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AVEs Don’t Describe the Value of Media Coverage, They Sensationalize It.

26 Jun

Saturday, Wall Street Journal columnist Carl Bialik, The Numbers Guy, addressed the subject of advertising value equivalency (AVE).  This is perhaps the first example of a mainstream media publication shining a light of the controversial practice of AVEs.  (You can read the story here.)

The primary reason advertising value equivalents exist are because they are perceived to be a way to attribute value to programs that would otherwise be difficult to value directly.  They are a path of least resistance approach to return on investment calculations, but not a valid one.  Let’s take a deeper dive into the three specific examples in the WSJ story, ask the tough questions and discuss more valid ways to think about value attribution and ROI.

American Airlines  

You can enjoy both questionable valuation techniques and hyperbole in this article.  American Airlines stands to “make boatloads of cash” and “the airline company could gain as much as $95.9 million of exposure”.  Of really, let’s take a closer look.

The most incredible part of this financial calculation is the financial calculation itself.  The calculation is apparently based on sign placement within the arena and presumably the ‘impressions’ the brand will receive when people attending the venue see the signage and when TV cameras catch the signs when showing the scoreboard or during the action.  This is a very passive form of advertising that should have as its objective either creating top of mind awareness or perhaps creating more brand affinity.  Rather than using an advertising equivalency model that has no validity, a true measurement of the value created by naming rights would ask a series of questions designed to determine the actual, tangible (or even intangible) impact on the business:

  • Revenue: Can incremental revenue generation in the form of higher passenger miles be directly attributed to the exposure created by the naming rights?  Is it possible that incremental revenue would actually be realized on a game by game basis, or would any positive impact be realized over a longer time horizon?  Have new customers been created as a direct result of the exposure generated by the naming rights?
  • Brand: Can the increased exposure lead to people perceiving the brand differently and can the difference translate into higher transactional revenues generated or increased brand loyalty?

So where exactly are the ‘boatloads of cash’ American Airlines made?  Are they hitting the income statement in the form of incremental revenue or enhanced brand loyalty (repeat business)?  Are they residing on the balance sheet in terms of brand goodwill?  Given that American’s parent company AMR lost $11.5B dollars in the first decade of the 21st century, its last profitable year was 2007 and they are projected to lose money in 2011 and 2012, they could use the cash.  Perhaps they could use it to fund a ’bags fly free’ program or for enhancing their Advantage program to create more brand loyalty.  I would strongly suspect American’s shareholders would prefer a do-over on the investments made on naming rights to the ‘boatloads of cash’ they are now enjoying from the investment.

Couple Won’t Cash In on Kiss

15 minutes of fame is rarely worth $10 million.  In this case, the celebrity agent is suggesting the news value of the coverage generated by the kiss is somehow equivalent to advertising value and assigns what appears to be an arbitrary and ridiculously high value to it.  (He later admits he just made the number up.)  Just how was the couple going to monetize their 15 minutes of fame?   Yes, they turned down a few talk show opportunities and perhaps the National Enquirer would have thrown a few dollars their way for an exclusive, but the assertion that any major brand would have paid them to endorse their product is wildly speculative.  I would guess that if you did a survey after the event, a small number of people would remember seeing the coverage, and a very small percentage of the people who did see it would have recalled Scott Jones’ name.  So perhaps Mr. Jones walked away from tens of thousands of potential dollars in the short-term, but nowhere near the sensationalized estimate of $10 million.  15 minutes of fame might be worth 10 thousand dollars, but certainly not $10 million.

Obama Enjoys a Guinness

So Guinness is a winner and received $20 million worth of “free publicity”?  What was the outcome of the publicity?  Again, in order to determine the value of the “free publicity” (this term is despised in the PR industry by the way), Guinness would have to be able to measure incremental revenues directly attributable to the publicity generated.  Did sales of Guinness increase as a result?  Were new customers created?  Did existing customers feel compelled to drink even more?  What was the value of the incremental sales?  These are much more difficult questions to answer but are the correct ones to ask in order to measure the publicity.  Not by focusing on the mythical value of the coverage as measured by flawed advertising equivalency, but measuring the outcome or what happened as a result of the publicity.  The assertion that President’s Obama’s image was softened and will help keep him in the public’s favor is highly dubious thinking.  Perhaps it helps him in Boston, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a Presidential image non-event.

Beginning last Summer in Barcelona,  the public relations industry has come together to publicly state advertising value equivalency is not a valid measure of public relations.  The so-called Barcelona Principles are explicit against AVEs and also call for a focus on measuring outcomes and not (just) outputs.  While it will take some time for the PR industry to totally leave AVEs behind, there is a lot of momentum right now to make this happen sooner rather than later.  No serious measurement effort can use advertising value equivalency to attribute value and be credible.  

Social Media Listening Platforms – Plan, Select, Deploy (Part One – Plan)

19 May

It is not difficult to find a social media listening platform/tool – there are over 100 to choose from.  What is difficult is to find the right tool.  It takes a keen understanding of your scope and requirements.  It takes an evaluation and selection process that will surface the best platform to fully meet your requirements.  And it takes a well thought-out process for deploying the platform across the organization in an effective and efficient manner.   There are many questions to be asked and answers to be given.  Asking the right questions at the right time is crucial.

It is helpful to think of the overall process in three phases:

Plan – Define requirements, stakeholders, scope

Select – Create a platform evaluation process tailored to your unique requirements

Deploy – The selected platform across the organization with training, workflow and other important issues addressed.

This three-part series will tackle each phase one at a time.  First up – Plan.

In many ways, the planning phase is the most important.  Overlook an important detail here and you may or may not be able to overcome it later.  Here are ten topic areas to discuss within your organization to make sure you are setting yourself up for success.

  1. Stakeholders – What are the primary stakeholder groups within my company or organization?  Possible stakeholder groups might include marketing, corporate communications and customer service/care at the macro level.  Depending on the size of your organization, various regions, divisions, groups or product lines may also be distinct stakeholder groups.  Once you have identified the primary stakeholders, set up time to meet with each group.  Understand how they currently use social listening tools and what, from their perspective, are ‘must have’ capabilities versus ‘nice to have’ capabilities in a social listening platform.  Ask each stakeholder group the applicable questions from the list below.
  2. Geographic Scope – What languages and countries are stakeholders interested in including in the platform?  Try to understand the relative priority of each country and language.  Also be sure to comprehend future requirements.  For example, if Chinese is not a priority today but will be within two years, you may want to only consider listening platforms that support two-byte languages.  Also probe to assess if social media content will need to be translated into other languages.  This may be primarily an internal workflow issue or outsourcing issue, but might also be a platform consideration.
  3. Value-added Services – It is very important to develop a point of view on how monitoring, analysis and reporting will be done within your organization.  Will each stakeholder group be responsible for doing this themselves or will a centralized analytics and insights group be responsible?  In addition to the self-serve approach, you could consider outsourcing this work to your social listening platform vendor or to one of your agencies – PR, digital or advertising.  In my experience, it is easy for a company or organization to underestimate both the skill and time commitment necessary to make the self-serve approach effective.
  4. Content/Data Types – Social media listening platform vendors generally include content from the primary social media properties -  Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums, YouTube and MySpace (being generous here).  Flickr is also included in many.  Currently on vendor roadmaps are properties like Linked-In and perhaps customer review sites.  Make sure the content types the platform supports meets your stakeholder requirements.  It is also very important to understand how the social content is being aggregated and how frequently (see Reporting for more on latency issues).  The fundamental ways in which content is aggregated in social listening platforms are crawling the web, RSS feeds and third-party content aggregators (e.g. Boardreader for Forums).  Many platform vendors employ a hybrid approach.
  5. Metrics and Analytics – Most social listening platforms either have a set group of analytics that deliver specific metrics or they offer configurable analytic ‘widgets’ that may be used to create metrics like share of conversation or volume and tone trend.  Some platforms offer a combination of these two approaches.  Based on your needs and measurement strategy/approach, define the analytics and metrics you would ideally like to see (e.g. volume, sentiment, messages, share-of-conversation, association with key topics).  In the vendor selection phase, this list will be useful to compare and contrast vendors.
  6. Keywords and Topics – During the planning phase, it is wise to develop a list of the major keywords and topics you believe will be necessary for the listening platform.  These keywords might include the company name, key competitors, industry issues, market segment names,  brand names, product names, key spokespersons, executives and competitor and industry spokespersons.  Social media listening platforms have varying degrees of sophistication with respect to their search capability.  Some have full Boolean logic, others offer very simple AND/OR logic.  The importance of this difference depends to some degree on you company/brand name as well as the sophistication of the people who will be configuring and maintaining your system.  If, for example, your company name is a common word (e.g. Apple, Visa), you will need stronger logic capabilities that include proximity search.
  7. Integration – Integration of varying data types – search, web, social, advertising, customer opinion and others – is the present and future of online measurement.  It is therefore important to understand what capabilities, if any, the social listening platform vendor has to integrate with other data types/streams.  Do they offer the ability to connect with web analytics packages via API for example?  The web/social integration is becoming increasingly common.  If you need to integrate traditional media with social, it might be a nice feature if the social listening platform allows third-party content aggregators like Factiva, Lexis Nexis, VMS or Critical Mention.
  8. Reporting – During the planning phase it is helpful to think through a series of questions about reports and reporting.  What type of reports are necessary?  Who will be responsible for their creation?  How often will reports be issued?  Does the system need the capability to automatically generate and deliver reports?  What about automated alerts?  There are quite a wide range of report capabilities represented by the various vendors in the listening space.  One potentially critical area to explore during the vendor evaluation phase is related to report frequency and perhaps to report type (think crisis).  That is how often new content is brought into the system.  Content latency issues may cause real problems during a fast-moving crisis.  Generally, the content latency differs by media type.  Best for Twitter and worst (perhaps) for forums, some of which restrict crawling to no more than once per day.  Within Twitter, the type of relationship the vendor has with Twitter should also be explored.  Not all Firehose arrangements are the same.  While most social media listening platforms claim to be ‘real time’, it is interesting to ask the vendors to define what they mean by ‘real time’.  The answers may surprise you.
  9. Access – Discuss who needs access to the listening platform and what they want to see and be able to do once they are in the system.  Do your different stakeholder groups (Divisions, product lines, brands, corporate, marketing, etc.) want or need a customized view of the data perhaps presented on a separate dashboard within the system?  It is also a good idea to have a perspective on who your power users will be versus the casual users.  This distinction applies not only to system access, but also in areas like training.
  10. Engagement – Some social media listening platforms support engagement with content owners directly from the platform, others do not.  Some engagement capabilities are elegant, others are rudimentary.  Make sure to explore the engagement needs of your stakeholders and understand how important this capability is to them in the short and long-term.  If engagement capabilities are important, you will also want to explore if the system allows users to tag content, assign content, manage assignments and track workflow.

In Part Two, we’ll examine a rigorous process for social media listening platform vendor evaluation and selection.

AVEs are a Disease – Here’s a Little Vaccine

16 Apr

One of the truly insidious aspects of public relations measurement is the use of advertising value equivalency (AVEs) or media value to assign financial value to public relations outputs.  It is a highly flawed, path-of-least-resistance attempt to calculate return on investment (ROI) for public relations.   To make matters worse, the practice has clearly moved into social media measurement as well.  For example, research studies that attempt to monetize the value of a Facebook Fan/Liker by attributing a CPM value from the advertising world.  Online media impact rankings also utilize equivalent paid advertising costs to assign monetary value to online news and social media.  AVE is like a disease that has infected and spread throughout the public relations industry.

In June of 2010, the PR industry came together in Barcelona to draft the Barcelona Principles, a set of seven principles of good measurement intended to provide guideposts for the industry.  The principle that has generated the most conversation is this one:

Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) is Not the Value of Public Relations

 While many of the Measurati have been preaching against AVEs for years, there now appears to be a critical mass of outrage that may kill the practice in the coming years.  Here are four compelling reasons why I believe we must make this happen – the sooner the better.

1. AVEs Do Not  Measure Outcomes

AVEs equate an article with the appearance cost of an advertisement.  It does not speak at all to the results or impact that the article may have on a reader.  Advertisers do not judge the success of advertising on how much the insertions cost.  Imagine an advertising manager being asked by his or her boss, “How are we doing in advertising this year?”, and them replying, “Great!  We have spent $500,000 so far!  The true value of public relations or social media is not the appearance cost, but what happened as a result of the PR or social media effort – the impact it has on brand, reputation and marketing.  You will note the Barcelona Principles also call for a focus on measuring outcomes and not (just) outputs.  What happened as a result of media coverage is inherently more interesting and valuable than how much coverage was obtained.

2. AVEs Reduce Public Relations to Media Relations

You are, or become, what you measure.  AVEs do not address the impact or value of several important aspects of public relations including strategic counsel, crisis communications, grassroots efforts, viral campaigns or public affairs.  In other words, AVEs reduce PR to just the media dimension by only assigning a value in this area.  If only AVEs are used to assess PR value, the results will understate the totality of value delivered by PR.  AVEs also cannot measure the value of keeping a client with potentially negative news out of the media, yet that may be the primary objective of the PR practitioner.

3. AVEs Fly in the Face of Integrated Measurement                

Good marketing, branding and reputation campaigns have always been integrated to varying degrees.  The digitization of our lives has accelerated integration.

Advertising and PR actually work together synergistically, yet AVEs treat them as cost alternatives.  Studies have shown ads that run in a climate of positive publicity actually receive lift from the PR.  Conversely, ads run in an environment of negative publicity will likely not be successful and/or may be perceived negatively by consumers.  We have seen exposure to brand advertising increases conversion rates in social channels. Integrated campaigns and programs require integrated measurement.  AVEs don’t play well in this world.  They are analog and segregated in a digital and integrated world.

4. AVEs Provide No Diagnostic Value

Too much measurement energy is focused on score-keeping and not diagnostics.  This is one reason why single-number metrics like the Klout score and others have great appeal to many.  However, measurement is fundamentally about assessing performance against objectives with sufficient detail and granularity to determine what is working and what is not.  AVEs fail miserably in this regard.  AVE results can actually be misleading and result in false positives.  AVEs may be trending up while important metrics like message communication, share of favorable positioning and share of voice are falling.  Unfortunately, AVEs provide neither a valid single-number score nor any diagnostic value.

Some have said the Barcelona Principles are the ‘end of AVEs’.  I would agree directionally with that statement with one minor addition, Barcelona was the ‘beginning of the end of AVEs’.  Awareness of the practice and recognition of its flaws are at an all-time high in our industry.  More education and evangelism are required.  Understanding concepts like impact, tangible value, intangible value and (true) return on investment help foster much more sophisticated conversation about the total value delivered by public relations and social media.  AVEs are a disease, education and knowledge are the vaccine.  AVEs won’t die easily.  The momentum generated by the Barcelona event has provided focus and intent.  It is up to all of us to make AVEs a thing of the past.

Don’t Let the Tool Tail Wag the Measurement Dog

19 Jul

Social media listening and measurement tools are sexy.  Well, at least to those of us in research and measurement – it’s all relative right?  In the last three years or so there has been an explosion of social media tool vendors and platform choices.  Tools are sexy and important, but in the grand scheme of things are being overemphasized to some degree.  We are letting tools decide what we can measure without giving sufficient thought to what we should measure.  We are letting the tool tail wag the measurement dog.

There are several steps and decisions that should be addressed prior to selecting a tool or suite of tools.  Consider this diagram as a starting point to help you think through these interim considerations and decisions:

OBJECTIVES

Proper social media objectives should be measurable (indicate change in metric of interest and timeframe) and aligned with desired organizational outcomes.  Understanding the social media objectives will suggest broad parameters the measurement program, and ultimately the tool decision, must operate within.  For example, geographic coverage requirements, type of content to be considered and on-platform engagement capability may all be strongly suggested based on a review of social media objectives.

PROCESS

In addition to comprehending organizational or business outcomes, it is essential to understand the business process the social media program will address or drive.  If the program is marketing oriented, the sales funnel process (Awareness/Consideration/Preference/Sales/Loyalty) may be most appropriate.  For a brand-building campaign, the brand pyramid (Presence/Relevance/Performance/Advantage/Bonding) is what you want to measure your program impact against.  Other business processes that are commonly addressed by social media programs include customer service and support, CRM, corporate reputation and lead generation.

METRICS

Understanding the requisite business process the social media program is driving is crucial because each business process drives specific metrics.  For example, the sales funnel drives a specific metrics set:  percentage of unaided or aided awareness; percentage of the target audience who would consider the product/company; percentage who prefer the product/company; incremental sales revenues; percentage who would purchase the product again number or the number/amount of repeat purchases.  For B2B companies, the lead generation process would drive a different set of metrics: number of incoming leads; percentage/number of qualified leads; lead conversion rate; sales revenues generated.  In addition to the business process metric sets, there are other metrics areas like Exposure and Engagement we will want to address.  Reach/opportunities to see, share of positive discussion, comments/post ratio, number of @ mentions and RTs per 1000 followers are examples of ‘standard’ metrics that might be applicable for many social media programs.

Understanding how the social media program drives a specific business process is also important to our ability to describe the impact or, in some cases, return on investment the program has created.

DATA SETS

Each metric has data requirements, usually two pieces of data per metric – a numerator and a denominator.  Examine the set of metrics you have defined for your social media program.  Catalog all the specific pieces of data you need to compute the various metrics.  For example, the data needed to compute the basic sales funnel metrics and some ‘standard’ metrics might include:

  • Number of individuals in the target audience
  • Number of survey respondents
  • Number of respondents ‘aware’ of the product/company
  • Number of respondents who would consider/seriously consider purchasing the product/doing business with the company
  • Number of respondents purchasing the product
  • Amount of sales revenue directly attributable to the program
  • Number of purchasers who purchased again
  • Total branded mentions
  • Volume of positive and negative mentions
  • Number of posts
  • Number of comments
  • Number of RTs and @ mentions
  • Number of followers

TOOLS

Armed with an understanding of all the data needed to calculate the metrics required to measure the social media program, you will be able to assess which tools or classes of tools best deliver the data you need.  Pick the best three to five tools for further evaluation.  You most likely will find no one tool can deliver the complete data set you need.  It is common to need two or more tools, e.g. web analytics package and social content analysis platform, in order to fully meet data requirements.  Budgetary constraints may also limit your ability to capture the entire data set required.

By addressing the interim steps leading up to tool selection, you will be able to make a more informed tool decision.  You also will have a much better chance of measuring what you should measure rather than settling for what you can measure.  No tool before its time.  Let the big dogs run.

Will Barcelona Measurement Debate Shake Up the Industry?

26 May

In mid-June, the Second European Summit on Measurement will be held in Barcelona.  The Summit is jointly organized by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) and the Institute for Public Relations.  The highlight of the conference will be a debate to “articulate and agree on standard metrics and measurement techniques…” according to a press release issued last week.

David Rockland, head of research for Ketchum, will lead the session.  Mr. Rockland has a lofty vision and high hopes for the debate, “We regard this as the industry’s ‘Commitment Conference’.  This is a very powerful moment in time in the history of public relations.  Until now, public relations has been undervalued due to its inability to measure itself.  The goal of this summit is to establish consistency in order to increase credibility.”

The three-day conference is expected to be attended by about 150 people, including many measurement thought leaders.  It should be interesting to see what comes out of this event.  Will it serve as a wake-up call to the industry?  Time will tell.  I’ll post some thoughts once the summit concludes.

Keeping it real…and transparent

  • I am a member of the Institute for Public Relations, Commission on Public Relations Measurement & Evaluation
  • My agency, Fleishman Hillard, has agreed to join AMEC (pending paperwork)
  • Ketchum is a sister Omnicom agency

The Digitization of Research and Measurement

12 May

This post first appeared as an agency guest post on Jason Fall’s Social Media Explorer blog.  You can see it here.


The field of public relations has undergone two major revolutions in the past 15 years or so.  The advent of the Internet represents the first revolution.  This revolution primarily impacted the way content was created, distributed and consumed.  It also fundamentally changed the nature of communication – remember email became the first killer app of the Internet revolution.  The second revolution is social networks.  Again content creation was impacted, led by consumer generated content in multiple forms.  Perhaps more importantly, peer-to-peer communication between consumers, and two-way communication between consumers and brands/companies, have been enabled and are having a profound impact on the way companies are organized and behave.  The worlds of marketing and public relations have made an analog to digital conversion.  And with it, we are in the midst of the digitization research and measurement.

New Models, New Metrics

Communication models are a linear representation of how a communication process works and are important in providing a framework for evaluation and measurement.   The Outputs – Outtakes – Outcomes communication model often used in public relations today has two primary deficiencies in the era of digitization and social networks – clarity and relevance. 

  • Clarity: The model is difficult for many to understand and apply.  Public relations practitioners regularly get Outputs confused with Outtakes or Outcomes.  Outtakes are not often used in the U.S. – they seem much more prevalent in Europe.  The overall taxonomy can be confusing and is defined in different ways by different practitioners or organizations.  Further compounding the confusion is the fact audiences we present our results to rarely understand the terms and have trouble relating to them.  In short, the terms are too much ‘inside baseball’.
  • Relevance: The model was developed when communication was media-centric.  Digitization, consumer-generated content and social networks have shifted communication from a media-centric world to a content-centric world.  How receivers of communication engage and are influenced by content has fundamentally changed.

What is needed is a metrics taxonomy that is easier to explain, understand and apply.  Ideally one that is applicable for traditional and social media.  Here is the model we apply at Fleishman Hillard.

With the new model comes new metrics primarily driven by social media/networks.  Exposure  includes traditional metrics like Impressions and Message Delivery, and digital metrics like Search Rank, Twitter Reach and Average Daily Visitors.  Engagement includes traditional metrics like Readership, but adds new metrics like Subscriptions, Repeat Visitors and Follower Mention %.  Influence in the model refers to influence of the target audience, not who has influence in social networks.  Influence metrics range from increases in Brand Consideration to changes in attitudes and opinions to changes in online click behavior.  Action metrics can range from event attendance to voting for/against legislation to buying a product.

New Data, New Places

Public relations research and measurement has historically been driven by content analysis.  As content increasingly became available in digital form, the techniques of research and measurement didn’t change so much as the way content was aggregated and delivered for analysis.  Then web-based platforms became available from a variety of vendors to digitize and automate content analysis while the metrics being measured – article counts, impressions, message uptake and sentiment for example – basically remained constant with previous, more manual, methods.  Today, the digitization of research and measurement has broadened from this predominately singular focus to include data and interactions from three distinct regions or zones of research and measurement as shown in the figure below.

As company websites, e-Commerce sites and other forms of ‘owned’ media proliferated, web analytics software provided an explosion of data and new metrics like unique visitors, page views, click through rates, duration, referring sites and conversions become widely used and reported.  We became over-served with data and underserved with insight.

The exponential rise in popularity of social networks in the last five years raised the bar again and presented new challenges in digital research and measurement.  Now we were faced with measuring conversations and not just clicks.  Measuring engagement became more important than measuring eyeballs.  The frontier in social media measurement is evolving toward measuring both the conversations and behavior patterns occurring within social networks, and understanding and connecting the underlying influences and motivations for the online behavior.

The third area of interest is in all the real-world, offline interactions and transactions. Scan and other digital sales data is important to understanding, tracking and connecting online and offline behavior and actions.   Connecting mobile transactions, online and offline behavior and WOM is a significant challenge.

Although we have attempted to define three distinct ‘zones’ of digital research and measurement necessary to address the full spectrum of social media and marketing impact, a robust measurement strategy should take a holistic, integrated approach using methodologies, tools, data and metrics from all three zones.  The goal is to be able to track the behavior, interactions and transactions of individuals across all three zones, across multiple platforms and physical locations, understanding how online behavior impacts offline behavior and vice-versa.

New Scope, New Integration

Today at Fleishman Hillard, we recognize the very definition of public relations is rapidly evolving to encompass a much broader and more integrated view of communications and how we connect, engage and build relationships with consumers and other stakeholders on behalf of our clients.  Digitization in all its forms has driven and accelerated this important change.  While public relations has traditionally been oriented toward ‘earned media’ – gaining placements of client stories in print and broadcast media based on the strength of the story and quality of the pitch – today’s content-driven world demands much more.  The scope now must include all the consumer touch points available in our increasingly digital world.  We capture this new scope and integration in a model we refer to as PESO – Paid/Earned/Shared/Owned.  Our PESO model predates the similar Forrester model (Paid/Earned/Owned) and is different in an important way.  We created two categories, Earned and Shared, where the other model has one – Earned.  We believe this better comprehends strategies like blogger outreach and other proactive efforts undertaken by practitioners as ’Earned’,  distinct from efforts that may be passive or reactive.  Here is how we define the elements of our model:

Paid – refers to all forms of paid content that exists on third-party channels or venues.  This includes banner or display advertisements, pay-per-click programs, sponsorships and advertorials.

Earned – includes traditional media outreach as well as blogger relations/outreach where we attempt to influence and encourage third-party content providers to write about our clients and their products and services.

Shared – refers to social networks and technologies controlled by consumers along with online and offline WOM

Owned – includes all websites and web properties controlled by a company or brand including company or product websites, micro-sites, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter channels.

The enhanced scope and integration represented by the PESO model drives a corresponding broadening and need for integration in digital research and measurement.  One can easily find themselves attempting to measure a highly integrated program that includes the awareness created with paid media, the relevance and information delivered via owned, the credibility delivered by earned media and measuring the conversations and interactions occurring in shared media.  Just from a metrics perspective, the PESO model requires a significant broadening in thinking as shown in the matrix below.

Digitization has changed what we need to research and measure, where we find data and how we perform analysis.  The future will bring more data, better tools and improved methodologies.  Sifting insights from the mounds of data will remain a major challenge.  The intersection of marketing, privacy concerns and research must be navigated.  The constant in all the change brought by digitization is who – human analysts and research.  Discovery and insight, like it was 15 years ago, remains fundamentally a human process.  It remains the analog constant in a world of digitization.

Measure the Puzzle Not the Pieces

1 May

A while back, I remember someone posting a question to a Linked-In discussion group along the lines of, ‘I just got my client a hit in USA Today.  How much is that worth?’.   More recently, ADWEEK ran an article entitled, Value of a Fan on Facebook: $3.60, citing an attempt by Vitrue to essentially assign a media value to a Facebook Fan.  (Sidebar: Is a Liker worth as much as a Fan?).  Setting aside an argument of the value attribution methodology used by Vitrue (I’m not a fan, or a liker), the fundamental issue I have with each example is the same, they are trying to measure the pieces and not the puzzle.

A media hit, a tweet, gaining a Fan/Liker, or obtaining a Follower are all pieces to a larger puzzle called a social media/business campaign, initiative, effort or program.   For simplicity, let’s refer to them as programs henceforth.  Programs have, or should have, objectives.  Done correctly, these objectives are measurable.  Good measurement practice suggests you assess performance against stated objectives.  Sure, it is also important to assess performance of program strategies and tactics – primarily as a diagnostic – but ultimately we must measure performance against objectives.  This is a base condition for accountability.

Gaining media coverage, sending tweets or getting others to tweet about you, creating Likers or gaining Followers should be thought of as strategies or perhaps tactics.  Objectives are what you want to happen as a result of the combination of strategies and tactics.  Programs are not made of single media hits, tweets, Likers or Followers.  They are longitudinal, holistic and integrated.  Successful programs might generate hundreds of media hits, scores of blog posts, and thousands of Likers or Followers.  Orchestrated correctly, all these strategies and tactics should help us achieve our overall program objectives.  The reality of the situation is any one discrete result of a campaign – a hit, Liker or Follower for example – usually has a very small overall impact.  The impact most likely would not be measurable, and if it was, it would not likely be meaningful.  They are just pieces of the overall program puzzle.

Let’s conclude with a simplistic Facebook program example.  Your tactic is to gain more Likers that meet a certain demographic profile.  Your strategies are to create an engaged brand community in Facebook, and to encourage online and offline WOM about the brand.  Your objective is to increase brand preference from 17% to 21% in the next 12 months.  Measure this objective, and if you want to do value attribution and calculate ROI, figure out how much each 1% increase in brand preference is worth in incremental sales.  That’s a puzzle worth solving.

Photo From liza31337

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