Creating Your Measurement Index

Measurement in public relations and social media is one of the most polarizing topics in this space. Guess what? It has been polarizing for longer than you and I have been alive, most likely. Over the last several months, the drumbeat has intensified to come up with a more standardized approach to measuring the impact of our programs. Todd Defren got the ball rolling with his post about PR measurement fails, and using Web metrics as a gauge of success in PR. The truth of the matter is that Web metrics could be one potential gauge of success, but talking about it in a vacuum won’t work. Then a recent #pr20chat discussed a very similar topic, and it didn’t take long for the discussion to go slightly off track. Instead of talking about the process of identifying metrics, we ended up talking a lot about individual metrics. That, my friends, is what we call the measurement rabbit hole. As soon as you start down that path it’s very hard to pull yourself out of it.

By now we should all have the steps toward successful measurement beaten into our heads, but if not….

  1. Benchmark research
  2. Developing measurable goals and objectives
  3. Creating a strategy and tactics
  4. Implementing said strategy and tactics
  5. Measuring results

This should be pretty self-explanatory for most of us but one metric is not an appropriate measure of success. Most often when one metric is used to define success it is impressions, and we know how imprecise that is as a metric. Why is there this over reliance on one metric? Is it just because of our hatred of math (a total cop out by the way)? Are we not spending the time to create a list of metrics using the steps outlined above? Do we not know what metrics we should be using? It is probably a little bit of everything, which is the subject of this post today.

In the comments to Todd’s post, I raised the point of using a series of metrics to create an index score. Before you start freaking out over the use of the word “index,” give me a second to explain what I mean.

I think if we put our minds to it and didn’t cop out about our hatred of math, we could come up with a list of metrics that not only fit our particular campaign but are widely accepted as metrics in the field. This could be anything from impressions (I hate them, but you should know they are used still by many companies and are accepted), sentiment, mention prominence, spokesperson quoted, mention in a target publication, raw number of overall mentions and the presence of key messages in the articles. Those are mostly traditional PR metrics, but I’m sure you could come up with a similar list for social media. These metrics taken individually don’t mean a heck of a lot, but brought together into some sort of score tell a pretty powerful picture.

So how do we go about creating this “index?” The process is actually much easier than you might think…

  1. Come up with a list of metrics – Ideally, you’ll use the process outlined above to arrive at those metrics and not just cherry pick off of what you’ve always done or what you know others are doing. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if you have 5, 7 or 10 metrics. Just come up with the right ones for your campaign’s goals.
  2. Determine which metrics matter most – If you have a list of 10 metrics, you should think about which of those matter most as the ultimate gauge of success. Is it change in sentiment? Is it mention prominence? Whatever it is, you should identify some sort of ranking for those metrics.
  3. Applying a weight – As I said, this isn’t scary math. After you’ve come up with your ranked list of metrics, you should apply a weight to each of them totaling up to 100. So if you have 10 metrics, the weights of those 10 metrics should equal 100. No, you can’t just give each a weight of 10.
  4. Creating the index – Truthfully, this is hard to replicate in a blog post using Excel but if you’re using this post as a template feel free to drop me a line and I can help you setup the spreadsheet. It actually isn’t hard, but I’ll just confuse people trying to explain it. Suffice it to say that you should have three columns for each metric – the metric itself, the index and weighted index. Anyway, drop me a line if you have specific questions on that.
  5. Coming up with the score – At the end of the day if this is done right every “mention” in your database is going to have a score from 0-100. You should figure out the ranges for what you’d categorize as a home run and what you might categorize as a bad hit.

That wasn’t hard, right? You’ve incorporated a series of metrics into a cohesive PR measurement story. You can easily see now how a similar process can be applied to social media, right? This isn’t tough stuff if you build the process up front. Have you ever built anything like this? If so, come and tell us about it so we can all learn.

Chuck Hemann is currently Vice President of Digital Strategy and Analytics for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide’s 360 Digital Influence Group. For the past six years, he has provided strategic counsel to clients on a variety of topics including online reputation, social media, digital analytics, investor relations and crisis communications. Chuck can be found online on Twitter and on his blog.

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