By Eric Hill, Co-Founder and President, MyMediaInfo
I had the good fortune of serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic many years ago. About once a month, I would make a 4 hour trek to the local Peace Corps office in the capital of Santo Domingo. While there, I would often see the grounds crew cutting the grass, not with a lawn mower but with a machete. The process of cutting the lawn with a huge knife in the 90 plus degree sun seemed grueling. The entrepreneur in me thought, “How do I get a shipment of lawn mowers here and start a business?” And the practical side thought, “There has to be a better way than this, lawn mower or otherwise!”
Many years later, the PR space is welcoming the development of cutting edge measurement tools that provide valuable metrics that give a better way to measure and report. Measurement of key performance indicators has long been standard for groups within organizations looking to evaluate performance, assess opportunities for improvement and gain competitive insights, but some groups such as sales and operations have been more focused on mathematical formulas to determine these metrics than others, including public relations.
In large part, this difference is a result of the very nature of each function and the ease with which reporting can be done. Some areas can be easily observed, quantified and measured against benchmarks, whereas the result of public relations efforts are dependent on consumer perception or behavior which is far more difficult to quantify and can often be influenced by other factors. The impact of public relations efforts is typically focused on the volume of coverage which does not take into consideration the medium, message and audience reached. Also, focusing on volume of coverage tends to create a tunnel vision of what was picked-up without considering what resulted from that pick-up.
As businesses face a challenging economy, the need for solid reporting across all groups, especially PR, is greater than ever. Fortunately, the more in-depth measurement technologies are emerging. Now publicists can actively listen and engage in conversations as they are happening, and they can show standard measurements, such as impressions and key influencer coverage, in a new way. These new tools can help to understand the value of coverage, whether core messages are actually reaching target audiences, and identify top influencers and what are they saying in near real time.
The explosion of social media tools has also had a significant impact on the measurement of the success of public relations campaigns. Monitoring public conversation about a brand has never been easier thanks to a host of solutions that recognize any mentions of a particular keyword or set of keywords allowing for human analysis for sentiment and tonality. Large organizations can receive countless brand mentions each day. These new tools enable a PR team to organize mentions by tonality, subject matter, forum, and department. Campaigns or press releases have become micro-websites that can track the number of readers, locations and a host of items available at zero cost.
With such sophisticated tools for measurement in the marketplace, PR professionals now have the ability to present the most in-depth data and prove return on investment. It’s an exciting new reality of reporting and measurement with many available options, and finding the right measurement tool can be easy if you ask yourself a few simple questions.
? Who is my audience?
? What do they want me to measure?
? When is measurement needed?
? Is real-time reporting required?
? Is measurement needed only for a wrap-up or post-mortem report?
? What information do I want to monitor?
? Which mediums do I want to monitor?
? Am I at risk of analysis paralysis because I am monitoring more information than I can handle?
? Do I need to incorporate geographical location as a metric in my measurement?
? Why am I measuring?
? Do I understand what my objectives are?
? Am I focused on ROI, influence, sales, or something else?
? How can I accomplish my measurement goals?
? Do I have the staff required to support in-house measurement?
? Do I have the capabilities to perform the measurement I need?
? Do I need to partner with another party or outsource my measurement needs?
? Does my partner or vendor have the capabilities to perform the measurement I need?