Secret #3 – Diagnose and correct problems every step of the way

Today I’m sharing our third secret for using measurement to create winning PR strategies. Secret #3 is “diagnose and correct problems every step of the way.”

Smart PR professionals use measurement to help them understand the effects of their public relations efforts. If measurement data reveals that a campaign isn’t producing desirable results then course correction is needed. Being able to recognize and respond to problems is essential to producing a campaign that accomplishes business goals.

Here’s a simple scenario that describes how measurement can lead to improvements:

Say that your diligent media outreach has landed numerous interviews for executives. The interviews go well and lead to media coverage that includes quotes from the execs. Everyone is happy and on the surface all seems well. However, your coverage analysis shows that in many cases the executives didn’t effectively communicate the desired message. Although you received positive coverage, you recognize a red flag. You can either make adjustments now or face tough questions later about why your campaign (which did earn coverage) didn’t actually achieve the desired outcomes. You make a decision and take the initiative to hold prep sessions prior to interviews in order to ensure execs are briefed with the appropriate info to keep the message on target. As a result of tracking and analyzing your PR efforts you were able to recognize a potential problem and take steps to keep your program moving toward your goals.

This example is a good reminder that PR must map to business objectives for it to be successful. Your company may be focused on increasing repeat business, attracting new customers, driving awareness for a product, gaining market share, etc. Whatever your goals, PR efforts should be focused on achieving them.  Otherwise, it’s likely your executives will be wondering what they got for their PR spend and they may lose confidence in the program.

Careful measurement and analysis of PR results helps you identify challenges and make corrections that will save you time and money. Don’t wait until you’ve lost ground or are significantly over budget before taking action. Keep your program running at an optimum level and you’ll be able to show executives results that prove your campaign positively influenced business outcomes.

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Secret #2 – Let data be your guide

Here is the second secret in our series about using measurement to create winning PR strategies:

Stop for a second and think about your PR program. What are you trying to achieve with your campaigns? While every business has different goals, the focus of PR should be on producing defined business outcomes.

Many PR departments are unsure if their programs are on track to accomplish business objectives. Hoping that campaigns will produce results, PR pros are often left guessing where to focus their efforts because they don’t have the information, processes and tools needed to make informed decisions.

The good news is that by simply making an effort to set a baseline and measure PR efforts you can gain a tremendous amount of direction. Measurement helps to identify what’s working and what needs to be fixed. Companies that measure their PR efforts have the data they need to respond to competitive threats, identify weaknesses in their program, and make the adjustments necessary to achieve more.

Let data be your guide. As you begin your measurement program you’ll want to make sure you’re capturing the information that is related to your business goals. Then, once you start collecting your baseline information, you’ll need to analyze it to determine if you’re on target and making progress towards your objectives. Look at things like company mentions, executive quotes, analyst quotes, customer stories, product coverage, or other selected criteria. If you’ve invested time mapping measurement to goals, your data will clearly show where your campaign is succeeding and where it needs improvement. Use what you’ve learned to make adjustments and fine-tune your campaign so you can get the absolute most out of your PR spend and beat your competitors.

Speaking of competitors, as you evaluate your PR program look for signs that show how your business is fairing compared to the competition. Are you getting more or less coverage than your competitors? Is your coverage (and your competitors’ coverage) in relevant, widely read publications – or is it in tier two and tier three publications? By digging deep into your data you’ll know if you are falling behind. You can then create a plan for focusing your efforts to ensure you are competitive.

Let’s look at an example. Say your competitors are garnering more and better coverage than you in trade publications. You can dig deeper into the data to understand why. The data may show, for instance, that customer stories are driving a large percentage of competitor coverage. Armed with this information, you can place a higher priority on your company’s customer reference program to drive increased coverage. The data you’ve collected directly results in improvements to your program.

Hard evidence has a way of moving teams into action. Don’t let your program falter because you don’t have data to guide your efforts.

Secret #1: Don’t rely on your gut, use metrics to bring the picture into focus

Starting today I’m going to share a series of blog posts that reveal seven secrets for using measurement to create better PR strategies. Here is the first post in the series, and secret number one: Don’t rely on your gut, use metrics to bring the picture into focus.

Too many PR professionals look at measurement like an impressionist painting. They see the overall picture and rely on their impressionist paintingown personal interpretation to fill in areas where lines are blurred and details are lacking. However, while Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir gave us paintings that we appreciate for their overall imagery and the feelings they evoke, those works of art aren’t necessarily the clearest representation of real life. The same goes for measurement. Without clear and detailed information, the results of PR campaigns are fuzzy and open to interpretation.

While you may be able to make out an idea of what is going on with your campaigns, without measurement you’re missing the data that allows you to evaluate and fine-tune your programs. There’s a huge difference between having a general feeling about the performance of your program, and actually having solid facts and figures to determine its success. When it comes to PR measurement, you can’t rely on a feeling or your gut, you need metrics.

When executives ask about the performance of the PR program, they want clear cut answers. It’s not enough to say that a campaign was successful, you need to be able to show execs how your program performed. Painting a hazy image that leaves out important details won’t win you much confidence from the C-Suite. To gain support for your programs, provide reports, charts, and graphs that visibly outline the aspects of your campaign that worked, and then show how you capitalized on those areas to meet your business goals.

To make proving PR results easier, you need to know at the start of your campaign what you want to achieve. Even from the very beginning you should set a baseline standard for what you deem as acceptable performance. By using business goals and objectives as your guide, you can determine what information you need to measure – total articles, share of voice, message penetration, number of times company executives are quoted compared to competitor executives, sales leads, web hits, net new customers, or other data points. Be sure you design measurement to capture the information that’s important to you, your clients and the executive team. Measurement should map to business objectives so you can track PR’s impact on business outcomes. Once you’ve determined what you want to measure, you need to capture that data for the previous six to twelve months, as well as moving forward. This may sound like a lot of work, but remember, measurement is an investment. It is what allows you to present hard evidence showcasing how your PR team has moved the needle. Let’s face it, being able to prove that PR was responsible for increased sales, new customers, repeat buyers, etc., makes a powerful statement about the value of your program. Much more so than trying to demonstrate your program’s worth by describing your gut feeling.

Agencies: No PR Measurement? It will cost you.

If you’ve ever felt like you might be missing something by not measuring your PR programs, it’s because you are – you’re missing out on money. And lots of it. Every year PR agencies lose a surprising amount of revenue because they don’t have a system in place to measure and analyze their PR efforts.

Think about your own PR agency for a second and consider this: failing to measure your PR programs could mean that your agency will lose current clients to other agencies, lose out on new business bids, see clients cut their budgets, and fail to grow the budgets of your existing clients. All of those things mean money down the drain and they add up quickly.

 Let’s look at each of these scenarios a little more closely.

Losing clients to other agencies – Long gone are the days when PR professionals could say a program was successful. In today’s business environment they have to prove it. Your clients expect you to show them exactly how PR is responsible for moving the needle. This means you need to have hard evidence to demonstrate what you’re delivering to your clients. Without reports, charts, and proven data, your clients may not fully see the value of PR and how it has driven business results. Clients want to know they’re getting a return on their PR investment. If you can’t show them convincing data, they’re likely to find another agency that can.    

Losing out on new business bids – PR measurement isn’t just a nice thing to have, it’s a must-have if you want to win new business. Clients and their executives can be skeptical about PR’s ability to produce business results. They’re more likely to put their confidence in a firm that is willing and able to provide detailed progress reports that demonstrate PR’s achievements. If you can’t assure prospective clients that your campaign and strategy will be driven by measurement data, then you’re likely to lose out on their business.

Experiencing budget cuts by existing clients – Never mind if your program is producing great results, if clients aren’t seeing data that clearly demonstrates ROI they’re going to lose faith in PR. And, that means devoting less money to PR and directing their resources elsewhere. If you’re doing good PR, give clients data to prove it. They won’t be able to argue with results that demonstrate success, nor will they want to.

Failing to grow budgets – To be honest, sometimes even with measurement data it’s difficult to get clients to commit more money to PR. So, you can imagine how tough it is to convince them to do so when they don’t have a good feel for what PR has done for their business. Also, if you don’t have a measurement system in place to analyze your campaigns, it will be hard for you to identify ways to improve your programs and produce more results for companies. Clients aren’t likely to part with more money unless they are sure they’ll see more and better results.

If you’re brave enough to find out exactly how much your agency might be losing by not measuring your PR programs then you need to take a look at Wallop! OnDemand’s “Cost of No PR Measurement Calculator.” Based on your answer to one simple question it provides you an estimated dollar amount your agency stands to lose over a two year period without PR measurement. But, I’m going to warn you, the results won’t be pretty.

You can also learn more about the challenges agencies and corporate PR departments face when they’re not measuring PR by attending the upcoming Measurement Minute webinar: The Cost of No PR Measurement. The program will include some real eye-openers for both corporate and agency PR professionals. You can see the details and register for the webinar here.

3 reasons you should take our PR & measurement survey – hint: we’re giving away a free iPad

I want to take a second today to plug our survey:

Wallop! OnDemand is conducting a research survey on PR and measurement and we’re inviting professionals from the PR industry to participate. Yes, that means you! In connection with the survey, we are giving away – you guessed it – a brand new shiny iPad.

The survey, aims to uncover trends pertaining to PR budgets and measurement practices, as well as gather insights regarding the PR industry’s outlook for 2011. Please take a few minutes to complete the brief survey (less than 20 questions) and share your insight with other professionals in the industry.

 As promised, for anyone out there that only takes surveys after being given three compelling reasons why they should… here you go:

  1. You could win a free iPad. Okay, I know I already mentioned that, but come on, it’s a free iPad. I figured it was worth repeating that one lucky person who completes the survey is going to win an iPad.
  2.  You’re really smart. We know that the industry could benefit from your insight. So, please share your thoughts on current measurement trends and tell us about your expectations for 2011.
  3. It’s for the good of the PR community. We’ll be releasing the results at the end of the survey, so that collectively we can learn how to improve PR measurement.

You have to complete the survey by January 31, 2011 to be eligible to win the iPad, so fill out the survey now. And, thanks in advance for your participation.

At the conclusion of the survey we’ll be releasing the results in a series of reports, so check back soon to read about our findings.

More Measurement Minute Resources

If you’re reading this blog then you are already familiar with one of the Measurement Minute social sites. (Thanks for reading, we’re glad you’re here.) But, just in case you haven’t experienced all the other cool Measurement Minute resources that are available, I thought I’d take a moment and introduce them.

Brought to you by Wallop! OnDemand, the Measurement Minute social resources are designed to deliver relevant information, and promote dialogue and collaboration across the PR community. The Measurement Minute brand includes the following social resources:

Measurement Minute Blog
Posts cover a variety of PR and measurement topics. How are we doing? We love comments, so let us know what you think.

Measurement Minute Webcast Channel
The Measurement Minute webcast channel on BrightTalk offers PR pros opportunities to learn about measurement strategies, best practices and tips by participating in live and on-demand webinars. Click here to see a list of our on-demand and upcoming live webinars.

Measurement Minute Social Reports
Our social reports are essentially interactive whitepapers. They deliver compelling content in a social platform that facilitates dialogue among PR professionals. Readers can comment, ask questions, and share information with colleagues. Here are two of the reports that are currently available:

• Seven Secrets for Using Measurement to Create Winning PR Strategies
• How to Demonstrate the Business Value of PR and Gain Credibility with the C-Suite

Measurement Minute Groups
There are currently Measurement Minute groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. These groups serve as forums for PR professionals to come together and share ideas, learn from peers and experts, and engage in discussions that will help drive PR measurement practices forward. You can view and join the groups by clicking on the following links:

Measurement Minute LinkedIn Group
Measurement Minute Facebook Group

Let’s Review – Earning Credibility with the C-Suite

For those of you that have been following the “Earning Credibility with the C-Suite” series of blog posts – thanks for reading. Here are some concluding thoughts to help review:

Executives expect to be shown what PR has achieved for their business. If you can’t produce clear cut results that link PR to business outcomes then you aren’t likely to win confidence from the C-suite. To give the executive team the results they’re looking for, you need to have a measurement system in place.

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Capturing PR output and business outcome data will help you produce the best possible PR campaigns, and also give you evidence that you can package for executives. And, when packaging results it’s important to remember that charts, graphs, ROI, and reports will help to effectively communicate PR’s progress to executives. But, those reports need to contain more than just PR output data. Show the C-suite proof of success in terms that they understand. Speak their language and let them see how PR has produced results in areas that are important to them, for example, sales, new customers, business leads, etc. Finally, never take credibility for granted. It is something PR professionals must continue to earn.

If you want more info on how to earn credibility with the C-suite, check out these other Measurement MinuteTM resources:

Social Report This interactive white paper offers a more detailed look at how PR professionals can earn support for their programs. Once you’ve read the report you can share your thoughts with others in the PR community and hear feedback. The idea is to drive collaboration and produce better PR results that executives won’t be able to ignore. Here’s the report.

Webinar Wallop! OnDemand’s CEO, Kristin Jones, and Wallop! OnDemand Partner, Scott Muff, are the presenters for this on-demand webinar which is available on the Measurement Minute webcast channel on BrightTalk. The 60-minute webinar provides an in-depth look at the things PR professionals need to do in order to convince executives of the business value of PR. Here’s the link to the webinar: http://www.brighttalk.com/channel/5440

Before we move on from this topic I’d like to invite you to share your thoughts on how PR pros can prove the business value of PR. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave your comments below.

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