Archive | December, 2008

Announcing Acumentics Research!

19 Dec

Yesterday, I launched my new company, Acumentics Research, a social media and public relations research and measurement consultancy.  The firm will focus on helping clients develop cost-effective research and evaluation programs designed to quantify the results and return on investment of social media and public relations.  ‘Acumentics’ is a hybrid of acumen and analytics.

Acumentics Research offers a range of services from measurement consulting to full measurement program outsourcing.  Acumentics has a flexible model, and can work with organizations to add value in the ways that make the most sense for their current skills, available staff time, budget, and research and measurement expertise.

In primary research, Acumentics will specialize in cost-effective quantitative research designed to support public relations and social media return on investment studies, employee communications, social media and ‘offline’ brand awareness and tracking, consumer attitudes and opinions, media-oriented studies, thought leadership and corporate reputation research.

For a limited time, Acumentics is offering an ROI Roadmap designed to create a customized framework for measuring return on investment, and a free 30-day analysis of social media conversation.

Thanks for your support.  -Don B

Capturing the Total Value of Public Relations

15 Dec

Since public relations is a broad profession and may cover a wide variety of disciplines – media relations, online engagement, crisis communications, public affairs, executive counseling, brand building, events, reputation management, employee communications and financial communications to name a few – it is difficult to conceptualize the totality of value public relations and communication delivers to the organization.  For the most part, public relations measurement has focused on attempts to measure media relations value and is not really addressing the other areas very well.  When you are attempting to quantify the full value and ROI of public relations, taking the broad view paints a much richer picture.

The PR Value Cube is a tops-down conceptual framework for capturing all the ways PR is contributing value to the organization.  PR contributes value in one of three major, interrelated areas (Y-axis):

Marketing – Sales and other marketing oriented programs and metrics (e.g. lead generation) fit within this category.   The vast majority of PR measurement efforts today fall within the Marketing category.

Brand – PR contributes to building brands.  Value contribution in this area is usually more anecdotal than measured.  Experiential PR and many social media campaigns are contributing more to brand than sales or any other area.

Reputation – One of the primary overarching purposes of PR is reputation enhancement and protection, yet our contribution here again is usually measured more by ‘gut metrics’ than analytics.

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Within each major area we can examine value created through Engagement, Influence and Action (X-axis).

Engagement – to what degree has exposure to PR materials, activities and events created Engagement with the intended target audience?  Are they interacting with our content, creating links, forwarding to friends, talking about the brand, etc.

Influence – the degree to which Engagement has influenced perceptions and attitudes.  Likelihood to recommend the brand to a friend and brand consideration changes are two possible examples of Influence.

Action – as a result of the public relations effort, what actions if any has the target taken?  Did they visit the web site, tell a friend, buy the product, vote for our candidate, etc.

The value itself can take one of three forms (Z-axis):

  • Revenue generation
  • Cost Savings (e.g. employee recruiting costs decline due to strong company reputation)
  • Cost Avoidance (e.g. avoiding recruiting costs because employee retention/loyalty has improved)

There is one more important consideration when thinking about the total value delivered by public relations and social media.  That is time.  PR creates value on a transactional, short-term basis (e.g. the value of 10,000 potential customers reading your article in today’s Wall Street Journal) and on a process-oriented, longer-term basis.  Brand and Reputation are both examples of longer-term value.  Both are process-oriented, and build and lose value over time, often measured in years.  The other time dimension value created by PR is what I have referred to previously as the residual value of PR.  That is the value of the created searchable and archived content created by the PR function.  The residual value may take the form of influencing organic search positioning.

That’s a lot of value for one profession!  In 2009, let’s hope CEOs, CMOs and other decision makers increasingly recognize the great value and superior ROI delivered by public relations.

With Primary Research Secondary, PR ROI Efforts Will Remain Elusive

8 Dec

A couple of months ago I was in a meeting with a client and their digital media agency.  The guy from the digital agency made an offhand comment I thought was interesting and hits on a key issue in public relations research and measurement.  He said he had always considered the number of posts a proxy for awareness, and the number of comments a proxy for engagement.  It struck me this notion of measurement by proxy is actually the norm rather than the exception.  Often, PR outputs are used to assess campaign performance rather than trying to determine whether or not the campaign actually touched and moved the targets in the ways we intended.  The continued industry reliance on the use of advertising value equivalents (AVEs) is perhaps the most common misuse of the measurement by proxy notion.  AVEs are an attempt to determine ROI by proxy.

We need more measurement by fact, not by proxy.  We need to move beyond just measuring what the PR result is (a hit, an OTS, a delivered message) to measuring what the PR result actually accomplished – did we reach the intended targets; did they engage with the content; did we cause them to rethink existing perceptions; did we change their attitudes; did we increase the likelihood they would consider the brand?  In order to move toward measurement by fact, a much greater emphasis on primary audience research is necessary.  As an industry, we would be well-served by a higher commitment to primary research.   Research allows us to shift the conversation from measurement by implication (i.e. x% of the coverage contained a key message therefore the campaign was a success) to measurement by fact (e.g. 10% of the target audience saw the PR campaign and 15% of these individuals plan to purchase the product in the next six months).  Rather than using content links or the comments/posts ratio as a proxy for brand engagement, wouldn’t it be better to do primary research designed to measure how engaged and attached online consumers actually are to the brand and why?  Importantly, efforts to determine the ROI of public relations are greatly enabled by primary research.  The better we actually understand whether or not PR has influenced the consumer and what actions, if any, they take as a result, the better we can assess the true ROI of a campaign.

There are three inhibitors to the expanded use of primary research in public relations measurement – education, lack of vendor focus, and perceived high costs.  Many PR practitioners lack the education and training to feel confident they know where and when to use primary research in their measurement efforts.  From a research vendor perspective, there are research silos of media content analysis firms and primary research firms.  While many firms offer both, their focus usually is in one area or the other.  And very few firms are actively attempting to use quantitative research together with content analysis to more holistically measure public relations.  (Echo Research is one company doing work in this area and I am sure there are a few others.)  Yes, primary research is generally more expensive than content analysis.  However I have seen content analysis systems costs in excess of $500K per year – you can do a lot of primary research for a fraction of that.  In 2009 if the PR industry spends about the same amount on primary research as we do in media measurement, we’ll be making great progress toward measurement by fact.

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