Along with not having enough time, a big barrier to getting measurement started is often a lack of budget. It’s a catch-22 for PR pros: adding measurement tied to business goals would validate PR spend, but clients or management often don’t want to pay for it.
It’s true; from planning stages to data collection and analysis, implementing a meaningful communications measurement programme will require investment. While ‘output’ metrics (tracking activity) is simple and free to report, digging into ‘out-takes’ (what the audience thinks), ‘outcomes’ (what the audience is prompted to do) and impact requires more time and money.
Does this mean that organisations on tight budgets are out of luck? No, there are still ways you can include measurement that matters into PR activity. Here’s how.
1. Focus on what’s important
Output and ‘vanity’ metrics (likes, shares and so on) are information, not insight. Instead, swap reporting on these to focus on measuring the impact of a campaign and how it contributed to business objectives.
Go back to the objectives of the campaign and what action you wanted the audience to take, then identify measurement metrics that demonstrate change.
Even with budget constraints aside, there’s a risk PR professionals can drown in data and the key is choosing the metrics that matter. Focus on the data that’s most useful and meaningful – the insights that helps you make decisions on what to do next.
2. Free tools exist—make good use of them
There are plenty of free tools on the market like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Twitter Analytics to help with data collection and campaign measurement. There will be setup time involved with these, but what you gain on the other side of your effort will be worth the time investment on the front end.
You’re also probably going to need to use Excel. It may not be a flashy dashboard, but if you’re on a shoestring and need to measure, Excel is a great tool and it’s probably already on your computer.
Also, don’t forget to download the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework, which walks you through the process to separate your outputs from your outcomes and helps you identify what needs measuring.
3. Seek out internal help and resources
If you’re short on resources for measurement, ask around internally to see if there are any interns or entry level PR pros, or existing tools and templates, that could help tackle some aspects of the task. Although this isn’t ‘free’, it is cost effective and carries additional benefits.
By engaging others in measurement activities, you’re on your way to building a bench of measurement-savvy advocates. Those assisting in day-to-day data collection and reporting will be primed to do the higher-level analysis in the future. Additionally, good measurement results from collaborative efforts might increase support – and demonstrate the need for dedicated measurement resources.
4. Collect data as you go along
Plan measurement in from the outset and you’ll find it quicker and easier to collect meaningful data as you go along. Plus, it’s more cost effective than having to dedicate hours of resources at the end of a program to sift through and pull out the metrics you need.
You might also find that, as you start asking questions to the sales, finance and customer services teams, there are other tools and data sources available that add useful, relevant insight to PR measurement.
5. Remember, making a start is better than doing nothing
When budgets are tight, sometimes it can be considered a win to simply get started. If you are limited on budget, take a look at your business goals and narrow down your options: pick one aspect of the campaign or PR program to measure and focus efforts on that.
Equally, if your campaign is already under way, pick a two or four-week period to measure rather than going back to the very beginning.
The most important thing to consider in this situation is that whatever measurement you can do, do it right, but don’t create an insurmountable task. The objective is to begin to measure and demonstrate its effectiveness so that during the next round of budget allocations, you can advocate for more cash by demonstrating tangible, meaningful results.