Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Measuring Tactics vs. Measuring Success

I met with a fellow PR Pro tonight and we got to talking about measurement. As we discussed levels of engagement, number of clicks/views, downloads, comments made, number of e-mails sent, sign-ups for white papers, promotions and other sorts of "lead generating" content, it dawned on me - this is a tactical discussion-we're only talking about the measurement and results related to a specific communications tactic (e.g. a video, white paper, etc.). What are we and our clients doing to actually measure the long term strategic success of communication campaigns? Is quantitative ruling our reporting? And if so, what are we losing/missing by doing that?

Lately, it seems everyone is advocating the use of social media for business intelligence and situational awareness in the B-to-B marketplace. The webinars and events I've attend recently surrounding ROI and measurement seem to focus on the numbers game and less on on the qualitative analysis and looking at the larger picture of how a specific tactic relates back to a larger strategic communication plan that should be focused on furthering a company's business development, reputation and revenue goals. If a PR program doesn't drive or further business - then what's the point?

So how then should we be measuring the larger impact of communication campaigns? Number of views is nice. Number of unique views is better. And number of qualified stakeholder views is key. Traffic does not equal sales or influence. It may equal greater share-of-voice (which looks nice on a chart or in a clip report) or even awareness, but not necessarily influence, thought leadership or let alone sales/revenue. So what should companies be asking of their agencies in terms of measurement? I think it depends upon the companies goals. If counting views makes a company's executive team sleep better at night because their latest product video has gone "viral," then by all means count it a success. But if the on-the-ground marketing team is talking to the same company's clients and they aren't aware or because of firewall restrictions in their offices can't see the 'must view' viral video from this company, it's not as effective as it could be. Content for content's sake is not effective. Making sure your content is seen and appreciated by the right audience is key. So a video going viral with millions of downloads may be a success in the awareness and visibility category - but not in the long term business development goals of your company. 

I think one of the best ways for companies to gauge what is and is not tracking among their key stakeholders is to conduct focus group and mass audience recall surveys at least once a year (quarterly is better; monthly is ideal). This well help address key messaging gaps and provide insight on what types of content (not just advertising) is resonating among key audiences. What are your thoughts on how to shift the conversation from one of measuring individual communication tactics to measuring overall program success?


Alexis Anzalone said...

The great debate! Each client is different and the way agencies present coverage, from traditional print hits to coverage on an emerging podcast, needs to be tailored to how the day-to-day client contact presents the PR program internally.

Visitors per month may work for some while others will want you to report on the resulting comments from a blog post to demonstrate the type of people who are reading and reacting to the news.

Today more than ever, it is important to be transparent about the pitching and media placement process from the start. Show the number of conversations that stemmed from a creative pitch, not just the three placements secured. Evaluate coverage beyond numbers - show that it includes all the important messages your client wants to convey.

PR pros needs to remain flexible in our reporting process, and constantly check in with clients to ensure the reports we provide aren't just going into the file cabinet - but are truly an integral part of how a client evaluates their PR spend.

Elizabeth said...

I am fully on board with measuring success, with the one caveat (don't we marketers always have a caveat) that a company needs to be aligned on what success looks like! If not, the next best thing is to measure tactics and track momentum, growth, decline until true success metrics can be tracked. While one can never completely track causality, one can always use revenue as the ultimate yardstick.