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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  • Explaining PR is really a big task and you have made it easier in this post.

  • Anonymous

    as usual, I”m in violent agreement with you. We’ve been advocating an Optimal Content Score for years and one of my biggest victories was last week when we got the official word that one of our largest clients — a very large multi-national B 2B company just decreed that AVEs were no longer to be used by anyone and that the standard metric for the entire corporation was our OCS.

    • Katie – If I am in violent agreement with you, I’ll consider that a win. Thank you for the comment. The sad news is that even though this does involve a little more than “counting,” it probably won’t be executed in large numbers. I think we get tripped up at several different stages of this process, including landing on an appropriate list of metrics to utilize for the index. We’ll get there…but we need to keep beating the drum. Thanks for the comment.

  • Thanks to PRBC for letting me post this. Hopefully your readers get something out of it. We should be embracing more sophisticated measurement approaches, and this is just one method.

  • Great stuff, Chuck, thanks. And really kind of intuitive. I mean that we measure even the simplest of our face-to-face communications with more than one metric, as well. Suppose you walk up to someone and say, “Hello.” Well, you watch the person to see if they smile, what they do with their eyes, what they say in return, and how firm their handshake is. Of course our brains can figure out what all these metrics add up to in a flash. PR and social media measurement is a bit slower, and has less experience. And maybe can’t afford to collect and process as many metrics. But we’re coming along.

    • Hey Bill – Thanks for the comment. I agree. It is kind of intuitive, yet rarely done. We’ll get there, as you’ve noted. Just going to take a continual drum beat. 🙂

  • As you already know, we are giving this approach a try at FHKC. Still in the process of finalizing our index so everyone has a say, but I think the approach is simple and makes a ton of sense. Plus it allows us to play the numbers game with our marketing friends and show we don’t hate math that much.

    The one additional question I was talking about with some folks last night on #pr20chat was: “How do you tell the story of why targeted, niche outreach is better than quantity?” Always interested to see how people answer this one.

    • Thanks, Justin. Good to hear, even though you’re a frenemy. 🙂

      Such an awesome question, and I know one that has a few answers. My comment to that is always reaching out to a niche audience, while maybe a smaller group, or have a smaller footprint, will likely be made up in audience interest. Think about it from a social media perspective. If I reach out to 50 bloggers, and all 50 have a reach roughly double the folks in my niche audience. Those 50 bloggers may have big reach, but when they share something that’s generally out of character to what they normally publish what happens? Very minimal second-hand sharing. What if I took the alternate approach and reached out to 50 niche bloggers all of whom receive anywhere from 10-20 tweets, and 10-20 comments per post. Think about the exponential growth I just achieved by targeting the outreach? It doesn’t take long. It just takes diligence, and hard work. Hopefully that example makes sense.

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  • OUTSTANDING post. Probably the most thorough and comprehensive approach to tackling the metrics question.

    I’m so sick of blog posts that reiterate how hard measurement is and leave it at that, linking to a bunch of other posts that regurgitate the same crud.

    Thanks for this. It has been bookmarked, printed, emailed and wills soon be tweeted.

    • Ryan – wow! Thanks for the comment, and praise. I appreciate it. I agree, but like everything else in this space the nuggets are out there.

  • The problem is that each client values different things. The ad industry has standardized metrics that clients adhere to, why not PR?

    • Todd – Well, I’m not sure we’d want PR measuring the same things as advertising, truthfully. Even though the goals are somewhat similar, the metrics are very different.

      And, honestly, this model works whether your client values impressions, circulation, Web metrics, etc… We’re never going to arrive at a standardized set of metrics because client goals are always different. We can come up with a handful that are generally accepted, but I think we’re going to need to leave it at that. I think that’s enough, actually.

  • (If you have ideas on a metric solution that ALL clients and agencies can stick with, THEN you’ll have my full attention!)

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