PR pros know they need to measure the results of their work, for a variety of reasons including demonstrating progress and proving the value of PR. Many are also aware that made-up metrics like AVEs (advertising value equivalencies) might be what is familiar—but they are also pretty worthless in determining any meaningful measurement.
There are many other things to measure that provide far more actionable insight and better information, and there are also many tools out there to help PR pros do a better job of measuring. If you have the money to spend on measuring tools, then it’s a pretty straightforward process: you figure out what you need to measure (tying what you are measuring back to business objectives, of course), and then you determine the right tool to get you there.
The challenge for many PR pros comes when there isn’t room in the budget to purchase a measurement tool or tools. Can you still manage to do good measurement on a limited budget? Yes, you can. But you’re probably going to need to use Excel.
Now, I know that will make some of you cringe, but if you’re on a shoestring and need to measure, Excel is right there to help you out, and it’s more likely than not already on your computer. You should also be using Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Twitter Analytics—all free tools.
If you’re using a monitoring service to track mentions, there is most likely an option to export the data collected. You can rate, tag, etc. and export those fields to an Excel spreadsheet for further analysis and measurement. If you aren’t using a monitoring service, you’ll need to build a spreadsheet that includes what you want to measure.
For example, if you are measuring for share of voice over time, you’d set your Excel spreadsheet up to keep track of mentions by date, along with competitor/total mentions by date. If you wish to measure the change in tone over time, tonality should be a column in the spreadsheet too. Use the data from Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Twitter analytics to measure engagement by paying attention to the items that generate clicks through to your site, posts that are commented on, and which Tweets produce conversation and interaction.
One final note—I’m sure many of you are familiar with the “fast-cheap-good” triangle. Basically, the adage is that you can pick any two, but you’ll have to forgo the third. In other words, if it’s fast and cheap, it won’t be good. If it’s fast and good, it won’t be cheap—and, if it’s cheap and good, it won’t be fast. If you are measuring on a shoestring budget, you’ll likely be shooting for this last item, so bear in mind that when you are relying on manipulating data manually in a spreadsheet, it will likely take you some time to get things set up exactly how you want them. Once you are set up, it’s a matter of data maintenance, which can also take time, but it’s worth the investment if the budget is tight.
Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the Director of Marketing Communications for CARMA. She is also the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for more than 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.