Evaluating Your Communications Program: Business Objectives, Measurement Goals, and You.











February 2011

Over the years, PR and marketing practitioners have sought to develop a holistic measurement program, one that combines both qualitative and quantitative metrics. Holistic measurement serves two aims: documenting the success of communications activities, and helping achieve a practical understanding of the conversations taking place and the activities resulting from outreach efforts.

But, even with all the reporting tools that are designed to help PR and communications professionals make sense of their media-relations results, many practitioners seek guidance on designing a program with the attributes most relevant to their specific business.

So, what are the best ways to demonstrate success with The Media and to document for clients or top management the return on investment of a media relations program?

Business Objectives Key to Outlining Measurement Goals

Effective measurement starts with asking the right questions. And the first of those questions should be, "What are the foremost objectives of my company, client, or brand?"

Top management has its own preferred set of metrics, and they do not include tweets, Facebook comments, or messages delivered to The Media. What matters to the C-suite are sales, conversions, leads, and closes... all of which impact the bottom line. Thus, for public relations and marketing professionals it's essential to translate their results into the language of the C-suite, which means showing added value to the organization and how conversations can drive conversions.

It may seem simple enough, but it's a point that's easily overlooked. Without a proper understanding of your organization's goals and a clear picture of how your own department's efforts fit in relation to the larger objectives, you can't possibly know what kind of measurement program is appropriate to your needs or what information you must provide to the C-suite. By understanding how measurement can best tie in to your organization's goals, you can begin to formulate a measurement plan and show correlation of the media-relations campaigns in context of driving business initiatives and demonstrating return on your efforts.

In short, your measurement program should possess the ability to link communications outputs to business outcomes — which requires that you always set realistic goals before you begin to implement reporting metrics. From there you can then decide on the qualitative and quantitative metrics to include.

The Essential Package: Quantitative and Qualitative Metrics

Whether demonstrating the return on investment or gauging your stakeholders' and communities' reception to your messages, you must use both qualitative and quantitative metrics. It's the only way to accurately assess the potential impact of your online, print, social media, and broadcast coverage.

Quantitative metrics. Numerical data provides a starting point from which to develop and expand your measurement program.

Some commonly utilized quantitative metrics include the following:

  • Number of stories over time
  • Number of impressions over time
  • Length of story (i.e., number of words and/or column inches)
  • Media value over time
  • Number of fans, subscribers, and/or followers over time
  • Activity generated (e.g., link-backs, comments, and retweets, etc.)
  • Length of stay on company or branded pages
  • Number of responses to calls-to-action
  • Company response time

The amount and type of quantitative metrics included in your measurement program will vary depending on your measurement goals. While basic numbers certainly matter, don't forget to count them carefully. For example, don't use a multiplier for impressions or media value. If you do, you'll only end up fooling yourself, and your reports will present an inaccurate picture of what is actually occurring in your media coverage. Also, in calculating story length, measure only the portion that relates to your company; or, if you're doing a competitive analysis, measure only the portions related to the relevant organizations, product lines, services, etc.

Qualitative metrics. You will derive the most meaningful and actionable information by including qualitative metrics in your measurement program. Metrics such as:

  • Sentiment (e.g., editorial tone, public and/or private conversations, stakeholder satisfaction, and community engagement.)
  • Prominence
  • Share of voice
  • Spokesperson mentions
  • Message delivery
  • Marketing power
  • Quality rating
  • Weighting or valuation based on the source, influencer, or key target.
  • Inclusion of photographs or other images.

For images, keep in mind that most aggregators — as opposed to a comprehensive media-monitoring provider like BurrellesLuce — may not include the picture because they aren't always sure whether the image is part of the story or is an advertisement.

And, remember, whatever combination of metrics you choose, make certain that they're tied in to the organization's objectives.

Measurement Q&A

Here are just a few of the questions to ask yourself as you travel down the road of media measurement. The more honest and transparent you are with the answers, the easier it will be to develop a reporting program that truly highlights the success of your efforts.

1. Understand goals and objectives. What are the company, brand, or client's objectives? What are your communications goals and how do they align with your company's business objectives? Are the measurement metrics serving the requirements of every key stakeholder or relevant departments in the company?

2. Define your audiences. Who are the audiences you need to report on? Who are the audiences you need to report to?

3. Define your media types. What media types should be examined in the reporting? How does the reporting solution incorporate your present media coverage? Should you rely on random media sampling or run the full gamut?

4. Consider the metrics you need to include. What qualitative and quantitative metrics are necessary to highlight the importance of your media efforts? If you currently run your own quantitative (e.g., Google Analytics for web stats or internal CRM for response times) or qualitative metrics (e.g., sentiment of private messages) how will these be treated in your measurement program?

5. Eliminate the metrics you don't need. Which metrics can you do without? Which metrics can you add later on, as needed?

6. Define your budget and deadline. What is your turnaround time and budget?

7. Know what you can handle yourself. How much "DIY" (Do It Yourself) can you commit to before it becomes "DIN" (Do It Never)?

In the end, good measurement is based on solid research principals — not just some generic best practices. But you don't have to be a master researcher to implement a stellar measurement program. By defining your parameters and basing your metrics on the sources, time, and criteria that matter most to you and your organization, you can create a program that is both practical and that successfully demonstrates the impact of your efforts on core business.

About BurrellesLuce

BurrellesLuce is the U.S. leader in media monitoring. Professionals in a wide range of industries rely on our comprehensive curated content from local and national print, online, broadcast, and social media sources. BurrellesLuce has a turnkey copyright compliance program that allows us to provide copyright-compliant, behind-the-paywall content not available to other services. BurrellesLuce combines grade-A content with easy-to-use software, allowing users to evaluate and analyze their media coverage and PR efforts. It's all integrated into our user-friendly interface, BurrellesLuce WorkFlow™.

Connect with Us

  • facebook
  • twitter
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • Google+
  • YouTube

BurrellesLuce Newsletter: