After moving the internal "group think" away from just counting clips, little time remained prior to the new calendar year (2000) to develop a system, set up the required collection and tracking infrastructure, and then roll it out to both the public relations organization and our internal clients. Securing adequate budget also was a challenge, as NCR was not used to spending money to measure its media relations results.
PLANNING AND OBJECTIVES
The primary objectives were:
- to establish a measurement system by January 2000 to focus, track and report media relations results on a global basis
- to report those results to the Business Leaders Council (senior management team) on an ongoing basis throughout the calendar year
Additionally, it was critical to the success of the program that I secure support for the process and the metrics from NCR's chief executive officer prior to the system's launch.
I began the planning process in November 1999 with a review of the system then in place. In the absence of agreed measures or recorded data, we reviewed the previous four years (1996-1999) of media coverage to put the current state of counting clips into some context. We found that a downward trend of budget and staffing resources over the period had eroded disciplined processes. Quite simply, media relations results were measured by the pound. There was no incentive to focus on quality rather than simply quantity. The existing approach failed to recognize that a positive feature article had greater value than a neutral name mention.
Even worse, over 30% of the clip count in 1996-97 was negative coverage of the company's financial losses and its divestiture from AT&T. This "context" was used to highlight the shortcomings of the existing approach and to focus attention on moving forward.
To achieve the stated objectives, I determined that a complete overhaul of NCR’s approach to tracking and reporting media results was necessary. I decided on a solution that would refocus attention on the quality of coverage the company was receiving, while retaining measurement of the quantity of NCR mentions in the media worldwide. Simultaneously, it was necessary to redirect NCR’s media relations goals and objectives toward a more qualitative measurement system.
We also needed a precise evaluation tool to convey our progress toward achieving our reoriented goals to our internal clients. Accordingly, I included in the program design a concise monthly report and a broader quarterly analysis to communicate qualitative and quantitative results and progress toward achieving predetermined media relations goals to NCR’s senior management.
I believed this solution would provide a legitimate basis on which to gauge NCR’s media relations efforts by evaluating both the quality and quantity of coverage in a more tangible, measurable way. If successful, the solution would demonstrate more clearly to senior management the actual results we achieved, while imparting greater focus and precision to our own efforts.
Beginning with our knowledge of the existing need and a conceptual framework, we proceeded with implementation in three principal steps:
Working with NCR's business units, we identified 18 countries for participation and developed a target media list by country and by business unit. We then added a set of key messages for each business unit. These tools would help focus the efforts of the public relations team, as well as provide a way to assess the quality of media coverage.
We redesigned NCR’s media monitoring agreement with Delahaye Medialink to develop a new system to track, collect and analyze media coverage in the priority countries. The new system would measure the number of key messages included in stories and their tone, as well as the number of stories generated. We also adapted Delahaye Medialink’s proprietary “Impact Score” model and tracked the placement of agreed stories on the Dow Jones and Reuters news services as other key measures. We then set qualitative and/or quantitative targets to achieve in each category on a quarterly and annual basis.
Recognizing the time pressures on our internal clients, we designed a concise two-page graphic report on the monthly global media relations metrics as well as an expanded quarterly report that added detail by country. Given the importance of the data warehousing business to NCR's overall performance, we emphasized this business unit's results in the U.S. against two main competitors.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
We measured success on two different levels. First, as witnessed by the monthly results, the public relations team is more disciplined and focused in its media relations efforts than ever before. The actual results demonstrate consistent improvement throughout the year against the aggressive goals we set, ultimately exceeding all annualized targets for the year 2000.
Second, the negative perceptions surrounding media relations results when I joined the company have faded. I often receive words of encouragement or a congratulatory e-mail from the highest levels of the company when the monthly report is issued. The results we are achieving and the change in our internal clients’ perceptions also has noticeably improved morale among the public relations team.
We are the only department within the company with this much transparency around, and widespread sharing of, its results. We are proud that we set a high standard and have consistently achieved it.