And I realized that while I speak and teach often on practical measurement for public relations, I haven’t really written about it here at WUL all that much. Not good. So here’s my approach. Especially if you have a small budget and don’t have access to fancy dashboards, then this might be helpful (and even if you do, it might still be helpful).
Before getting to that, though, I have a few don’ts:
- get caught up in shiny new measurement tools. Because then you start trying to measure the tools, and not what you should be focusing on.
- get stuck just counting Twitter followers, Facebook fans, media impressions, yada yada. Note I said “just counting.”
- go crazy trying to find the one-size-fits-all measurement solution… because it doesn’t exist.
ranted expounded on some measurement no-no’s over at Kimber Media’s blog the other day (thank you, Matt LaCasse, for the opportunity!), so instead of re-hashing them here, do go have a read.
Now that you’ve read the don’ts, here’s what to do.
Typically, I undertake this very simple… ok, uncomplicated, five-step exercise:
1. Identify what the business objectives for your program/campaign are.
Based on these, what do you need people to do? For example, if your B.O. (not body odor!) is to increase sales, obviously you need them to buy more of your product/service, or more people to buy it, or both.
And while sales is one of the most common examples we use, they could be anything, based on your unique situation. For a nonprofit organization, for example, it might be to increase members of an online community… because those are the people it can start trying to convert into members/donors.
That last bit is what’s most important. That’s what you’re going to work backwards from, because while all roads might not lead to Rome, they should lead to that business objective.
Your business objective(s) should be at the core of your measurement program. So before you do anything else, figure them out.
2. Identify how you will measure the success or failure of these objectives.
For example, if your objective is to increase sales, what percentage do you want your sales to increase by over the last fiscal year (or whatever time period you choose)? Online or offline? Or both?
If your objective is to grow your email list (because that is where you convert the most prospects into customers), by how much do you want to do this? In what time frame?
Get as specific as you possibly can. This means not just quantifying what you’re trying to achieve, but identifying the timeframe within which you’re going to try to do this.
3. Now outline your communication strategy.
The most important thing here is to remember that you didn’t work out your strategy first. You looked at what the business objectives are, and then decided how you would use various communication and marketing vehicles to achieve those objectives.
And in order to do this, you must have an understanding of how your audience reacts to and uses different communication mediums. Because your program/campaign is probably going to be more effective if you include those mediums in your plan… right?
This means that you didn’t seize the shiny new toy du jour and say, “Oh, everyone’s on ____! We’re going to use _____!” Or: “Let’s make a viral video like Stop Kony!”
You don’t have to be everywhere all the time. Be where it makes the most sense.
4. Figure out how you’re going to track your efforts.
This is the part that is a lot of fun for me. With so many of our communications moving online, it’s possible to track a lot of things… and I mean a lot.
But don’t get caught in tracking nonsense numbers. I mean – going back to the “don’ts” above – you might get an ego boost out of seeing your Twitter followers grow, but if that growth isn’t helping you reach your business objectives… what’s the point, exactly?
Tracking URLs have become commonplace now. Use them. Get comfortable with Google Analytics and Google’s URL Builder. You will be amazed at how much insight these tools give you, particularly when it comes to understanding what is driving actions, clicks, downloads, purchases, sign-ups, etc.
And that helps inform your strategy, to make it better, and even more effective. It will also tell you what’s not working, so that you can decide whether or not it’s important enough to fix.
Smart tracking lets you know what worked, instead of making you guess what worked.
Even if you’re not a statistician (I’m not, though I did take Stats in college), I’m pretty sure you already know this principle. Correlation is basically when one thing is related to another in a way as to have an effect on it.
So, for example, if you get a terrific “hit” in X blog that you know is popular with your target audience, and you see traffic to your site/desired landing page increasing more than usual when that post runs, there is probably a correlation between the two.
This means keeping track of your outbound activities (e.g. new blog posts, news releases, e-mail campaigns, and so on) and watching what effect those have on your desired outcomes (see, this is why you needed to get comfortable with #4 above).
You should also be keeping track of everything anyway so that you don’t mistakenly draw a correlation where there isn’t one.
Since most of the time I don’t have access to fancy dashboards, I’ve found the easiest way of doing this is combining a few things:
- Using Excel or a Google spreadsheet to track outputs and outcomes
- Making sure the timeframe within which I’m tracking different things – e.g. traffic, downloads, purchases… whatever – is the same
- Watching Analytics at the same time, and regularly look to see if there is a correlation between outputs and outcomes
If you’re keeping an eye on everything you’re doing, as well as looking at the back end, pretty soon you’ll be able to tell what’s working and what’s not.
And if you want to find the statistical correlation, Excel even has a formula to help you out (though I would work with someone who is really into Stats to make sure you understand what you’re doing).
Put these five steps to work for yourself, your business, your campaign. Lather, rinse, repeat, and I’m fairly certain you will be taking giant steps in demystifying measurement. Who knows, you might even start having fun!
Since you sat through that lesson so patiently, here is my presentation to PRSA Orlando. I hope it’s helpful, and if you have more questions, give me a holler, or leave a comment, please!
Great advice, especially about tying it to a business objective. If you're doing social media you should know why. It can be mixed goals, too, like creating pull for newly released products or quick and personal customer service engagement
@lindachreno Thanks so much! And if anyone/assn wants to chat further about how I/we can help, you know how to reach me :) #assnchat @smassn
@shonali Quickly skimmed, good post! #measurepr http://t.co/ndSGP4WT
Well done, Shonali! I remember back ten years ago when we started preaching about the importance of correlating outputs to outcomes. And now it's becoming so much more mainstream. Great story!
There's so much good, practical advice in here I don't even know where to start! You'd be surprised at how many businesses don't relate things back to business objectives and then the whole foundation is unsound. What's interesting to me about your correlation process is that you use Excel. @Robert_Spiral16 is an Excel master and he's been using it for all kinds of semantic comparisons, but usually when I do correlation for people, I use a timeline.
Obviously, both approaches work, but the real key is that you have to do some detective work and you have to know your campaign/program inside out so you can make those correlations. They're not always obvious, and there is no formula, but sometimes just being able to show you made a business gain is a big enough win!
Great how to post @Shonali I recently blogged about starting with your goal and working backwards to stay focused on 'Rome'. And while sometimes measurement and dollar values is a fuzzy undertaking people have to do this and then change it as time goes on. How can I value an action without first giving it a starting value.
You know I agree completely with you on this. But what I don't understand is why we have to keep showing our peers how to do it. Is it because most have never run businesses or P&Ls so they don't really understand it? Do we need to send them all back to business school?
Excellent overview and how-to, Shonali! And I agree with @Rachel- you look very pretty in pink! I find that most folks I work with want to come up with the strategy or their 'marketing plan' before they have ever identified their business objectives. When they fail to do that, there really is B.O. because they'll be sweating every step and decision having no basis for measurement or understanding of their outcomes. Sigh. :).
@beckygaylord Thank you! Some people might think it's dumbed down, but it's so much easier to get started if one's not intimidated.
@shonali It's great advice. You need business objective metrics to justify a SM budget - "impressions" and likes just don't cut it anymore
@nikitafedorov Absolutely. Everything should be specific to "you" and/or "your company/brand." That's why I always say there isn't a one-size-fits-all.
Thanks so much for stopping by!
@Angela Jeffrey Isn't it great? Thank you, Angie - and especially for taking the time to stop by. You have done so much for PR measurement, we all owe you a huge debt of gratitude.
@Eric Melin Thanks! I'd love to learn more from @Robert_Spiral16 as to his use of correlation in Excel; I haven't used it all that often, but I included it because it's a useful tool, and I wanted to show people that even if they're not math whizzes, there's a way to do it; the caveat being, as I said in my post, that it would be wise to sit with someone who actually understands it to make sure you're correlating the right things. I think using timelines is a terrific way to go, and I do that too.
@HowieSPM Exactly! Thanks, Howie.
@shonali between you and @DannyBrown measurement is being forced on everyone. Luckily @ginidietrich blogs 'its not about ROI' often.
@ginidietrich You definitely have a point, Gini. That said, my business school has been Twitter and posts like this, so I find them pretty useful. Totally see where you're coming from though.
@EricaAllison Well, thank you! I'm going to have to wear pink more often!
I love the way you used B.O. - ha! And that is so true; so often it's "let's do this," without thinking through why a particular tactic should be used. Drives me nuts!
@shonali Absolutely! Making cake from a mix w/simple steps~>results similar to baking from scratch and is *much* better than no cake!
@MattLaCasse Unfortunately, you're a diamond in the rough, Matt. Most people don't take the time to do personal development that helps their careers. It's amazing to me how many people ask questions they can easily find on Google. My favorite, smart butt, answer is always, "Let me Google that for you."
@HowieSPM Well, the genesis of "PR" was to influence public opinion/behavior. And many of the early campaigns did just that primarily through publicity, which is why we're stuck with the publicity tag. So if you look at those as outcomes - which they were/are - then they were definitely measurable. Right? @MattLaCasse @ginidietrich
@MattLaCasse @Shonali @ginidietrich OK lets start from the beginning. A whole industry (PR/Marketing/Advertising) was created generating billions in revenues by convincing the CFO and CEO that they work is not measurable. It never will be. But trust us. And if you want to grow spend more. Spending more is always the answer.And this was great because measurement tools did not exist.
arbitron? flawed. nielsen? seriously flawed. In fact except for a click, a use of a coupon we really can't prove anything was seen or heard. Even listening means nothing without actually a person reading every single mention social or press to confirm the value or each one. Good luck if you have thousands a day.
But we have tools to generate data and look at it. Never before have we had this. But all those people making billions in revenues have zero incentive to change and every incentive to resist measurement.
Basically these are cost plus profit contracts which are the worst kind. They incentivize to spend and waste not optimize and maximize. Think Halliburton/Iraq War, many Defense programs, Utilities when they were not privately owned, etc etc
@Shonali @ginidietrich Well said, Shonali. I am a bit of an oddball (keep your jokes to yourself) in that I worked in a newsroom for 8 years before I got into this arena, and my perception of PR when I was a reporter was one of media relations. I didn't separate the two in my mind; and I'm not sure I understood there was a difference.
I'm learning every day, and I always will. My business brain is starting to get some exercise, so I'm looking forward to becoming better at what I do. As long as you two smarties let me leech off your intelligence, I should be fine.
@ginidietrich I don't think I knew you then, but a while back I wrote a "let me Google that for you" post. I'll send it to you, it'll make you laugh.
I think the problem - or part of it - is that for the longest time, "PR" has been told they don't need to think like this. That pretty much all they need to do is media relations or some iteration thereof, so they should focus on the "hits." And I still see that mentality a LOT - I know you do too. I'm not saying that's what @MattLaCasse or other very smart pros have been taught/made to think, but I think that is part of what's going on. So they have a tough time focusing on the "why" and "how" (as in, why should we do this and how will it help our business objectives), and are made to focus on the "what" (to do)... even though focusing on the "why" and "how" will make the "what" much clearer.
I do think PRSA is trying hard to bring this kind of thinking into schools, through the initiatives they started not too long ago. It will be interesting to see how that pans out, especially in 3-5 years, when the graduates from those programs start coming into the job market. If they focus on the "why" and "how" right off the bat, won't that be refreshing?