Objective measurement in times of information overload
Measurement, frankly, isn’t simple. The hours, money and number of organisations dedicated to measurement in the PR industry are arguably more disparate and confusing than any other marketing discipline. Digital marketers, on the other hand, tend to have clearer models, metrics, and dashboards, and therefore simpler conversations than PR professionals when it comes to understanding impact. In a world where marketers are facing information overload, PR professionals need a way to deliver a similarly clear reasoning for investment – and to be judged and held accountable on that reasoning. It’s an industry wide challenge, AMEC finds 70% of agencies report that clients are looking for more effective means of evaluation. Quality over quantity In a recent blog, my colleague Sam Rafuse – a Digital Marketer – talked of his own experience seeing how PR speaks a different language from marketing when it comes to measurement. This mirrors my own experience in PR, where I’ve often seen it siloed from other disciplines, focusing heavily on press coverage, rather than more insightful outcomes such as brand engagement. Integration in the PR industry has delivered better value for clients in terms of activation but, to some extent, has put a magnifying glass on the quality and accuracy of measurement. That’s because it isn’t possible to compare, for example, qualified leads to press coverage; the former is an outcome, the latter an output. Measuring is like a supply chain In a supply chain, every input has a different output. Raw materials go in, and components or products come out. Similarly in PR, everything we input will deliver a different result, so like a supply chain, PR successes must be viewed in the context of what each activity is intended to deliver. Failing to define outputs and outcomes before inputting work or creativity – both on an internal client and agency side – can result in pressure to deliver big numbers rather than quality analysis. We then resort to qualitative metrics such as opportunities to see and number of articles, numbers that people outside of the comms circle like to see. In real terms, this means if you are working to influence CEOs to consider a new approach for example, a high volume of news coverage is positive. News stories, however, tend to deliver awareness when the actual goal is thought leadership. In this example, an op-ed in a top tier media target will go further to achieving your desired objective. How do we change mindsets? Quite simply, PR measurement doesn’t - at face value - always make sense to stakeholders new to the space. It’s something PR outsiders coming in with a digital marketing hat on often note. A true mindset change means putting objectives first and building campaign plans around them. The bulk of planning time should be spent creating the story you want your target users to read, and the execution and inputs will naturally follow. Such an approach will also make reporting more meaningful and help to guide future campaigns and strategies. We must also be open. Demystifying the dark art of PR and having genuine conversations about the best approach to achieve a desired goal will help to build relationships with stakeholders. This means when campaigns don’t deliver the desired outcome, we discuss where improvements could be made, and tweak our approach in order to achieve the objectives agreed at the start. Focused objective setting and monitoring is ultimately the key to better measurement. Where next? As an agency, we’re looking to drive our teams and clients to have more meaningful data-driven conversations with stakeholders. Setting clear objectives is an essential first step that will in turn take teams on a journey to better use data and insights in their work. The next stage on our journey is to explore some of the existing frameworks used by our clients, network and colleagues. From what we’ve seen to date, there is a lot out there – with varied levels of complexities – highlighting the challenge with finding a single approach that can be applied in multiple cases. As we move through this next stage, listening will be key. Please do share your thoughts, experiences and observations on measurement in the PR industry – either in the comments, or via DM.
You may also like
How can PR and Marketing teams start speaking the same integrated language?