Did our PR program work?
That’s the big question every communications professional asks at the completion of an initiative. The answer is simple. It did if it met our goals. And when those goals can be measured, we’ll know.
The heart of the measurement conundrum for our profession always comes back to the discipline of goal setting. Earlier this year, I attended the annual PR News Measurement Conference, in which hundreds of PR professionals heard from some of the industry’s top thinkers in this area.
What struck me is that while topics discussed change from year to year (welcome to the age of social media!), the fundamental issue is always the same.
You can’t talk measurement without talking goals. And what’s so exciting for our industry is that, more and more, those goals relate to the quality of coverage (and social media conversation), not merely the quantity of it.
Here’s what I know about good measurement (one tip to get started – measurement is part of the planning process of a program, not just part of the reporting process!)
1. Every PR program is ultimately accountable to business objectives. It’s critical to know what those business objectives are before PR planning is underway.
2. A PR program must include clear, measurable goals that align with those business objectives. In many cases, just counting impressions (or other pure “volume” metrics) at the end of program doesn’t tell us all that much. What can be really telling are the qualitative attributes of coverage. Are you working to get market share from a competitor? Setting goals around share of voice (in traditional and social media) may make sense. Looking to create a new brand identity? Perhaps analyzing the presence of specific messaging is the way to go. Aiming to grow sales? You may want positive product reviews in the few key media (or from the social-media influencers) that connect most directly with your target audience. No matter what the scenario, the best PR goals are generally qualitative, and are crafted through the lens of business objectives.
3. In most cases, measurement should show us change over time. To do that, we need benchmark metrics. If we’re setting goals against share of voice, say, we need to know where we are today if we want to project where we can be tomorrow. Setting a goal of achieving 60% share of voice won’t be too meaningful if, unbeknownst to us, we’re already at 75%.
4. Strategies and tactics must be interrogated against their ability to help achieve PR goals. It’s the way we determine the appropriate deployment of resources. Fun idea but no bearing on our goals? Then we need to think long and hard about executing it.
5. In the best case scenario, the measurement at the close of a program is simply an analysis of the program’s performance versus its goals. Did share of voice grow? What message pull-through did we achieve? Did we land the product reviews we wanted? If we find we’re frequently measuring things at the close of program that we didn’t set goals against, we may need to re-think how we’re setting our goals.
6. Finally, the PR profession (and Kaplow) has some best practice standards when it comes to the “volume” metrics we use. Ad value equivalencies are not considered reputable. Multipliers (in print impressions) are not encouraged. Unique monthly visitors (using subdomains when available) is the preferred online metric. Using consistent, trustworthy metrics will ensure the measurement is accurate and illustrative.
A rigorous, disciplined goal-setting and measurement process helps us know that our PR programs work. And that’s a story we all want to tell in any final wrap-up report.