives of your program, contains critical thinking and presents insights in language your audience will understand and be able to make decisions with.
X is for eXpertise, something that you will need sooner or later as your measurement and evaluation efforts become more sophisticated and you need to separate the news from the noise to uncover what is most important to your organization. CARMA works with clients to help them do just this blending our cutting-edge technology and media databases with the world’s best consultants in the sector.
Y is for Your unique measurement and evaluation situation. There are so many differences between organizations and PR programs that each instance of measurement and evaluation presents singular challenges and should be viewed uniquely. There is no one-size-fits-all measurement solution which can be serviced by automated dashboards, which is why CARMA specializes in tailored services shaped around our clients’ needs.
Z is for the measurement Zone, that Zen-like state of efficient decision-making that your organization enters when it adopts a data-informed approach to planning and evaluating its public relations efforts. You will know when you and your team have reached this zone as the ‘fear of measurement’ will fall away, and it will become something integral to the team with information and insights to which everyone looks forward.