Full disclosure – I used to dread the topic of measurement. In my mind, measurement equaled data which equaled numbers, which equaled Math. And let’s just say Math and I have never really gotten along very well. However, whatever personal feelings I had about the topic, I always knew how important it was to any client, organization and the industry as a whole.
Measurement essentially involves performance indicators and no organization can fully function and be successful without being able to measure the success or failure of every strategic investment, i.e. their ROI. Measurement indicates to organizations what is and isn’t working, what needs to be changed, increased, eliminated, etc.
Any good strategic plan must include a measurement performance indicator section. It is also why a key characteristic of objectives is that they be measurable. Every step and/or action taken by an organization must be measured in some way or else as an organization, you are just spinning your wheels and possibly wasting resources including money, manpower, etc.
However, despite its importance, how to effectively measure the success or failure and ROI of public relations efforts is a continued issue and struggle within the industry. This has been further complicated by the advent and pervasiveness of social media, which despite how fast it moves in terms of new platforms, has not kept up in terms of how one measures its success.
There are some common industry metrics, which are fairly pervasive, such as mentions, audience, impressions, engagement and conversion. Mentions essentially measures how much your organization/brand is being talked about. Audience measures how much audience your organization has and this includes indicators such as number of followers, likes and shares. Impression measures how many times the audience may have seen or heard about your organization. For example, if The Washington Post features a story about your organization and the circulation number for the paper is one million, then theoretically, that story had one million impressions. Engagement, particularly online, also includes indicators such as likes and shares, as well as comments, bounce rate and how long individuals stayed on the company website. Finally, conversion essentially measures how many times individuals performed some type of measureable action with regards to the organization. For example, the number of people who filled out a feedback form on the website versus the number who visited the website.
Thus, measurement is clearly very important. However, as I noted above, I did not really enjoy it and in fact often dreaded the topic. I eventually decided that the best way to get past that, was to find a way to make the topic fun and interesting for myself. I refused to accept that measurement only included a boring, tedious and mundane collection of numbers, statistics and data. The following steps are just some of the ways I think measurement can be fun:
- Think Outside The Box – One of the easiest ways to make something tedious, is through repetition. In other words, using the same phrases, the same strategies and in the case of measurement, the same metrics. While the old tried and true metrics are important, there are many ways to think outside the box and use new and different tools, formats and platforms to measure an organization’s public relations success. Forbes.com features an excellent article by contributor Ilya Pozin, which discusses some different ways of measuring and thinking about an organization’s success or failure. Thinking of new and different ways to measure success helps keep the process of measurement fresh, interesting and creative.
- Re-Think The Way You Interpret The Data – Instead of looking at most data and analytics as a series of numbers and figures, I find it helps to see it as pieces of a greater puzzle that’s being solved or pieces of a larger story that’s being told. Public Relations is after all a storytelling function. For example, data showing what post or story got the most likes and shares can be a lot more than just the numbers. It can be a significant piece of the puzzle describing who the organization’s audience really is and what resonates with them. Essentially it can help develop a character portrait of the organization’s audience which is essential in building and maintaining relationships with them.
- Be Visual – Most individuals are very visual people, which means they respond well to videos, bold text, pictures, color, etc. The more visual, the more likely a person will pay attention to and remember the information. The growing popularity of infographics and continued use of old school information charts, such as pie charts, bar charts, pictographs, flow charts, etc. proves this notion.Turning data filled with numbers, facts and figures into something visual that is bold, colorful and creative makes it a lot more entertaining and easier to understand.
- Celebrate The Small Accomplishments – Sometimes organizations, especially the larger, more global ones, tend to focus only on large scale successes and forget about the smaller details and smaller accomplishments that in part can help achieve larger success. Focusing on some of these smaller accomplishments and details can not only be beneficial to the firm as a whole, but fun because it is not as overwhelming as larger scale projects and by that token not as bogged down in too many numbers and too much data.
- It’s Okay To Not Be An Expert – Yes, not necessarily fun, but it does help tremendously to accept the reality that as a public relations professional you may not be an expert at measurement and that’s okay. Yes, all public relations professionals should have some basic knowledge of Statistics and Probability but the fact is, truly mastering the intricate details and knowledge of measurement tactics, data collection, data, etc. is a separate and specific skill. One that takes time and knowledge, both formal and informal. So it’s okay to not be an expert and not get it perfectly right the first time or every single time. As with everything in life, it’s all a learning process and if you can make the process as fun as possible, that’s half the battle.