September is AMEC Measurement Month. In honor of the occasion, here are some tips to jump-start your measurement program.
1. Get it right from the start
Build measurement into your PR program right from the start. Measurement should be part of the planning process, not an afterthought. Don't wait until your PR campaign is over to think about measurement; by then it will be too late to track all your achievements.
Look at each program tactic and plan how you will measure the results. If there is no way to measure it, change the tactic and build in a measureable component-such as a call to action to visit a website, watch a product demo, download content or enter a contest.
2. Set the objectives
Proper measurement starts with clear objectives. Know the organization's overall goals, and translate them into measureable PR objectives. Organization objectives might include increasing sales, increasing donations, improving productivity, or reducing employee turnover.
When setting PR objectives, specify a desired outcome and goal (e.g., increasing awareness by 15 percent), identify the target audience(s) to focus on (e.g., college students in California), and indicate a timeframe (e.g., by May 15).
Be realistic about your PR objectives—consider how you will capture the data and whether the target is achievable given the resources for the program.
3. Know the plan
Understand the strategy and tactics that will be implemented as part of the PR program so you can map what has to be measured and work out how to do so. Know who all the stakeholders or target audiences are and what program elements will be devised to reach each of them.
Find out which top-tier media outlets and social media channels will be targeted and how they align with key audiences. Clarify key messages. Learn the details of any events or outreach activities with third parties to determine how to capture the impact on target audiences.
Know the program budget so you can design a measurement plan that is in line with it and allocates an appropriate level of resources.
4. Define the scope
Design the measurement approach based on the objectives and the plan. If you are including news and social media, determine how you will capture the content, which media and channels matter, which metrics you will use, and whether continual or periodic tracking is required.
If you want to survey stakeholders, how and when should this happen? Will you need support from an external provider, or do you have resources in house?
Decide whether quantitative data will be adequate or if qualitative measures are equally important. Do you need a high-level report for your top executives and a more detailed version for the PR team? Measurement is a dynamic process; be prepared to change the scope as the plan evolves.
Setting targets or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your PR program isn't meaningful without a baseline measure for comparison which you can use to demonstrate the impact of PR.
If your KPI is related to news or social media, such as share of voice, conduct a benchmark media analysis to determine your current share of voice, either among the organization's brands/products or against competitors.
If your KPIs relate to increased stakeholders' awareness, knowledge, or intent to act, you should conduct research among target audiences to establish a baseline.
If you want to increase visitors to your website, capture trend data for the previous year for comparison during and after the PR program.
6. Take a holistic view
It is no longer possible to work in silos, as we live in a multichannel world and our audiences have multiple touch points. We need to consider all streams of data, whether paid, earned, or owned (PEO). Overlaid on this, any of these may be shared to provide amplification and engagement around an individual story, a specific initiative, or a broader campaign.
Commonly, brands share content on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, whereas publications post stories in print as well as on their online sites, and often tweeting out to followers. Some stories gain traction; others go no further.
Your measurement should reflect the multidimensional nature of media. Having a clear understanding of what you are looking to achieve will help you define the relevant metrics to demonstrate what is driving success.
7. Use standards and tools
In recent years there has been a push for measurement standards. Starting with the Barcelona Principles, articulated through the Valid Metrics Framework, and enhanced through the work of SMMSTANDARDS.org, there is a wealth of wise counsel to provide guidance.
Basing your definitions and methodology on industry standard recommendations will improve credibility in how you position results. An honest and transparent approach is crucial: Be clear about the tools you are using and how you are arriving at your results.
The idea is that someone else should be able to replicate your results. With the plethora of tools available, clarify what you need so that you are in a position to choose the most suitable tool to attain the requisite metrics and insights.
8. Link to business outcomes
The terms outputs, outtakes, and outcomes can become common currency.
Outputs are generated as a result of your program or campaign, and outtakes are what your audiences have understood, heeded and/or responded to the communication.
In linking to business outcomes, we are looking at the impact of the program or campaign on the business. This is the quantifiable changes in awareness, knowledge, attitude, opinion, and behavior. Sometimes, these outcomes are specific to the communications and can be isolated; other times it is part of a bigger picture and the metrics must be integrated with other measures.
Examples of outcomes might be sales, market share, customer loyalty, stock price, registrations, funds raised, staff retention, or advocates. Whatever the metrics, they should tie back to objectives.
9. Speak the language of your audience
Within communications we develop our own lingo and style, but not all of this translates across the business. We have the opportunity to highlight our achievements, which will be best received if we speak the language of a given audience.
For instance, is your audience more tables, charts, or words oriented, or would an infographic best tell your story? Are you speaking to people who are very detailed and data driven, or others who need the top takeaways in 30 seconds? Are you positioning your measurement with recommendations so that you are part of the discussion?
With regard to upper-tier execs, a Booz Allen study based on executive interviews across industry sectors was released at the AMEC International conference last year. It highlighted the gap between how communications efforts are typically measured and the desire of top brass for quantitative measurement of communications effectiveness and return on investment. Make the results suit the purpose that speaks to the audience.
10. Be smart
Be smart about what you do. You don't have to boil the ocean. Focus on what is important to your organization.
Don't be afraid to start somewhere—measure something of value to benchmark and track your progress. Look for the easy wins, and then augment them with one more thing that will add insights and value.
Being creative will help you gain traction and demonstrate the value that communication is delivering to the company. If you are further along your measurement journey, don't stop challenging yourself to continue learning measurement and delivering insights to the business.
This article was written by and Marianne Eisenmann, head of Research & Analytics at inVentiv Health Public Relations Group and Pauline Draper-Watts, executive vice president and global lead for measurement & analytics at Edelman Berland. This post originally appeared at http://www.ragan.com/.