This blog post is the first in a series on PR measurement and reporting. It comes from
Rob McMurtrie, Vice President at Porter Novelli Seattle.
Most PR reports are like soap bubbles – pretty to look at but not very strong. The problem is circulations, article counts and tonality of coverage tell business leaders very little about the impact public relations is having on the company’s goals. And when they start asking probing questions about the value of these measures – POP! – there goes YOUR reputation.
More PR professionals need to push beyond their comfort zone and start creating strong analysis of their results. Securing good coverage – which is what these traditional measures evaluate – isn’t the goal of our profession. It’s the prerequisite.
So what to do instead? Index your coverage results and correlate them with other, more meaningful data. The three steps below highlight a simple way to do that.
First, reduce the cost and time spent on collecting prerequisite data. A lot of PR folks and agencies still have a “clip book” mentality – that it is critical to capture every single mention of your brand or product to fatten up that clip book. While there are certainly cases where finding all relevant coverage is important (in times of crisis, for example), getting to 100% coverage capture is very expensive and isn’t necessary to get a statistically valid sample that will index your coverage results. There are tools available that can help automate that process and free up tracking dollars for more meaningful projects.
Second, determine what data you can get from inside your organization. Here’s a hint: Don’t start with sales! While understanding PR’s impact on sales is considered the “holy grail” of measurement, it typically requires very expensive ROI analysis that accounts for the influence of all aspects of the marketing mix. Instead, try some simple steps like looking at social media reaction to an announcement as a proxy for how you impacted customer perception and attitudes or evaluating inbound web traffic from publication sites immediately after coverage hits. After a recent new product launch for a small consumer products client, we were able to show that traffic to the website doubled in the week following due to referrals from sites featuring coverage we generated.
Finally, start thinking about measurement as a process, not an end product. Many PR pros consider their job complete when they have a number they can share with management. The number is only part of the story, however. What is critical is the insight derived from that number. Having a consistent and repeatable measurement process makes deriving those insights easier because you can analyze your impact over time – whether it is quarter to quarter or across a particular series of events. That consistency allows you to understand how changes positively or negatively impacted your results and to design better programs, products, etc. It also allows you to iterate as you get access to new and different forms of data.
It’s important to note that these same steps can be used not only for traditional media but also for social media measurement which many of us are increasingly being asked to tackle.
Make a commitment this summer to leave the soap bubbles to the kids and start constructing a measurement program that will last long after Labor Day!
Rob McMurtrie is Vice President at Porter Novelli Seattle. He has 15 years of experience developing local, national and international marketing communications programs for clients and has spent 10 years developing Porter Novelli’s award-winning measurement programs.
Rob’s measurement work was recognized with the 2008 PR News Platinum Award for Measurement and Evaluation and the 2008 Iron Sabre Certificates of Excellence for Evaluation. Rob is active in the Seattle community and frequently speaks on PR-related issues.