PR Measurement: Beyond Vanity Metrics

September 23rd, 2016

“Sometimes just putting out basic metrics can actually hurt your measurement program and not help management see the true ROI and efforts you are putting in.” That was how Nicole Moreo began this AMEC measurement week webinar.  Well, that certainly got my attention! I thought how can reporting on basic metrics hurt my credibility?  Nicole explains.

Vanity metrics are metrics that feel important but are ultimately superficial, or worse, deceptive. What we usually think of are things like impressions, likes, re-tweets, AVEs (ad value equivalency), share of voice, mentions, page views, etc. They are not performance indicators. While some of these are important for benchmarking purposes, they should not be relied upon for actual intelligence.  In the big picture, vanity metrics actually hold you back.

So, how do we figure out what to measure?  First, Nicole cautioned, resist the urge to run out and subscribe to the latest tool or aggregator service that claims to programmatically measure for you.  She went on to outline the steps PR pros must take—before embarking on a measurement program.

Listen and Ask

Listen to senior management, your team, your clients (internal or external). Ask questions, such as

  • What is the strategic goal of the PR / marketing program, specifically the business goal? You may hear, for example, “increase share of voice” (SOV)—why? Or, “we want to put this message out on social media so people can see it”—why? What is the goal? Are you trying to increase sales? Are you trying to get people to download a whitepaper? How does that tie back to the business goal?
  • Who are the key audiences? Your program is obviously not to every single person in the universe, so precisely who do you want to reach?
  • Which platforms will be effective—based on the answers to the first two questions?
  • What are the internal KPIs (key performance indicators) that are being used? What business point does that tie back to?
  • What is the internal reporting structure?
  • What insights are you hoping for?

Once you have the answers to those questions, you want to use your metrics as a tool to tell a story (after all, that’s what public relations practitioners are good at—storytelling)!

So What?

Start with the basic metrics, like share of voice—but who are you comparing to? Competitors? Other divisions within the company? Ensure what you are comparing is apples to apples.  Engagement is also a basic metric that allows you to know how many people are actually interacting with your content and potentially have the influence to share it. Tonality (sentiment) is another that you may opt to use and there are others but start with these basics.  Then, ask again, so what? That may lead you to another point, where you once again ask, so what? Nicole recommends asking this three times will help you find the answers that offer a mix of qualitative explanations and quantitative variables.

She went on to offer specific examples, showing charts and graphs  sharing how each of them created a story of insights and intelligence that were meaningful and actionable. This was all possible by asking the right questions before embarking on the program.

Please feel free to add your own thoughts or experiences here in the comments section, and continue to check back here for more AMEC PR measurement tips from the experts!

Setting Measurable Objectives: Key to Proving PR Value

September 22nd, 2016

Setting-PR-Objectives-Infographic-CLIP-pmAs you’ve probably heard, this week is PR measurement week, part of AMEC Measurement Month.

TIP: If you’re interested but not sure you’ll be able to attend one of the live webinars this week, go ahead and register—you’ll receive an on-demand playback link afterwards!

The AMEC North America chapter kicked-off Measurement Week 2016 Monday morning with a Twitter chat. The chat was followed by an afternoon webinar on setting measurable objectives, led by Mark Weiner, CEO PRIME Research North America, moderated by AMEC North America’s Co-Chair and BurrellesLuce’s CMO, Johna Burke. In this post, I’ll be recapping that webinar.

The most common PR challenge is proving the value of our work. This is often difficult because value is so subjective and individual—varying from one organization and/or person to another.   Weiner suggests the key to success is setting proper objectives and then meeting (or beating) them.

Just what is a “proper” objective? A proper objective should be three things:

  • Meaningful – must be tied back to the organization’s goals (e.g. increasing business performance such as sales or stock price, optimizing labor by attracting and retaining top talent, avoiding loss by averting a crisis or potential reputation disaster, etc.)
  • Reasonable – openly-negotiated, aggregate opinions of top executives and discuss what is really reasonable, then get confirmation and approval to proceed
  • Quantifiable – must answer what, who, how much (by what amount should the metric change) and when (not open-ended)

Let’s focus on the quantifiable objective-setting process. In my experience, this is the step that stumps many of us.  Weiner suggests you take these steps:

  • Review past performance by looking at past objectives and the results, compare to competitors, and determine what would be a realistic increase.
  • Document the public relations objectives in writing (being sure to answer the who, what, when and how much questions).
  • Share the objectives with the executives with whom you originally spoke and with anyone who may be involved in resource allocations, negotiate final details and get authorization to proceed with the plan (as well as publishing the final plan with key executives).

The webinar wrapped-up with an objective-setting checklist (mainly covered in the previous two paragraphs) and examples of what are not proper objectives.  The examples included actions or activities (such as “create press release”, “plan special event”), and goals or aspirations (such as “get more media placements”, “improve brand reputation”. These may move you toward achieving your objective, but are not objectives in and of themselves.

In his final remarks, Weiner cautioned, “Objectives are not fate, we have to work hard to set and meet objectives. They provide direction, help departments prioritize, focuses energy and helps management align with public relations. Objectives must be specific, measurable and unambiguous.”

I want to thank Mark for all this great information and guidance, and invite you to add your own thoughts here in the comments section.

Continue to check back for more posts recapping many of this week’s PR measurement activities!

AMEC North America Kick-off with #PRMeasure Chat

September 21st, 2016
Word cloud image created from the chat content

Word cloud image created from the chat content

This week is the third annual AMEC (International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) measurement week here in North America—as part of AMEC Measurement Month.  There are PR measurement-related virtual events all week. The best part? They’re all FREE! Just go to and register for any you’d like to attend. Even if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to sit-in on the live webinar, if you register you will receive an on-demand playback link afterwards.


Measurement Week 2016 kicked-off Monday morning with a Twitter chat using the hashtag #PRmeasure. The chat was hosted by PR News and featured Measurement Hall of Famers Mark Weiner, Linda Rutherford and BurrellesLuce’s own Johna Burke.

I have personally been active on Twitter since 2008 and have participated in more chats than I can remember. I don’t say this lightly and can honestly say, this was one of the most robust chats that I’ve ever participated in, with more than 20 questions and netting more than 400 tweets in one hour!  It offered so much valuable information that it would be impossible to summarize into short form—simply wouldn’t do it justice.  Instead, we’ve created a Storify for your review. It’s not every single tweet but way more than what I’d call a “recap”.

Watch here for more posts recapping many of this week’s PR measurement activities!

Stop “raising awareness.” Just…please, stop.

September 1st, 2016

By Debra Bethard-Caplick, MBA, APR


As a university PR instructor, PRSSA Bateman competition and PRSA Silver Anvil I’m going to let you in on a little secret: “raising awareness” doesn’t do anything for your boss. It’s become a lazy way to write objectives that doesn’t help you demonstrate the success that you know you’ve achieved. It’s what you do with that awareness that matters to your organization. You need to move beyond awareness and into real action – and it’s that difficult. All it takes is a slightly different way of looking at what you’re doing.

Think for a moment about how you craft key messages for your target audiences when you’re preparing a PR campaign. Would you use words and terms they don’t understand? Of course not. So why would you do that when communicating with CEOs and other non-communication executives? You need to treat your colleagues like a target audience, because they are one, and can possible have the biggest impact on whether your campaign will succeed or not. You understand the implications of increased awareness, reach, and impressions, but what about your CEO or CFO? Probably not, so it’s up to you to both educate them, and to use terms they understand, namely, dollars and cents.

What are your organization’s business goals? Sales objectives? New accounts? These are what you should be incorporating into your communication goals, because they are results that non-PR managers understand. They have no clue how awareness impacts on what they’re trying to achieve. In the case of nonprofit organizations, this is measured in terms of overall donations made, new donors, additional donations from existing donors, etc. CEOs of for-profit organizations. You can slice and dice it any way you like, but money is the crucial element for all organizations.

If you remember, a couple of years ago the internet and news media were filled with the Ice Bucket Challenge. Seemingly everyone was doing their best to turn themselves into human Popsicles® and to convince others to do the same. It was fun to watch, it was interesting, and it went viral. Within just a few weeks, it was hard to find someone who hadn’t seen at least one video of someone dousing (or being doused) with ice water, especially as celebrities started joining in and ever more elaborate ways to drop the ice and water were dreamed up. Increased awareness? Absolutely. But awareness without action is an empty objective. The whole world can become aware of your mission, as happened with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but if they didn’t convince people to take action beyond the act of dumping ice water on their heads, they’re no better off than they were before.

Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret: we’re human. I know… big surprise. We’re attracted to the shiny things in PR. Who wants to slog through boring plans, when there’s all kinds of bright, shiny tactics just tantalizingly hovering out there, waiting for us? It’s much more fun to film human Popsicles® than it is to develop donation materials. But those donations are what the people at the ALS Association need in order to fund their mission of finding the cause of and a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and to support ALS patients and their families. Building those donation amounts into your objectives gives you something to work toward and measure how effective your tactics are.

By the simple act of building a forfeiture option into the challenge, allowing those challenged by friends to make a donation to the participating ALS organizations instead of being doused, increased awareness was converted into action, as donations poured in. And dollars and cents are easy to count – especially for CEOs. The New York Times reported on July 27th that the Ice Bucket Challenge raised $115 million for the ALS Association, with $77 million going to research and another $23 million to patient and community services. Even better, the ALS Association just announced that the money raised had funded the discovery of a gene tied to ALS. Those are numbers to make any CEO – and Silver Anvil judge – ecstatic.

Breaking Up With Your First Job

August 22nd, 2016

By Kiley Herndon*



Upon graduating from college, you will be on a desperate hunt for a job. You will likely search high and low for something in your field and interview so many times you wonder if you are starting to speak in gibberish about your experience and accomplishments. If you are like most recent graduates, you will end up with a job you took just to have one and questioning if what you studied so long and hard for was even what you wanted.

Have no fear! Better things are on their way.

Here are some things you will want to do at your first job that will help you prepare for the next one:

Always offer to help.
In your first job, you will likely not be given enough tasks to keep you busy right off the bat. New coworkers need to get use to having you around and figure out how it is they can utilize you best. So when you hear a coworker say they need something done but don’t have time, speak up and offer to help out. When there is a task that needs accomplished, offer to do it. Then, when it is time for you to take that job you always wanted, your coworkers will realize how useful you have been…and be a great reference

Always keep track of your contacts.
In college, you have likely met with a lot of really great people and gotten a lot of business cards. Keep in contact with them! Mentors are a great source of advice and jobs. Knowing someone will always speed up the hiring process.

Always focus on the end goal.
While you may be working a job that you don’t want to make your career, you can’t forget what you want in the end. If you want to do social media, but can’t get a job without experience – volunteer to do social media for a nonprofit. Blog for companies that need writers. Keep up with social media trends to make a cover letter stand out with your extensive knowledge.

Always keep up with the field you want to work in. 
Companies want to know that you are passionate and knowledgeable, especially considering your age and inexperience, so show them you know your stuff. You will undoubtedly be asked in interviews how you keep up with trends, what blogs you read, or something along the lines of inquiring whether or not you are just working or if you are learning and evolving as a professional. Experience is great, but passion is the icing everyone wants on the cake.

Always apply.
You never know what job you may think you aren’t experience for, but that actually want someone just like you. You may also interview for a job, not get it, but then be called back later!

Ending your first job will be hard, even if you don’t enjoy it. Like any breakup, leaving your first job will be like the end of a bad relationship – you know it is time to go, but all you can remember is the good. Just don’t forget that you must think of the future you in five, ten, or twenty years and where that person will be and ask yourself if you are helping to get there.

Most importantly, don’t forget to leave on good terms. Although this first job wasn’t ideal, the connections you made are vital to that future you. Give two weeks notice, if possible, organize your materials for your replacement, write-up a brief overview of what is yet to be done, if needed, and make sure everyone knows how appreciative you are of the experience.

Even if you can’t see the effect, your next employer will see your experience in your attitude and confidence that only a first job will provide. Your first job helped to break you into the corporate world that you thought you knew and helped you to learn the dynamics of a full time employee. Say thank you.

*Kiley Herndon is a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She graduated with a degree in English and Applied Communication Studies. SIUE prepared Kiley to take on a job at Madison County Transit and then transition to her current role at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. Her biggest accomplishment is securing a job post-college and moving into her first apartment in the city.