5 Tips for Smarter PR Measurement

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Measurement is a critical aspect of gauging the impact and effectiveness of public relations efforts, and it’s a hot topic in the PR industry right now. Especially as digital becomes intertwined into traditional public relations strategies, measurement methods are changing, and what may have worked once doesn’t apply anymore. So, what makes a strong report? What metrics matter and should be included? 

I recently attended the PRNEWS Measurement Boot Camp in New York City, where we learned from several measurement gurus, including the Queen of Measurement herself—Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing.

I came away from a packed day with a better understanding of effective measurement—whether it be for media relations, social media or crisis management. Here are five tips for being smarter about public relations measurement:

  1. Don’t take pride in vanity metrics. A vanity metric is anything that you throw up and expect to speak for itself. Millions of impressions? Not impressed. Potential reach—what is that? WHO is that? Giant numbers may appear impressive, but they aren’t informative and provide little insight into what communications efforts are actually doing for business. Conversions into direct sales, on the other hand, or being able to show how ads are reaching exactly a target audience. Smaller, more informative numbers are not always a big problem.
  2. Avoid fast-and-easy brothel metrics. Instead, measure what matters—and that’s not always easy. Focus on numbers that help business. It’s important to produce reports that show impact and value. Identify what metrics matter and how to use those to inform strategy. If awareness is a goal, go deeper into what that means—is it clicks through to a certain webpage, e-newsletter sign-ups, video views, or placement in a certain publication? Visibility alone doesn’t equal awareness. Determine what metrics are directly tied to that goal and should be included in reports. That may not be the easy data that measurement tools easily calculate and may require digging deeper.
  3. Using ad value equivalency (AVE) isn’t accurate, and it decreases credibility. Speaking of brothel metrics, let’s talk AVE. In case you didn’t know—because apparently PR kids today aren’t even learning about AVE’s—ad value equivalency is a method that has been used by PR pros to measure the benefit from media coverage by calculating the cost of purchasing the space taken up by a media placement as if that coverage had been an advertisement. So, if an article takes up a half page on the front page of a newspaper, it was said to cost as much as a half-page, front-page ad. AVE is irrelevant for several reasons. First, digital and social media blew up the formula—they are not configured the same way as traditional print media. But, ultimately, AVE doesn’t measure the value of PR because it fails to indicate how a media hit initiated action, changed behavior, shaped perception or attitudes, or its impact on attitudes and reputation. Earned media can better be measured using metrics like sentiment, mentions, prominence, geographic reach, social engagement, website traffic, leads—and more.
  4. Build solid reports. Most clients aren’t going to read through lengthy reports, but they will zero in on certain metrics. Know what those are ahead of time. What’s that one thing that will really matter to the CFO? The only thing worse than not including that metric is calculating it incorrectly. What works for a client and what they will read should drive the dashboard design. Provide the numbers that matter and that are directly linked to communications goals. Avoid “chart porn.” When identifying an analytics partner or platform, find a vendor that provides the metrics you need to craft effective reports but that also has a highly responsive team that will jump in to help gather the right data, even during inconvenient times.
  5. Reports should not be a top goal. The goal of the communications campaign—not the report—should be the basis of planning. Too often, PR pros skip right to thinking what the report should look like instead of focusing on how to best achieve the goals of the initiative at hand. Too much emphasis on reports at the start of a project can stifle creativity and shift attention from the actual goals. Reports are important in capturing the effectiveness of past activities but, even more importantly, they should be used to influence the future by showing what worked, and what didn’t, as well as what tools and strategies resonated best with key audiences.  

Working primarily in digital at Inspire, I’ve learned that comprehensive reports are integral to shaping an effective strategy, whether it’s for social media, influencer engagement or SEO. For social clients, we provide monthly reports that clearly show how social media outreach and promotion is contributing to an overall goal. The reports have allowed us to build upon strategies that work and quickly catch and rethink those that are not. Influencer engagement reports identify strong partners and help illustrate why the relationships are meaningful.

Do you have any reporting tips to add? Let us know what measurement tools you use.