I’ve been working in the communications industry for over 20 years and one of the two questions I’m getting very often from clients are:
- What measurement metrics do you recommend tracking?
- What tools are you using to measure outcomes?
This is understandable as communication professionals continuously need to prove their value in a rapidly evolving media landscape and now also need to encompass paid, earned, shared and owned media measurement. Lines are more blurred than ever and measurement needs to take one step back.
Whether your campaign is PR, digital or integrated, you definitely want to ensure to have defined KPIs supporting your core business and sales objectives. A lot of companies track outcomes without having defined clear KPIs, making it difficult to make a correlation between the campaign outcomes and their impact on the business. Talk to the management and sales teams, understand their objectives and challenges. Then you need to pick your battles – you can’t measure everything. Choose what is most relevant to measure but make sure to compare the evolution quarter-on-quarter or year-on-year and map that against the business performance, as numbers alone don’t mean much.
Whether you want to increase your brand awareness, increase website traffic, generate leads, drive demand, increase volume of coverage or strengthen relationships with journalists or influencers, you need to think about specific KPIs (e.g. % increase) which will serve as a basis to define your measurement metrics. These measurement metrics need to include a mix of quantitative and qualitative analysis and be reviewed at least on an annual basis, in line with the changing company focus and priorities.
Many of the old measurement methods are no longer valid. For example, gone are the days when we measured Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) as part of the PR quantitative analysis. However we still see a fair portion of companies using this metric. AMEC has recently launched a global “Say No to AVEs’ campaign to eradicate the use of AVE in PR and communications work. We believe this should help companies think about what other quantitative metrics better assess the return of investment of PR or impact on the business.
Companies need to define an integrated measurement approach, which will solve the siloed challenge and provide an overall picture on outcomes. The AMEC integrated evaluation framework, which LEWIS helped create, provides a consistent approach that works for companies of all sizes but which can be tailored to very specific user cases and objectives. And most importantly, it helps prove the value of our work.
Key steps of the approach include to define objectives (e.g. awareness, advocacy, adoption, demand), define communications objectives, define your target audiences & content strategy (making sure to assess the audiences’ response and reactions to the content and messages), and finally measure outcomes (e.g. changed attitude, increased trust, better understanding) and impact (e.g. reputation improvement, relationships improved, increase in sales).
Once that’s set, you’re good to measure outputs/results. Realistically, how many companies work with this approach in mind? As agencies, we play a huge role in educating our clients on how to evolve towards this approach. We need to see higher consistency in how we measure campaigns globally, across sizes and industries. This will help maintain a high measurement standard in our communications industry.
Now what? Once you’ve defined objectives, you can look to select metrics that are relevant to your business and audiences.
My top recommended quantitative and qualitative metrics (depending on your business objectives)
Number of potential readers of the media coverage, coverage quality (e.g. on message, in tier 1 media), media relationships increase. Further tips on how to do this are available here
Number of posts/tweets/retweets/likes, number of impressions, engagement rates, number of clicks, followers growth, number of people that saw an ad
Number of visitors to the website (and correlation with PR/digital/marketing activities), number of website referrals, competitor share of voice, improved brand perception, number/increase in sales
My top recommended tools
Tools such as Meltwater or Cision track online media coverage so if you are interested in print as well, you need to consider alternative or further tools (e.g. Kantar). Make sure to remove all the noise (e.g. press release pick ups, one-word mentions in irrelevant publications, etc.) and keep the meaningful pieces of coverage which are truly the result of the PR efforts
Social media channels analytics (e.g. Twitter Analytics, LinkedIn Analytics, etc), Meltwater, Cision
Google Analytics, SimilarWeb, Meltwater, Cision
Obviously, there’s also an element of manual analysis as not every aspect of measurement can be automated via a tool. I really like scoring systems (e.g. from 1 to 5) for media relationship or brand perception analysis for example, allowing us to track how the relationship is evolving or brand perception changing over time. That’s an excellent way of proving the impact and return on investments of campaigns.
An important part of measurement is how you’ll showcase the outcomes and impact in a visual way to your clients (as an agency) or management team (as an organisation). This will ensure that stakeholders, whether involved in the detail or not, can assess the campaign performance and value at a glance. At LEWIS, we develop integrated dashboards using Google Data Studio, for most clients. Being able to track performance in real time has helped adjust campaigns quicker and showcase the value of the PR/digital/marketing investment.
To summarise, break the silos, define core KPIs and metrics, measure only what’s relevant for your business, and use analytics to make more informed decisions about how to evolve your campaign.
Hope this post provided useful insights. Do you agree/disagree with these points? What additional measurement challenges and needs are you seeing today?