What is the future of PR measurement?

This is a topic that very few PR professionals can tackle without a feeling of panic. But measurement experts say that there is a process and methodology by which you can measure any campaign. This process requires a movement away from reporting existing data to being able to predict market intelligence and link the results to business impact.

Measurement today is all about providing insights for future strategies

Richard Bagnall, CEO of PRIME Research UK and SVP of Europe, says that, “In many instances measurement is being commoditised and dumbed down by a number of providers who see the new interest in proving value of communications as an opportunity to drive revenue and profit. Predominantly SAAS companies are developing new automated dashboards collecting all kinds of digital data points and presenting them as ‘measurement’ and as ‘insights’. However, in most cases they’re making a fundamental mistake, which is that all they are doing is counting the stuff that is easy to count and not actually measuring the stuff that matters to an organisation.”

Richard feels that, “To measure communications successfully, you have to tie the appropriate metrics against the goals of your organisation and your department. All organisations will have different objectives – measurement programmes that can’t take this into account, aren’t measuring anything of value – they’re akin to a monitoring service that is basically just counting.”

Richard warns PR pros that, “Many companies are confusing real insights for banal information written in chart heavy reports basically stating whether the charts have gone up or down. Insights are about far more than that. They’re not about looking at the past and just counting content metrics. Instead they should be forward looking and providing intelligence that helps the client drive and alter its strategy. This takes a different skillset from the usual measurement firm employees, it takes time, great tools and excellent talent.”

Leslie Nuccio, senior content marketing and creative strategist for Meltwater, agrees that, “Measurement is moving toward providing market intelligence as opposed to business intelligence, and forward-looking insights as opposed to historical data analysis. By mining data from outside the firewall and from a variety of sources, we're able to assist people in softer marketing disciplines (PR and social media) with understanding not only how their efforts are paying off, but with the sort of intelligence that will help them craft smarter, data-driven campaigns.”

While this may be a trend that is happening globally, in India clients may not be willing to pay for this kind of research.

Media Content Analysis

Neelima Khanna, chief executive, CARMA International India says that, “It is possible to have a statistically sound method that links media performance outputs with tangible business outcomes such as: sales, donations, web traffic, awareness, opinion, attitude, brand preference and opposition.”

How to measure a campaign

Richard points out that, “There is a ‘best’ way, but it’s not a formula, an index or a score. Instead, it’s a methodological approach, essentially a framework designed to fit each individual organisation’s needs.”

He says the first step is to, “Start with the organisation’s objectives. What is the organisation looking to do or achieve? The next question is to figure out how communications plays a part supporting these overarching organisational goals.  If you’re working on a campaign then what are the goals and objectives of that specific campaign?  What are we looking to achieve?  What would success look like?”

“Once we understand this, we are 9/10’s of the way to meaningful measurement – it’s now just a question of working out what the relevant metrics you need to tell the story, ranging from measuring your outputs, to outtakes, through to the end outcomes – the things that organisations really care about.”

Nikhil Dey, president of Genesis Burson-Marsteller, agrees that what matters is impact of the outreach on tangible business outcomes and proactive opportunities generated due to previous outreach.

Giving an example of impact driven measurement Nikhil says, “As public relations gains importance in the growth strategy of key businesses, its impact on business will be scrutinised more closely. I’ll give you a recent example of a campaign we did for an upcoming university. The client had a strict no advertisement approach when we began their outreach. This was a deliberate step as they did not wish to be part of a clutter as well as wished to link our outreach to tangible results. We judged our success by the number of applications that the university could attract. This was a direct, fair and challenging way of impactful measurement.”

Samika M, PR consultant, Mumbai says, “While working on a CSR related project for an entertainment brand, the effectiveness of the campaign was measured in the number of people we touched base with. These were figures in absolute numbers wherein we calculated how many people participated in the 8 City Campaign, through the various modules of the school contact program, mohalla contact program, media impressions and online chatter.”

Nikhil Dey says that, “We are also seeing that a host of companies globally are now moving towards new measurement parameters. One example of this is to use a representative sample of the larger media universe and work with professional third party monitoring and measurement firms to develop an index that factors in a host of qualitative and quantitative factors, delivering an industry benchmark.”

Richard says that, “Happily though, I’m also seeing a genuine upswing in interest in meaningful measurement, particularly on a global scale. Digitalisation of the media has meant that content volumes have exploded and the speed of communication has increased significantly. Understanding what matters and what doesn’t, and how to measure it in a meaningful manner has got more complex, not less. The good news is that many companies really understand this and are looking to work with the suppliers who are able to shape a tailor made measurement programme that fits their needs.”

Case Study

To understand the role and contribution of news media in evolving the proposition of ‘Bilateral Cooperation amongst South Asian Nations’, CARMA International was asked to conduct a media analysis study.

Neelima says that the, “Analysis enabled an understanding of which aspect of regional cooperation had greater interest in the news media – political goodwill, trade and business, social exchange or shared natural resources.”

“A few months later Carma’s client conducted primary research across the eight nations interviewing different stakeholders like politicians, regulators, businesses, citizens/consumers and think tanks. It was found that opinions/challenges in relation to regional integration being voiced by the influencers across news media space had a high degree of correlation to those being cited by the stakeholders interviewed directly.”

If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our weekly event and subscriber alerts.