4 Easy Steps to Better PR Measurement

chuckhemann-003 This is a guest post by Chuck Hemann.

What do you think when you hear the word “measurement?” What about “evaluation?” If you are planning to roll your eyes or let out a heavy sigh don’t. While measurement and evaluation are concepts that don’t always come naturally to public relations professionals, knowing how to talk about them (and ultimately implement them) is critical to your success.

So if measurement and evaluation are so critical, why aren’t more plans building in measurement and evaluation programs? My feeling is that we haven’t seen more widespread adoption because we have not spent time educating account executives on how to do it. When they do hear about measurement, it’s usually advertising value equivalencies (AVE) and impressions.

So, how can we help make it more approachable? Here are four tips to help you get started down the road to better measurement:

1.    Take considerable time setting MEASURABLE goals and objectives. It’s amazing to me how many companies jump into a program without ever considering what they are planning to accomplish by spending the money. Ask your clients what they want to get out of the efforts. If the answer is “We want to improve our communications,” help them narrow that down to something measurable like “We want to raise the visibility of XYZ widget.”

2.    Don’t be afraid to evaluate the qualitative. When we hear measurement or evaluation our minds typically turn to numbers and advanced statistical formulas. While excluding quantitative metrics would be a mistake, including qualitative performance metrics in your analysis can really help show your client the ROI.

3.    Consider using an outside vendor for support. There are a number of vendors that can help you evaluate performance. You might already be using one of them as a clipping service. They are invaluable assets to you as they live the measurement and evaluation game and know what works and what doesn’t.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…

4.    DO NOT RELY ON AVE AND IMPRESSIONS EXCLUSIVELY. My apologies for the capital letters, but I can’t stress this point enough. Take it from me, advertising value equivalencies do not work and are not effective. If your clients want to use them, ask them to check out the Institute for PR library. The only way I would recommend using impressions to a client is if it was part of a much larger measurement program.

So, you see there’s a lot more to measurement than meets the eye. If you use these four things when talking to clients, I bet you’ll feel more comfortable talking about measurement and they will appreciate that you brought it up.

What have you found helpful to create more measurable PR efforts? Please share your tips with the rest of us in the comments.

Chuck Hemann is the research manager for Dix & Eaton, a communications consulting firm, where he helps lead measurement and competitive intelligence for the agency’s clients. You can connect with Chuck on Twitter and at his blog on PR measurement. The views in this post belong to Chuck Hemann and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of his employer.

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11 responses to “4 Easy Steps to Better PR Measurement

  1. Great guest post! Developing measurable PR programs also lends itself to accountability–for both you and your client. In addition, we need to train ourselves (PR Pros) to share our measurement in terms that are understood by the C-suite.

    We try to develop objectives that have a measurement assigned to each one. And, we are working on ways–with a third party vendor–to measure share of discussion. It’s an exciting time to be a part of an evolving industry.

  2. @Krista – “developing measurable PR programs also lends itself to accountability – for both you and the client.”

    Agreed. Once of the reasons I believe clients and agencies sometimes aren’t on the same page regarding the outcomes of campaigns is because they didn’t clearly define “success” at the beginning. Clear, measurable goals defines success.

  3. Relevant post and great follow-up to your previous post on challenges PR faces. As a young professional just now finishing up my degree, I feel I haven’t been completely prepared to effectively measure success.

    While I agree that PR pros need to adopt more effective measurement tactics, I think it starts at the ground-level with education. Colleges need to include a more focused discussion of measurement in their curriculum. Most of what I have learned regarding measurment has been through my own research, which is fine by me, but really unfair to those paying for a well-rounded education.

    Thanks for the advice and insights, Chuck. And thanks for starting the discussion, David.

    Regards,
    JGrass

  4. Jeff/Krista – thanks for posting comments! I really did enjoy doing the post. What Jeff hits on is the real crux of the problem in my opinion. I’ve talked with a few PR professors of late who tell me that they teach their students quantitative research methods. While a practical course to be sure, what you are likely to learn in a methods course is going to have very little application to your day-to-day life as a member of the PR community. I think students would get a lot more out of a measurement and evaluation course than they would a methods course, but that’s just me. Heck, there’s enough out there that finding reading material wouldn’t be a problem. Katie Paine’s Measuring Public Relationships would probably be at the top of the list.

  5. Thanks for the recommendation, Chuck. I will have to check out Katie Paine’s Measuring Public Relations.

    -JGrass

  6. Pingback: ImpactWatch » Blog Archive » Top Social Media Monitoring & Measurement Posts of the Week

  7. Hey Chuck,
    Agreed all vendors (PR included) need measurement (we call them kpi’s or key performance indicators).

    Some background:
    We have been working with a PR firm for over a year already.

    Can you give me two that I should use? E.G.
    -# of bylines?
    -# of analyst briefings?

    Thanks in advance for your consideration.

  8. Hi Chuck, Nice concise post making plenty of sense that we at Metrica agree with. By avoiding pseudo-scientific scoring systems and helping our clients tie their measurmeent to sensible credible objectives, we have found that they havelearned to ‘enjoy’ their metrics programme rather than fear it.

    Please take a look at our PR measurement blog at http://www.metrica.net/measurementmatters and get in touch with me if you would be interested in writing a gust post for us too.

    Best wishes

    Richard

  9. @Ewok – I’m not entirely sure what you are asking me for. Are you looking for traditional media metrics? Social media? Analyst relations campaign? There are some common metrics for all types of campaigns, but I’d caution against using “standardized” metrics, especially if they don’t align with the overall goals and objectives of your campaign.

    @Richard – thanks for the comment. I am actually a frequent reader of your blog. Will drop you a line.

  10. @Chuck – Thanks Chuck for the response. I guess I’m looking for a starting point (in terms of KPIs) that tells me that my PR firm is doing a great job.

    Any advice?

  11. @Ewok oh, I see. that does make sense. I am assuming you had some commonly agreed to goals and objectives at the start of the engagement? If so, I don’t think you are out of line in holding their feet to the fire to meet those goals.

    It depends on how big your company is, but I don’t think there is any problem with looking at some softer metrics like number of meetings, number of new contacts, etc… I think these types of things are particularly helpful if you’ve contracted a PR firm to help you with trade media relations.

    Feel free to drop me a line (or even another comment) if you’d feel comfortable giving me more specifics on the engagement.

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