Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Recent PR Grad's Introduction to PR Measurement

Our journey begins with an email. I've been "freelancing" since I graduated, working with a couple of early stage startups to brand their new companies and position them in the appropriate space in the web where they fit best.

One of m
y clients emails me about a quote/estimate of media relations work for the next few months. Not an absurd request, but it's also something I haven't had to do before. I take my best stab at it and the response is positive but they make a couple notes:
  1. Please break down the individual tasks by month. Be as specific as possible. 
  2. Please make each task measurable.
Dealing with that kind of specificity on a task level made me think: How do PR pros with more experience measure the outcomes of their efforts? How do they present them to clients? A call to my friend who handles this sort of thing for a large sports franchise pointed me in a good general direction for getting started. Granted, media relations for the sports and startup markets is incredibly different, but as my experience lies mostly in social media strategy and copywriting, anything would have helped. 

I knew from osmosis that AVEs were generally shunned by the PR community at-large, but I didn't really understand why, as I'd never had to use them. In fact, I'd never had to measure the results of media campaigns I'd worked on, largely because as a PR intern your responsibilities primarily lie in watching, learning, and gaining basic experience, so I'd written my own pitches, pitched clients, created media lists etc. but that was all from a tactical POV. Measuring the results, especially against business goals, was the job of my managers/bosses. Not that I wasn't interested, but it just wasn't something I needed to know right off the bat. My thinking then was that with time and experience in either an agency or corporate setting, I would learn measurement on the job.

Turns out, that's only half true. I am learning on the job but on my own, not from a mentor or boss. 

So with my new task and a revised quote to send in two days, I've put together this intro to measurement, so we can all catch up with the leaders of our industry. Just a warning, this may get lengthy. Sorry in advance.

What Not To Do

In order for our generation to continue the fight for making our jobs harder, we have to understand where we're coming from. That means knowing what AVEs are and why they're lambasted. I'll keep this section short.

AVE - Ad Value Equivalence (aka Earned media value): This is a "measurement" of unpaid press coverage to it's suspected equivalent in the form of paid advertising. So based on the given cost of an ad (per column inches, clicks, page views, etc.) adjusted with a multiplier for potential viewership, you get a number that is supposed to show what a placement is worth. As Prof. Sean Williams notes in the comments of this post, the four main problems with this are: 

1. It assumes value based on cost. (But didn't cost anything, directly)
2. It assumes that the receiver interprets your message as equal to advertising. (Your message may be worth more, or less depending on the medium, quality of production and of course, connotations of each individual receiver)
3. The math is too often fuzzy (published rates rather than negotiated.) (For instance, you might negotiate a lower price for your ad placement that other's can't get, thus making your AVE worth less automatically)
4. Devalues reputation as it privileges revenue. (A strong reputation can't come from just having good ads. Every part of the customer/vendor/employee experience ties into a company's reputation. Building it happens over many instances of interaction, making it invaluable)

 So with AVEs nixed, what can you use? This is where the fun starts.

What To Do

My friend got me started by telling me a bit about the Barcelona Principles and pointing me to the PRSA blog to learn more. If you'll notice, those links are from June 2010 and March 2011, respectively, so as a student or recent grad, there isn't too much to catch up on. Great, cause I only have two days. I'm not going to re-write the Barcelona Principles because they did it well enough the first time (and you can read) but if you want a simplified version, Jay O'Conner did a great job here.

So first is the reading list:

Caught up? Good! 
Next we'll get into establishing your metrics. I'd say start with this Barcelona Principles checklist. You're going to need: 

  • Microsoft Excel or a Google Spreadsheet
  • Benchmarks or Initial data (if you don't have any that's OK. Since 0 is where you're starting, measuring should be even easier)
  • Data collection service (Google Analytics, Comscore, Compete, Facebook Insights, tracking etc.)
  • Your project's individual objectives. You'll need to rewrite them if they aren't measurable. (luckily I at least knew this part two months ago, when I wrote the campaign strategy)
Since this is for an estimate, I'm going to stop there. Beginning a campaign with the right approach toward measuring is a lot easier than having to go back and figure it out, because you can set everything up on the front end. Metrics should also differ depending on the objective. Great post on metrics for non-profits here, and you can make them applicable to whatever industry you're working in.

If you're freelancing, you can calculate estimated ROI by the cost of your hourly/fixed rate x number of hours you estimate the time will take + press release distribution services, tracking services, etc. This number is first subtracted from the potential value of coverage and then divided by the cost of the investment (total cost of your time + tools). Or something like that. @KDPaine says it better here.

More information on AVEs and their demise, as well as PR's rise to true measurement is sure to come out daily. Check the #measurepr hashtag for updates from leaders in the industry daily, and participate in the discussion (bi-weekly on Tuesdays, 12-1 pm ET).

This all took me about 6 1/2 non-billable hours, but it's certainly worth it. Hopefully I've save you some time in the near future.

Did I leave something out? Let me know in the comments.

No comments: