If you have been working in PR and communications anytime within the last decade or so, you’ve likely run across PR measurement discussions, either in webinars or in conferences.
The potential upsides to having a measurement program in place are clear—the ability to demonstrate what is actually working to move the needle is what any company should be striving towards. We leave the conference or webinar charged up, full of good ideas and the enthusiasm to launch a fully realized in-depth measurement plan, and then…reality sets in. You realize you can’t tackle everything at once.
Setting up the kind of measurement plan that most organizations need takes time and, in many cases, it can also require additional resources, energy, and budget. Further complicating things, the level of effort needed might also change over time, particularly for organizations that are growing.
This is where developing an adaptable measurement plan comes into play. An adaptable plan has two main benefits: it sets you up for success with initial measurement objectives, while also serving as a foundation for when your measurement needs become more complex.
Get The Basics Covered First
A basic media monitoring program is an essential starting point, and an adaptable measurement plan starts here.
There are many reasons companies might begin small when starting out with media monitoring. Some of these reasons include budget constraints, lack of available personnel to review and analyze data pulled in by software, or having a limited focus (such as just searching on a company’s name and CEO).
While there’s no problem with starting small, there can be problems down the line if you start cheap. Relying on free services might seem like a good way to dip into monitoring, but it’s very hard to grow when you need to—without getting overwhelmed.
Using news alerts and an Excel spreadsheet to track mentions might work for very small efforts, but once you realize the benefits of monitoring, you’ll want to add more: mentions of competitors, tracking other issues within the industry, and monitoring for other executives. Volume can quickly become unwieldy. You’ll either need to abandon the alerts and spreadsheet at some point—or, you’ll get caught in the trap of using multiple programs.
Find a service that can grow with you, so your initial efforts won’t go to waste.
Planning For Change
When organizations start seeing the benefits of basic measurement, expansion usually follows.
The ability to anticipate marketing changes, or find the right reporters to target when conducting proactive communications, or have more robust competitor analysis all have positive business impacts.
Most organizations have plans for growth. Your measurement program should too—and, it should be tied to business goals. When considering how your measurement needs will change over time, it’s essential to map that to organizational changes.
For example, if a company plans to expand either nationally or into new countries, that should factor into measurement plans and the software and services you select.
Having to switch monitoring tools because the one you’ve been using doesn’t have access to the data you need is frustrating. Selecting a service that can adapt to growth of the organization is the ideal, so when you are in the market for a service, it’s wise to talk to departments that can provide insight into future monitoring and analysis needs.
Considering other departments beyond communications and PR can also mean you are getting all of the value you can out of your service. Sales might find value in monitoring for RFPs, or to learn how competitors are faring in new markets, for example.
Knowing When You Need Help – Or Just Another Perspective
This falls under “find the right partner.” Engaging a full-service monitoring firm can be an asset if an adaptable measurement plan sounds like the right solution. Here’s why: it allows you to dial your services up or down as needed, without having to scrap everything you’ve already accomplished.
You can start small, with a do-the-measurement-yourself option, knowing that as you prove the value of measurement, budget to build on your program may follow. As your experience grows, you may want to add greater functionality to the software, for example. Later, it might make sense to layer in some basic research assistance to augment annual or quarterly reporting. This is a gradual approach that allows you to add on additional features and experience when you are ready for it.
Or, maybe you have a need for advanced analytics right away, but don’t have the personnel or the internal expertise. By engaging with a full-service firm, you can get the high-level research you need while you build your team internally, which can then lead to new opportunities to develop and use measurement and evaluation with the monitoring firm as your team’s skills grow.
How To Map Out An Adaptable Plan?
An adaptable measurement plan is one that can be easily adjusted to meet either individual needs or the needs of the organization—or both. That might mean starting with a “self-serve” software program while building a measurement program from scratch. Or, it might mean diving in by engaging with a team of human analysts who are already trained to uncover insights—something that your organization doesn’t have the personnel to accomplish in the time frame you need it.
Consider these steps:
- Figure out what measurement is being done now
- Talk to departments to get a full picture of both current and future monitoring needs
- Learn which business goals can be informed and supported by communications measurement
- Plan for growth: how will you handle higher volume, demand for more analysis, expansion into different territories, monitoring more media formats, etc.
- Don’t just think of how to meet current needs—determine a plan for how to adjust to future requests
Being nimble, with the ability to adjust to changing circumstances, is at the heart of having an adaptable measurement plan.