Defining measurement: expensive or an investment?

During our latest Measurement Minute webinar, The Cost of No PR Measurement, I posed a question…actually two questions:

  1. What qualifies something as expensive?
  2. And, when does something change from being considered expensive – to being thought of as an investment?

The reason I’ve asked these questions is because I continue to hear from PR professionals that they’re not measuring their programs because PR measurement is too expensive. I certainly get that a lot of the measurement solutions out there today are extremely expensive. Many are priced above what is realistic for the average business or agency. That’s why I’ve made it my personal mission to help make measurement more affordable for everyone, regardless of budget size.

That being said, there are some quality, affordable options available for PR measurement. So, before you write off measurement as something that is only for agencies and companies with large budgets, I challenge you to consider all the options for measuring your program, and also to think about what it means to NOT measure PR.

When you don’t measure and analyze PR results, you put yourself and your program at a huge disadvantage. That’s because measurement affords us, as PR professionals, the opportunity to produce better PR results, while proving the business value of our programs.

Yes, it does cost money to collect and analyze data. But, if you have the right program and you’re using it correctly, measurement can be a very worthwhile investment. Plus, there are actually tons of costs that arise when measurement is excluded from PR. While these costs may not be as obvious, I’d argue that they can be much more damaging financially.

In a previous post I talked about some of the ways agencies are impacted when they don’t have a system in place to evaluate their programs. (You can read that post here.) In particular, agencies without measurement risk losing current clients to other agencies, new business bids, budget dollars due to cuts, and growth opportunities. I’d like to expand that information a little more and mention that there is a lot at risk for businesses without measurement, too. For example:

  • Missed opportunities to improve and adjust campaigns – Many PR departments are unsure if their programs are on track to accomplish business objectives and be competitive, because they don’t have the necessary evaluation tools and processes in place. As a result, they miss opportunities to improve and adjust their campaigns.
  • Disappearing budget dollars – Corporate PR teams that don’t prove to executives why spending money on PR is worthwhile are in danger of losing budget dollars for their programs. This is especially true when money is tight. If a company is looking to trim fat from the overall budget, they’re going to eliminate non-essentials and anything considered wasteful. PR pros are tasked with the responsibility of making sure PR isn’t labeled as non-essential. This is where the need for measurement data becomes vital.
  • No opening to grow internal teams – no new headcount – Collecting and analyzing data on an ongoing basis means that at any point information is readily available to show PR’s accomplishments and progress toward company goals. Measurement creates a level of transparency and helps build trust and confidence on the executive end. An executive team that has confidence in the PR program will be more willing to give the green light to add staff to the PR team.
  • Little opportunity to grow the PR budget – This point follows along the same lines as the previous point, in that executives are more willing to devote resources, staff, and money to a program they believe is adding value to the business.

The simple truth is that in order for businesses and agencies to avoid these “expenses,” they need to invest in a quality, affordable measurement solution. When you understand the costs tied to NOT measuring PR, you can start to look at the price you pay to collect and analyze data a little differently –and suddenly measurement becomes much more of an investment than an expense.

When it comes to measurement, where do you fit in?

As part of Wallop! OnDemand’s research survey on PR and measurement, we recently asked PR professionals to rate their ability to answer several questions relating to the performance of their PR programs. Some of what we learned was surprising. Here’s an example:

60% of PR professionals can’t answer this question…Are we beating our competitors on the PR front?

Evaluating the performance of your PR program and making side-by-side comparisons with your competitors helps you understand whether your strategy and PR activities are on target and successful. Tracking progress also allows you to validate PR’s business impact and earn respect from clients and executives. However, many PR professionals admit that they don’t have the data and processes in place to answer important performance questions with certainty.

So, where do you fit in? Are you leveraging PR measurement to help you understand and improve your program? Do you know which of your PR activities have delivered the best results? Are you staying competitive or falling behind?

We want to hear from you. There is one week left to take our PR and measurement survey. We’ve already received responses from an overwhelming number of professionals who are passionate about the business of PR, and we’re looking forward to sharing the full results in the coming months.

But, before we conclude our survey we’d appreciate it if you’d take just a few brief moments to share your thoughts. By weighing in, you are helping the PR community drive measurement to evolve into an essential tool that clearly demonstrates the value of PR. To thank you for your time and input, upon your completion of the survey we’ll enter your name into our drawing for a free Apple iPad.

The survey wraps on January 31st, so take the survey now. Then stay tuned for the results that we will be releasing in a series of reports over the next few months.

 

Calculating losses incurred when not measuring PR

In a recent post on this blog, I discussed some of the problems PR agencies face when they are not measuring their PR programs. In the post, which you can read here, I included a link to Wallop! OnDemand’s Cost of No PR Measurement Calculator. The calculator is an eye-opening tool that gives agencies a look at the estimated dollar amount they stand to lose over a two-year period if they don’t subscribe to PR measurement.

Yesterday, Wallop! OnDemand released an updated version of the calculator. It now includes a “corporate” function to let corporate PR departments in on the action. The new calculator enables corporate PR departments to calculate the impact measurement has on the bottom line.

For you corporate PR professionals out there, that means there is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you can use the calculator to get a feel for what your department might be missing out on if you aren’t measuring your PR. The bad news is that the results might be scary. And, here’s why: failing to integrate measurement into your programs means:

            •  Missing opportunities to improve/adjust your campaigns

            •  Losing support from the C-Suite

            •  Budget cuts and/or failing to grow your budget

Let’s take a look at a few numbers. On average, according to Wallop! OnDemand’s Cost of No PR Measurement Calculator, companies without measurement are likely to see the following PR related losses: 

•$7,200 lost annually for emerging startups and small businesses

•$36,000 lost annually for established startups

•$120,000 lost annually for mid-sized companies

•$240,000 lost annually for large publicly established companies

That’s a lot of lost revenue. I hope if you aren’t currently measuring your PR, these numbers will make you rethink that decision. Of course, these numbers are just examples – if you want to see for yourself how much money your PR department stands to lose without measurement try out the calculator. Then let us know your results.

Also, here’s a tip for the agency PR pros out there who have difficult clients that can’t seem to understand why measurement is important – you can use the corporate calculator function to show your clients what they stand to lose when measurement isn’t built into campaigns.

Final thoughts – 7 Secrets

Today’s post wraps-up our Measurement Minute series on the “Seven Secrets for Using Measurement to Create Winning PR Strategies.” Thanks for reading along. Just a quick note, there is a Measurement Minute social report on this topic as well, and it has even more details on the secrets we’ve been discussing. It’s free of course, so go ahead and download it here.

 Also, in case you missed any of the original posts, here is a quick recap to get you up to speed:

Secret #1 Don’t rely on your gut, use metrics to bring the picture into focus. 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. Use measurement to evaluate your progress and plan your future strategy.

Secret #2 Let data be your guide. Many PR departments are unsure if their programs are on track to accomplish business objectives because they don’t have the information, processes and tools needed to make informed decisions. Capture information specifically related to your business goals that will show you which direction you are heading.

Secret #3 Diagnose and correct problems every step of the way. Measurement data can reveal when a campaign isn’t producing desirable results and course correction is needed. Recognize and respond to problems in order to maximize your success.

Secret #4 Avoid distractions and set measureable goals to stay on task.  By setting clear goals at the beginning of your program you can map PR tasks to goals. You want to avoid distractions by giving priority only to PR activities that directly link to your goals.

Secret #5 Mold your strategy using measurement results. There’s nothing strategic about guessing. Use measurement to see what is working and what isn’t, and then build or re-work your strategy based on that information. Continue to do this throughout your entire campaign.

Secret #6 Make the most of client-agency relationships. Leverage your measurement program to create a level of transparency and build trust on both sides of the line. Clients are more confident when they understand exactly what they’re getting for their PR investment. And, agencies can be more confident communicating PR results to clients when they have solid measurement data, reports, charts, etc. to demonstrate PR’s achievements.

Secret # 7 Evaluate campaign successes. Schedule regular meetings with your team to review measurement data and evaluate your progress. Try to determine which PR activities delivered the best results and which efforts showed little return. Repeat this evaluation process often.

Remember, at the end of the day, it really is all about results. By diligently measuring and analyzing PR you’ll gain insights and knowledge that will give you a clear competitive advantage.This is just a brief rundown. For a more in-depth look at these secrets check out the Measurement Minute report: Using Measurement to Create Winning PR Strategies.

Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you use measurement to improve strategy and PR results? Share your secrets, too!

Secret #7 – Evaluate campaign success

Here is our seventh and final secret for using measurement to create winning PR strategies: Evaluate campaign success.

At key milestones throughout each of your PR campaigns – whether that’s quarterly, every six months, annually – you’ll want to schedule a meeting with your team to evaluate your progress. Bring measurement data including charts, graphs, reports, etc., to share with the team. Everyone should be prepared to help analyze the data and draw conclusions about what you’ve accomplished and what you still want to achieve. As your team reviews the collected measurement information you can begin to gauge what initiatives and activities are proving to be the most effective. Ask each team member to answer the following three questions:

1) What PR activities delivered the desired results – what worked?

2) What activities produced some results, but didn’t deliver the expected returns – what worked, but could be improved?

3) What activities produced no tangible results – what didn’t work or wasted time? 

By using the answers to these questions as a guide, you can build a list of ideas for improvement. The list will be based on the insights you’ve learned from the measurement data and your careful analysis. You’ll then be able to confidently move forward knowing that any improvements you make to your strategy are fact based and data driven.    

Repeat this evaluation process on a regular basis to make sure you’re able to recognize and respond to problems, or make course corrections when the data suggests something is not working. All too often companies declare victory when a change is complete and then let the new status quo set in. One-time change is not continuous improvement. By leveraging measurement and implementing a formal evaluation process over and over, your client-agency team will embrace continuous improvement.  In most cases it is a good idea for PR teams to meet monthly and discuss progress, even if it is on a smaller scale. 

At the end of the day, it really is all about results. Remember to showcase your results by providing the executive team with clear reports, charts, etc. that illustrate how PR directly impacted business outcomes. Then, moving forward, focus your efforts on the strategies and tactics that proved effective – discard the rest.

Secret #6 – Use measurement to make client-agency relationships work

Continue reading

Secret #5 – Make your PR strategy more “strategic”

target strategyAs you begin devising and implementing a PR strategy, it is important to set up a system to continuously check your progress and ensure that your focus is on target. There’s nothing strategic about guessing. To develop a campaign that produces results you need to support your work with data that helps you make informed decisions. Here are 3 steps for using measurement to guide your strategy:

 1. Decide what it is that you’re absolutely committed to achieving and take action.

What results do you want to see from your PR campaign? Are you trying to increase sales, attract new customers, earn more repeat business? As mentioned in previous blog posts, a set of clear and measurable goals is the cornerstone for building a successful PR campaign. Don’t allow subjectivity to thwart your goal setting efforts. For every goal you set, ask yourself “can this be measured?” If your goals aren’t specific enough you won’t be able to measure them, and you’ll be left wondering if your program is on track. For example, setting a goal like “increase sales over the next three months” is too vague.  With this type of goal it is difficult to track your progress and know when you’ve finally achieved your objective. How much do you want to increase sales? How many sales, or what dollar amount, do you want to hit in order to feel you’ve been successful? Goals need to be black and white.

Once you’re clear on what you want to accomplish you can develop your PR strategy. It is important to build measurement into your PR program from the very beginning. That way you’ll be able to begin evaluating your progress as soon as you’ve kicked off your campaign.  

2. Measure and evaluate, notice what’s working or not.

Using measurement to shape PR strategy means pushing beyond simply tracking metrics. Instead, use the insights delivered from your measurement solution’s data and analytics to determine the actual impact PR is having on business objectives.

For example, maybe your tracking shows that you are earning a lot of media coverage. It is safe to conclude that your media outreach PR efforts are working fairly well. However, suppose the numbers also show that the coverage isn’t translating into sales, and one of your goals was to increase product sales by 10 percent. In this case you need to take a hard look at the data you’ve collected and try to determine the reason for the disconnect. Understanding which PR efforts are driving sales (and which ones are not) will help you see what areas of your campaign deserve the most attention. You can strengthen your strategy by re-working areas of your campaign that aren’t directly leading to the desired sales results. Also, you can devote more of your resources to specific tasks that have proven effective at producing sales.

Besides measuring and evaluating your own program it is worthwhile to track competitors’ programs, too. You can learn a lot by observing which PR efforts are producing results for your competitors.

The important thing to remember is that without measurement data, you’re really just left guessing about where to invest the most time and energy. Your strategy becomes more “strategic” when it is based on analysis of real campaign results.

3. Continue to change your approach until you achieve success.

In theory this sounds fairly simple, but in reality people are often resistant to changing course. Understandably, people without measurement data feel uncertain about the direction they should be moving and may be reluctant to veer from their initial plans. However, if you’ve measured, analyzed and then determined you need to make changes, you can be confident and comfortable because your decisions are based on facts, not feelings. It may take several tries and multiple adjustments to create a strategy that delivers optimum results. But, by revising your approach you’ll be able to make improvements and get the most out of your PR program.

%d bloggers like this: