By Todd Murphy | January 16th, 2018
PR Measurement: what matters
The “Measure What Matters” quote from Peter Drucker has found its way into many articles and posts about public relations measurement. Although originally a quote regarding business metrics, many PR pros and bloggers have used this quote to direct focus on measuring only the outputs and outcomes of a PR campaign that matter. But herein lies the problem of applying this statement, because even seasoned public relations professionals don’t always know what outputs from their effort generated the behavior or outcome they set as their goal(s). If the PR pro needs to measure all their data to see “what matters”, how can a PR measurement vendor claim to know what small pieces should be measured to yield true insight?
Clearly, using a formal framework for PR measurement, such as that offered for free from AMEC, is the key to focusing your efforts on what matters, but don’t be fooled by analysis services pitching you on limiting your measurement view too narrowly. There are at least two key reasons some media measurement firms try to convince clients they should limit what they measure.
- They don’t have enough information. When the PR measurement firm doesn’t have comprehensive access to all your paid, earned, shared, or owned media exposure (PESO), they will generate a reason why you don’t need to measure all of those outputs. It makes sense. They don’t have that information, so they will tell you it is not needed. This is wrong and should be a red flag to steer you away from a vendor like this. Using firms like this will provide limited insight because their sample sizes are small and often missing key mentions needed for reliable insight.
- They don’t have the right information. Most PR measurement services are measurement only services. They don’t have the ability to monitor and collect all your media exposure, so they have to purchase your media exposure from media monitoring services. Some media types are easier to buy than others. For instance, online and social media content is ubiquitous among measurement services because it can so easily be procured. However, even in 2018 far more media impressions and impact comes from print, TV and radio content. Unless your measurement service has access to what actually aired on TV and radio, or monitors all publications (both online and published), then you will only see what is posted online and that is far short of your total media exposure.
The two above points aren’t saying that outputs are more important than outcomes, that is a different post topic. But rather, if you are to provide reliable PR measurement you mustn’t be limited by the monitoring capabilities of your measurement vendor. Looking further up the PR pipeline is a better place to start.
PR Measurement: The Big 3 Questions
- Does your PR Measurement service also have comprehensive media monitoring? This should include social media, online media, television programming, radio programming, publication websites as well as the printed version of publications. You must know that newspapers and magazines do not always put all of their content online. And often times if they do, that content is behind a blocked paywall that a measurement service can’t access. Similarly, TV and radio stations are often not posting all that they broadcast, or in many occasions supplementing their online content with syndicated content that was never broadcast on that station affiliate.
- Does your PR Measurement service control their own media monitoring, or do they have to outsource those searches to a third party? Separating the media monitoring control from the measurement control means that there is an additional point of potential failure. For example, because my company controls the monitoring and measurement for our clients, we can structure and modify the searches to yield the type of media results our clients want to measure. The search strategists at Universal can react quickly to any subtle changes in the media landscape, providing a more accurate data set than relaying a message to an outside monitoring service that may not even know the end client. Control of news monitoring reinforces reliability in measurement.
- Does your PR Measurement service rely on automated results? Most PR measurement services, as well as media monitors, use automated searches to find results, deliver reports, and even estimate quantitative metrics. This level of automation is sound and produces high quality results. However, it is when a vendor pursues the automation of qualitative measures that their reliability really takes a nose dive. This can most easily be seen if you’ve ever used a news monitoring service that includes a “tone” or “sentiment” metric on their daily coverage reports. Automated qualitative measures are notoriously inaccurate, generating a very low data reliability rate for the user. The only method for true qualitative measures is to have system automation through to the point of qualitative reasoning, and then have trained analysts either confirm, modify, or assign the true qualitative measure. Similarly, evaluating true impact or message point insight requires real people if you truly want valid PR measurement insights.
So what should you measure? From a data science perspective, everything may matter. Like the butterfly effect, one story may influence another story. What story precedes or follows your media mention might set the mindset of the consumer. How your company or client’s economic data is trending might impact how your news exposure is perceived. Even the weather, or the outcome of a sporting event, can have a measurable impact on your public relations effectiveness. Therefore, working with a PR measurement consulting firm to structure a measurement program that provides truly insightful data is key. You may not have to measure everything, but you often have to consider everything before deciding what is needed as part of your public relations measurement methodology.
Any measurement service can generate pretty graphs or charts, but only a few can manage your monitoring and measurement in enough of a controlled environment so as to generate reliable data. That is how Universal Information Services works, and there are other consultancies that share this approach. Those are the companies to consider, or I should say consider those companies when you can’t afford to act on unreliable data.
We all want to work the advantage within our areas of influence. Having the most reliable information and data improves your position relative to the competition. Clearly, some of your competitors use less than reliable measurement to inform their public relations campaigns and strategies. This brings our question back to you, personally. What should you measure… or, who should help you measure your public relations outcomes? If you need help, let me know. The team of analysts at Universal do great work.