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.

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3 Responses

  1. Great post on a highly relevant topic! From an agency point of view, one challenge; if a client does not provide the agency with a view of or access to business results, the metrics cannot take them into account. I would love to hear and discuss your thoughts on this.

  2. Hi Jukka – Great question and, yes, this is definitely a challenge. That’s why it’s crucial we make our clients partners in measurement. We may need to remind them that executive team expects us to make the connection between our increased PR results and increased business results. When we can show PR results and business results increased in parallel, we can say we’ve contributed to business growth. And, when you collect output and outcome data – you can make that connection.

    Once you have the buy-in and commitment from your client, you need to collect this data – and that means PR will need to work with sales and marketing to gather the data. I’ve found preparing a template with the data you need to collect works well. But, you do need to go beyond sending sales and marketing the template and expecting them to complete it and send it back. I recommend scheduling a monthly meeting with the sales and marketing team to discuss progress, challenges, and to collect the data you need to complete the template.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to hearing your ideas and encourage other readers to chime in with their recommendations….

  3. Hi Kristin – Yes, definitely this is the way to go; collect comms output and outcome data (incl. key drivers of the latter), then uncover linkages to business outcomes.

    One snag looking at the matter from a small country perspective; even if the buy-in is there, sharing business results data is not always possible. Eg. local country offices of large public corporations are not allowed to disclose local financials to outside parties.

    A further snag IMHO is, how to motivate salespeople to spend time on providing data to marketing/PR? Their bonuses tend to come from sales alone, and on that is what they spend their time…

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