For PR professionals bouncing from one activity, client or campaign to the next with barely enough time to re-calibrate, allocating the requisite time and resources to measurement can be a challenge.
While marketing activity often naturally translates into measurement metrics, in PR it can be a less direct link. From conversations to determine how PR activities tie into business goals, to understanding what ‘meaningful measurement’ looks like and how to access the right data – it all takes significant time.
Unless measurement is baked into the company or client’s culture, it can be difficult to know where and how to get started. In this fast-paced, budget-conscious discipline, investment in measurement activity can also be a tough sell to senior management.
This is likely the one reason why the industry has leaned so hard on data and numbers that don’t provide much in the way of insight, but are easy to gather and report. AVEs (advertising value equivalent) and similar vanity metrics such as ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ provide the illusion of fast-access measurement, but without delivering any valuable insight. These are just some of the reasons why they shouldn’t be used, according to AMEC.
Meaningful measurement doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are five tips every comms professional can try to kick-start a meaningful approach to measurement today:
1. Start Small
If you’re short on time but want to start measuring, start small with a clear, concrete goal that is directly linked to the overarching business objectives.
Find out what relevant business, sales and marketing data is available. Social media engagement, email sign-ups or event registrations, footfall, web traffic and enquiries can all be mapped against PR campaign activity to build a picture that looks beyond outputs, to outcomes and impact.
Analyse media coverage for tone, message resonance, original content or syndicated and other meaningful indicators of the campaign’s influence.
Ideally, measurement is established at the start of a campaign to guide planning and creativity. But, even if your campaign is in progress or drawing to a close, it’s never too late to start. Rather than going back to the beginning of the campaign, pick a two- or four-week period for data collection and analysis.
2. Remember: keep it simple, stupid (KISS)
One of the biggest barriers to measurement, particularly when time is short, is its perceived complexity.
However, once you know the company’s business objectives, there are likely some fairly straightforward measurement metrics that you can address without introducing a lot of complexity.
The AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework is a great place to start. Follow the process to create a clear, linear connection between business objectives, activity and meaningful success metrics.
But beware, the data needs human curation and interpretation to deliver insight and demonstrate impact.
3. Make measurement a team sport
Measurement is a skill best learned by doing. When time is a limiting factor, it might seem appropriate to assign the task to a junior team member but, in fact, it is necessary for everyone in the team to fully understand the metrics, be able to articulate what needs to be tracked, how and why, and be skilled in analysing and interpreting the findings.
Involving the team also spreads accountability for achieving the results, so it’s a good idea to share tasks out and build ‘measurement skills’ into the team’s professional development goals.
4. Find a measurement mentor
Whether it’s a team member or someone from outside your company, it’s helpful to have support from someone who can think through ideas and help identify quicker, more effective processes and solutions.
PR measurement can often be associated with sensitive business information, so ideally pair up with someone from within your company or agency to articulate your measurement approach.
Industry groups such as AMEC, CIPR and PRCA are readily available resources for advice and fellow professionals with a passion for measurement will usually be willing to answer a general question or two, to help you get started on the right path.
5. Practice makes perfect
Once you make a start on PR measurement, you will find that it gets easier – and quicker – with practice.
Experience will aid conversations about which business goals can best be supported by PR activities, what constitutes a meaningful metric, and so on, and establishing processes for data collection will become quicker. You’ll even start to think differently about what to include in campaign proposals so that measurement is incorporated from the earliest stages of PR planning and becomes a natural component of the scope of activity.
Once you’ve demonstrated the value of measurement insight, you’ll be better positioned to secure more resources for the future – leaving you less strapped for time!
Albert Cherry is our Business Development Manager at CARMA for the UK & Ireland, Europe & the Americas. A politics graduate from the University of Manchester, Albert has a natural interest in current affairs and communication. In a familiar case of ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’, he spent a brief period working as a PR before joining the world of media monitoring and analysis. Albert is passionate about technology and is a big sports fan, spending his weekends on the golf course, watching boxing, or, for his sins – supporting his beloved Newcastle United.