Measurement Is Critical to PR. ‘Vanity Metrics’ Are Not.

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This discussion originally appeared in PR News. [Click here for original]

EVERY ORGANIZATION can have an effective media measurement strategy in place, no matter the size of budget, if it clearly defines goals and objectives for its PR campaign and itself, argues Angie Jeffrey of Salience Insight US. Here, she tells PR News in a recent roundtable discussion that organizations can achieve this by setting KPIs that only relate to them; and by choosing a couple of measurement tools to measure what matters most – and no more.

PR News: What kind of PR metrics are senior leaders looking for right now, and how are those demands changing?

Senior leaders are definitely looking for PR metrics that can be directly linked to business outcomes such as leads, sales, survey scores, as they have for some time. But the demands are changing in that PR has to be part of the “paid, owned and earned” equation, and be related to other “big data” results. There’s nothing simple about measuring PR today.

PR News: In an increasingly globalized economy, do you see a consensus emerging among major companies and PR agencies regarding the top PR indices for companies to track?

I do not currently see, and don’t expect to see, agreement on any particular PR index score, since the best scores are customized for the client. However, there is much more agreement on the quantitative and qualitative variables that must be part of any given measurement program as seen from the Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards and the Social Media Measurement Conclave. Without a doubt, the annual global measurement summit put on by AMEC (The International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) has played one of the largest roles in bringing everyone together for the benefit of measurement end-users.

PR News: What are some of the social media metrics that brands and organizations are starting to track that go beyond mere “likes” or “followers?”

Brands and organizations are well into measuring the levels of engagement, quality of conversations and influence of the person/s posting or blogging. More importantly, they are tracking the sources and intensity of opinions and advocacy, and ultimately, the impact and value of social media alongside other forms of communication. Ultimately, the impact and value of social media can only be determined when comparing it back to overall objectives and business outcomes.

PR News: What are the most effective ways to integrate both offline and online metrics?

Integrating offline and online metrics is a developing science, since the quantitative audience metrics are so completely different. The way we currently line-up the two at both Salience Insight and CARMA is to measure the qualitative aspects of both offline and online media in the same way (such as sentiment, message, topic, competitors, key media tier, etc.), and calculate a score for each item.

We can then compare the two against each other on the same scale, across time, to see how they influence one another. Quantitative audience metrics are handled separately and are looked at for overall trending, but not for direct comparison (i.e. how does one compare the audience for a tweet, with the print circulation of the New York Times?).

PR News: What’s a good measurement strategy for companies with limited resources and that have reached their limitation with free online tools and analytics?

What a great question! The best measurement strategy for any company, whether or not it has limited resources, is to clearly define goals and objectives for the organization and PR campaign; set KPIs that relate directly to them; and choose a couple of measurement tools to measure ONLY what matters most. In other words, track and measure competitive results for a key media list of 30-50 media sources and forego everything else.

If the goals, objectives, KPIs and media universe are realistic and carefully planned, a lot can be accomplished for a limited budget. Just don’t try to do it all!

PR News: What baseline measurement tools and skills must all PR pros master if they intend to tie their work to organizational goals?

PR pros who are serious about their careers must set aside time to dive deeply into the free literature that is now available from sources such as the Institute for Public Relations (www.instituteforpr.org), the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (www.amecorg.com) and the Social Media Measurement Conclave (www.smmstandards.org), to name but a few.

They should attend measurement conferences and read at least a few of the great measurement books now available. They must refine their Excel skills and learn a bit about statistics, so they can do their own correlations or regressions to business outcomes. They must become comfortable dealing with software and data as provided by the leading research providers. And the really smart ones will learn how to pull insights and conclusions from the data they see, so they can craft solutions to make their campaigns even more effective going forward!

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