Private vs. Public Conversations: Measurement in the Digital World













August 2013

Over the years PR and marketing practitioners have sought to develop a holistic measurement program, one that combines quantitative and qualitative metrics, to not only prove the success of their overall communications strategy, but also as a way to understand the conversations taking place publically and privately.

Business has its own set of metrics in relation to driving the bottomline and companies cannot report on tweets, comments, direct messages, etc. Rather, they must report on the number of conversions, leads, and closes. For public relations and marketing professionals it is essential that they translate both public and private conversations into the language of the C-suite — ultimately helping to show added value to the organization.

What are the differences in the value of public and private conversation?

One way to think of public and private conversations is to consider them in terms of online versus offline dialogue. Responses on Facebook, comments on your blog, and tweets mentioning your company are just some types of public conversation. And they all represent opportunities to engage the media, your followers, and the broader community.

Private conversations take place offline and can be discussions with employees about "re-tweeting," direct messages and/or emails received from clients and prospects, phone calls from the media, or talks you have at industry events, etc. These types of conversations can be just as powerful as those held publicly (online), if not more so, because they allow you to further develop relationships with your various stakeholders.

Both online and offline conversations can profoundly affect the health of a company or brand. Thus, it is imperative that PR professionals measure and assess the results of both public and private conversations, make tactical and strategic adjustments based on those findings, and then demonstrate their relevancy in the language of the company.

What metrics are available to measure public conversations?

With social media, as with print, web, TV and radio outlets, rudimentary data (e.g., number of fans or "likes," followers, friends, and re-tweets) provide a starting point on which to develop and expand your measurement program.

PR must also utilize other quantitative metrics to fully grasp the scope of public conversations. Among others:

  • How much activity are you generating (e.g., link-backs, comments, and re-tweets, etc) and how often? Which content seems to drive the most activity?
  • Who's subscribing to your RSS feed, if one's available? How many people are merely uploading content to their reader, compared to those who are following-up or clicking through to your blog or profile?
  • How long are visitors staying on your page? What are their exit and bounce-back rates?
  • How many people are responding to your calls to action (e.g., downloading a white paper or other form of collateral, asking for a demo or additional pricing information, responding to media pitches and inquiries, registering for contests, etc.)?
  • How long does it take for your team to respond to client or prospect inquires?

In addition, measurement must also incorporate qualitative factors such as sentiment, message delivery, mention of key messages, and other metrics like stakeholder engagement and satisfaction.

When conversations are not public are they still measurable?

Some marketing and PR pros rely on free automated "measurement" programs (Twinfluence and are two examples) to determine influence and value of the conversations taking place. However, many of these automated platforms only gather information from the public domain — despite the implication that, perhaps, one choosing to engage offline has more of a vested interest in the topic or subject matter than the person conversing in the ether and, thus, may have a greater impact on the business.

Private conversations are indeed measurable, and they should be included into your holistic measurement program. But unlike public conversations, which lend easily to quantitative metrics, these one-to-one conversations are best viewed through the lens of qualitative measurement and should be evaluated by your own algorithms.

Qualitative metrics that can be used to measure the potential impact of offline conversations include:

  • Sentiment (also known as tone) of comments made in person, over the phone, in direct messages, or emails. Are they positive, negative, or neutral? Does the tone change after a longer, more thorough discussion? If so, how?
  • Share of voice. Are the private conversations mentioning your clients or competitors?
  • Spokespersons. Are they acknowledged as experts?
  • Key messages. Do the conversations reflect or convey the strategic messages of your organization, product, client, or service?
  • Conversion. Why are people choosing to communicate with you? How do these interactions relate to leads, client retention, and media exposure?
  • Other pre-defined qualitative metrics.

Note: Variations of these qualitative measurements may also apply to public conversations as well.

How does the measurement of both private and public conversations translate back to the organization?

Whether you're looking to create brand awareness, generate inquires, or prove the value of your media relations efforts, you need to know how these conversations affect your company, brand, or client — and, of course, the bottomline. And you must be able to speak to these points if you wish to drive credibility of the space.

When preparing measurement data for presentation, try to organize the information in a way that addresses the interests of all prospective audiences. Here are some questions to consider when organizing your data:

  • Who might benefit from reviewing the results?
  • Can they find out what they need to know? For example, should the data be sorted by lines of business and sub-sorted by individual campaigns?
  • Should conversations initiated by your company or client be separated from those started by your key influencers, stakeholders, or other types of audiences? Should they be separated by properties (e.g., Twitter versus your corporate blog)?
  • Will you be able to easily find the conversations taking place online? Similarly, have you documented the conversations that are held privately?
  • How accurately can you report on conversations regarding sponsorships, fundraisers, and other special events or programs?
  • How do public and private conversations contribute to brand exposure, lead generation, client retention, and sales success?

Remember, insightful measurement starts with media planning and monitoring. In the end it takes a holistic approach, one that leverages all of the strengths of the tools you have, to create the clearest picture of your resources.

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™.

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