November marks AMEC’s annual Measurement Month and presents agencies with an opportunity to reevaluate and reinvigorate their reporting and evaluation activities – both for themselves and for their clients.
While there is never a bad time to take stock of what you and your team are doing from a measurement perspective, the end of the calendar year does present some unique opportunities. Since many reports to clients are based on calendar year results, it’s much easier to implement change that starts in January without needing to retrospectively adjust the data.
Here are some specific activities that every public relations agency should be considering as the year winds to a close:
1. Create an inventory of all ongoing client reporting
The more clients you have, the more reports you produce. The longer a client remains with your firm, the more reports you produce for them. Agencies almost always find themselves adding reports and rarely removing them.
By creating a list of all of the weekly, quarterly, and annual reports that your team prepares, you will gain greater visibility into:
- The amount of time and resources devoted to reporting
- The degree of overlap between reports across multiple clients (where collaboration may improve efficiency)
- The identification of obsolete or low-value reporting that might be eliminated
- The potential for consolidation of reports for individual clients
- The overall value of the reporting being provided to each client
- The gaps in reporting that might be filled to produce more insight and better communicate ROI to the client
A report inventory can be a very eye-opening exercise for many agencies and can lead to improved client retention as well as increased efficiency that drives profitability.
2. Ensure that you are acting on the data that you collect and analyze
Communicators and marketers often fall in love with reporting but forget that the reports are only a means to an end.
Don’t collect data or generate reports that you (and your clients) aren’t actually using to improve decision-making. Effective measurement programs evaluate success and identify approaches for improvement.
Use your report inventory to ask how each report is being used and by whom so that you can tailor the report and data collection to those needs and eliminate any extraneous costs and effort.
3. Educate your team to focus on outcomes and value rather than outputs and counts
Agency leaders need to help mentor and educate their team members (and sometimes clients) about best practices for media measurement and evaluation.
That means showing them how to move beyond vanity metrics that look pretty but do little to support improved decision-making. It starts with an improved understanding of the client’s goals and how the agency’s efforts fit into that approach. Using that knowledge, your team can not only improve the quality of the reports but ultimately deliver better results for the client.
Remember that many of your younger team members have grown up on platforms that provide real-time data in the form of the number of likes and reposts. Watching those numbers climb can be invigorating, but agency leaders have an obligation to help team members understand how to move beyond those easily obtained numbers to focus on ones that drive underlying business objectives.
4. Update your existing reports to drive the value conversation
With an inventory of reports and data collection in hand and a team that has improved their knowledge of best practices, it’s time to review each report to make sure that it provides the insight and tells the story that you need.
Although it is easier than ever to provide pages of charts and reams of data at the click of a button, each report should be as concise as possible. The days of presenting a heavy binder of clips for the “thud factor” and accepting that it will sit on a shelf never to be read have long since passed.
Each report that we produce for internal use or for sharing with clients should very directly highlight the key points needed to make better decisions and to help the client see the value in the work that is being performed.
The presentation of each report should be tuned to the audience. The amount of detail that a high-level executive may want will likely be very different from your day-to-day client contact who engages in much more granular decision-making.
You and your team should also understand which clients are visual and which are more driven by narrative detail. Some will better consume content electronically, while others will benefit from in-person presentations and discussions.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to media measurement reporting, so you should work to customize the solution for each project and client to get the best results.
5. Plan your media intelligence reporting for the new year
Having reviewed and updated your reports, you need to understand the impact on the next 12 months. Will you need new tools, data, or resources to produce the insights that you desire?
If you have new client initiatives planned, you should look to match those with existing or new reports. That might require new data sources, changes to coding structures, or other adjustments that will be easier to implement from January 1 instead of engaging in a time-consuming and potentially costly exercise in gathering historical data midway through the year.
This is also a great opportunity to plan for the effective use of your team’s resources by looking for areas where you can make subtle adjustments to your reporting schedules to avoid unnecessary overlap. Agencies historically find themselves in the position of having reporting crunches in specific weeks throughout the year that could often be alleviated by changing the scheduled delivery dates of individual reports by as little as a few days.
Remember to look at your reporting plans at an agency-wide level to maximize the use of your available resources rather than losing sight of the big picture by making each decision individually.
6. Review your media measurement data sources, tools, and partners
With a plan in place that meets your agency’s business needs and the requirements of your clients, you can now confidently review how you work with third parties to gather and analyze all of the required information.
It’s important to have a vision and plan in place before working with media measurement partners so that you find a solution that meets your agency’s needs rather than tailoring your evaluation program to meet the capabilities of a specific provider.
Depending on your requirements, you might find yourself using DIY software tools, independent contractors, or a full-service media measurement and PR evaluation partner. Some agencies may even use a mix of all three to meet the needs of individual clients and projects.
This year-end review of providers also gives you the opportunity to determine how to integrate these costs into your client budgeting for the new year – including using it to drive reporting as a profit center for your firm.
Measurement Month and your year-end planning sessions provide you with an opportunity to ensure that your agency’s reporting isn’t left on autopilot but instead continues to evolve with the needs of your agency and its clients.
By being more proactive about your media intelligence and PR evaluation activities, you will produce better results for your clients and improve the bottom line of your business.
Chip Griffin is the Founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA).