Public relations professionals must become more analytical in order to quantify their contributions to their organizations. Although PR pros are unlikely to become mathematicians, they must monitor and measure media and quantify their results in order to win support from their executive leaders, explained PR measurement expert Katie Delahaye Paine in a presentation at Gateway Community College in New Haven.
Paine, founder of Paine Publishing, relayed the story of a woman whose PR work was questioned in a board meeting. An executive stated the organization’s PR wasn’t performing as well as it was under her predecessor. The PR director promptly opened a report and cited percentage increases that showed media coverage had increased and coverage was more positive. The board never again questioned the effectiveness of the PR department.
New PR Measurement World
In the past, PR contributions could not be measured, other than anecdotally. But now, PR can monitor media mentions, determine how positive or negative the coverage was, and correlate the coverage to business objectives like sales. You can’t link an increase in sales or brand awareness to a single press release, but you can correlate media coverage and sentiment to those factors over time.
To do that, PR must employ analytical techniques, like placing unique tracking IDs in hyperlinks, and using tags and links in press releases and blog posts to enable attribution for results to be credited to PR.
As PR pros may not be renowned for analytical prowess, Paine recommends they find “a data geek” to help, perhaps by recruiting one from another department.
Steps to Standards-Compliant Measurement
Paine explained the steps PR can take to obtain standards-compliant measurement.
Define your goals. What return is expected? Define your “Champagne moment” – what accomplishment might earn you a case of Champagne from your boss. Figure out what is in the heads of your clients or executive leaders. What do they expect from PR? Companies frequently cite sales or market share targets, but some organizations want to reduce risks or threats.
Define the parameters. Who are you are trying to reach? How do your efforts connect with those audiences to achieve the goal? That varies enormously between organizations, depending on their mission and type of customers sought. A law firm wants calls, not a large number of impressions.
Establish benchmarks. Decide who or what you will compare your results to. That could be past performance over time. Find what keeps your executive leaders up at night. Set standards for measuring tone and sentiment in media mentions. Apply those standards consistently throughout the analysis. Because results vary substantially between different vendors and different approaches coding definitions, consistency and transparency are critical.
Select your “kick-butt index.” Select indicators that tie PR to business results. How does leadership think PR contributes to the bottom line? The perfect index is actionable and continuously improves your processes. “You are what you measure,” Paine said, recommending PR pros to pick their index carefully.
Select a data collection tool. The data collection tool depends on what you want to measure. If you want to measure awareness, perception, relationships, survey research is ideal. If you want to measure engagement and action, use Web analytics. If communicating key messages is the goal, you’ll need media content analysis. Beware of automated tools. Accurate analysis requires human review, Paine said.
Be data informed, not data driven. Rank results from worst to best. Place your data into an overall framework consistent with C-suite expectations. Compare to results to last month, last quarter and to a 13-month average. PR should obtain and analyze the data, but it doesn’t necessarily need to report all data to executive leadership. Key points supported by summary data are more convincing and preferred by most decision-makers.
Bottom Line: PR pros must collect, measure and analyze data to explain their contributions to the organization’s goals and/or bottom line.