If you’re going to measure, you have to get real and face the music

Ruler with imperial and metric measurementsLately there has been much more of a focus on public relations measurement, which I think is a great step for the industry. My concern with suddenly embracing measurement is that it’s a bit like Othello – takes a minute to learn the basics, but a lifetime to master.

Measurement is tough, and measuring PR requires a great deal of thought. There are many, many factors to consider when deciding what metrics to use and what exactly it is that you want to measure. Sometimes when folks rush into measurement, they only focus on metrics or media sources that they think are going to yield the best results. Why? Because it’s easy to get budget for a measurement project that is going to give you a pat on the back.

Be real and honest with yourself. Do you want to measure your PR programs, campaigns and events? Or do you want to discover new data that will make you look good? They’re not always one and the same.

I will admit that I am guilty of this, too, and it can be easy to seek out measurements that show yourself or your efforts in the best light. But I urge you to understand a few things before you jump into measurement:

  1. You are not going to like all of the results that you find.
  2. Even if you aren’t using every media channel to reach your customers, your customers are probably using them to talk about you.
  3. You should do a trial run first. Get an idea of how much content you will be dealing with and how long it will take you to analyze it.
  4. Be prepared for speed bumps and learning curves. If you have never done a measurement project before, you will make mistakes.
  5. Devote the most amount of time to analysis of data and content. While collecting the right data is important, it should take you much longer to fully understand its implications.

For those of you who have experience with measurement, what are your best tips? I’ve found the most important thing to consider when diving in is to understand that not all the results will be pretty. It’s hard to face the music sometimes, but in order to get a true and complete picture, you must be willing to accept the whole picture. You must take the bad with the good.

In the end, understanding everything will do you more good than only focusing on the praise you already receive.  For those of you that have taken a dip in the measurement pool, what surprising results did you find?

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  • mikeschaffer

    Great tips here, Rebecca!

    I think the #1 thing to keep in mind is the goal(s) of the campaign/client. Certain clients value different PR results, so that should definitely drive your tactics, but especially you're measurement mechanism.

    For example, I have a client that REALLY loves social media, so highlighting blogs and Tweets really makes them happy.

    As far as surprises on measurement, it's the randomness of results. Some stories that I really think have legs go nowhere and others that I predict will be DOA blow up huge. Who knew?

  • Great post, Rebecca!
    I absolutely 100% agree with you that you must take the “good with the bad” when it comes to measurement. Only looking at the positive and focusing on output metrics as opposed to outcomes will only hurt campaigns and ultimately a client relationship. I agree that more time should be devoted to analysis to understand the overall campaign effectiveness and provide counsel to adjust accordingly. Your tips are awesome!

  • You are absolutely right about keeping your goals in mind, and that is something I should include! You need to make sure you're measuring real progress and not just for the sake of measurement.

  • Thank you for your comment! I'm so glad to hear you're a measurement fan as well. 🙂

  • ToKissTheCook

    GREAT article! This reads like a great Friday5…I'd love to look at the content calendar to see if we can have you contribute a similar piece for our weekly global group email.

  • Thanks for posting such a great article, Rebecca 🙂 Being prepared for learning curves is a definite must, because the thought of diving into something like PR measurment, which is so vast in the scope of what it covers, can be fairly overwhelming.

  • I would absolutely LOVE that! 🙂

  • I'm so glad you found me and could come comment! You so right about the learning curve and the overwhelming-ness. It's good to know that going into it so that you can as be prepared as possible.

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  • First off, nice Othello reference :). Well played.

    Second, glad to see measurement being discussed on #prbc. Think there is a lot we can all learn from each other. I agree with Mike that client/campaign communication goals are important to understand and there is no one-size-fits-all measurement strategy.

    In addition, I realized the other day that I've never seen overall business goals (e.g. 2010 business goals) for some of our clients and I think that's a problem. Here's why.

    Part of our job as PR pros should be to help our clients positively impact business goals and be able to show that impact up the leadership chain. If we don't know the overall business goals — you know, the ones the senior executives look at on a dashboard every day — then we're not seeing the whole picture.

    Rebecca, you make a very good point about taking time to analyze the data on the back end after measuring. I think we also need to be taking the time on the front end to research what goals our strategies should be aligned with.


  • I very much agree with you! It is just as important to understand business goals and to measure how your work impacts those goals. And measurement will never be a one-size-fits-all thing, and it's important to know that as well. It takes time to understand how best to measure different programs, and each program should have its own uniquely planned measurement plan.

    Thanks for the great comment!!