Tag Archives: PR Metrics

Measurement 2020 and Other Fantasies

23 Sep

At the 3rd European Summit on Measurement held in Lisbon in June 2011, standardization, education, ROI and measurement ubiquity emerged as the key themes in response to a call to set the Measurement Agenda 2020.  Delegates to the conference voted on 12 priorities they thought were most important to focus on in the period leading up to 2020.  The top four vote-getters became the Measurement Agenda 2020:

  1. How to measure the return on investment of public relations (89%)
  2. Create and adopt global standards for social media measurement (83%)
  3. Measurement of PR campaigns and programs needs to become an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit (73%)
  4. Institute a client education program such that clients insist on measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results from PR programs (61%)

For a very nice overview of the Lisbon session and the Barcelona Principles that came before, read this post from Dr. David Rockland of Ketchum who chaired the Barcelona and Lisbon sessions.  David pretty much said it all on these sessions, so I’ll just add a couple of comments and share a few thoughts on what I believe the future of measurement 2020 could be.

The rallying cry coming out of Barcelona has been focused and loud – death to AVEs!  Will there be a similar thematic coming out of Lisbon and what might it be?  My money is on standardization, borne out of cross-industry cooperation.  As David points out in his post, and in the words of AMEC Chairman Mike Daniels, “The Summit identified some significant challenges for the PR profession to address by 2020.  However, what we also accomplished in Lisbon beyond setting the priorities was to harness the commitment and energy of the industry to agree what we need to do together.”  The current cooperation and collaboration between industry groups – AMEC, Institute for Public Relations, PRSA and the Council of PR Firms is unprecedented in my time in this industry and is focused on tangible outcomes.  Cross-organization committees are already at work developing standard metrics for social media measurement for example.  The spirit of cooperation is uplifting.  While the outward thematic appears to be standardization, cooperation is the enabling force.  

I was also struck by the symmetry of the call to end AVEs in Barcelona and the call to codify ways to measure ROI in Lisbon.  One follows the other.  In my opinion the primary reason AVEs exist is because PR practitioners feel pressure to prove the value of what they do, and quite often they are asked to describe the impact in financial terms.  AVEs are perceived as a path of least resistance way to express financial value.  Except, as we all know, AVEs don’t really have anything to do with the impact public relations creates.  They are a misguided proxy for financial value.  Hence the need for research-based methods to determine true return on investment.

All of the priorities coming out of Lisbon are excellent goals for the industry.  And like David Rockland, I believe they will be achieved, and be achieved before 2020.  Here are three other items on my wish list for Measurement 2020:

Word of Mouth/Word of Mouse Integration: For those of us focused in social media and other digital technologies, we can’t allow our digital lens to color what is fundamentally an analog world.  Research studies suggest the majority of word of mouth happens in real life.  From an influence perspective, I don’t think too many would argue that word of mouth from a trusted friend or family member is more powerful than word of mouse from someone you follow on Twitter.  Digital cross-platform research is difficult enough, but when one huge platform is ‘real life’, we have significant challenges in measurement.  WOMMA and others have made early attempts to define measurement approaches for offline WOM, but much work remains.  We need ways to assess its impact and then we need to think about ways to attribute value to that impact.  Mobile is a wild card here as it becomes the preferred platform for online activity.  The need to triangulate online, mobile and ‘real life’ measurement presents significant challenges today, and may still by 2020.

Cookie Wars: We all know the measurement versus privacy showdown is coming, right?  The first shots have already been fired.  The collection of source-level personal data, enabled by cookies, is crucial to measurement and insights but has the potential for misuse or unintended disclosure.  Some sophisticated consumers have had their fill of cookies.  Although the broader issue might be framed as social sharing versus privacy control, how it plays out will have a direct impact on digital analytics and measurement.

Integrated Measurement across the Paid Earned Shared Owned (PESO) Spectrum: Measurement has increasingly become integrated.  It began with integrated traditional (Earned) and social media (Shared) measurement and then progressed rapidly to Earned, Owned and Shared, which is where most integrated measurement programs are today.  Many leading-edge integrated programs today also include advertising or Paid media.  By 2020, integrated measurement across the PESO spectrum will most likely be the norm and not the exception.  A key enabling element here in my view is some base level of agreement on how each area should be measured and standard metrics for each.  It will take significant cooperation between industry groups, vendors, agencies and major customers/clients for cross-discipline standardization to move forward effectively.  We are at the beginning of this movement in 2011.  By 2020, it will be fascinating to look back and see how all this plays out.

When looking ahead to 2020, I am reminded of a measurement discussion pulled together by PRWeek a couple of years ago.  Many of the Measurati attended.  In response to a question of where measurement will be in five years, David Rockland replied (paraphrasing here), ‘Who knows?  Five years ago who would have guessed we would all be focused on how to measure social media?’  So, there is a certain fantasy element to discussing 2020 challenges in measurement.  What are your measurement fantasies?

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.

Public Relations Measurement 2010: Five Things to Forget & Five Things to Learn

29 Jul

(This post is a re-purposing of a speech I gave to the FPRA/PRSA-Orlando on July 23, 2009.  You can download the slides here.)

Public relations measurement is at a crossroads.  Old techniques are no longer sufficient.  Old metrics are no longer applicable.  Old thinking must be replaced by new.  The need for accountability, and to prove the value of PR and social media programs, has never been greater.

As we look to the next year, here are five things to forget and five things to learn about public relations measurement in 2010.

Things to Forget in 2010

1. Media Relations Focus

A focus on media relations fails to capture several important aspects of PR – brand, reputation, crisis, employee communication and DTC to name a few.  Also, the importance of traditional media is declining.  Numerous studies have shown people don’t trust what they read in the media, they trust each other.  I believe it was Hauser and Katz who coined the term ‘you are what you measure’ in 1998.  If measurement is focused on media relations that is how the public relations function will be judged.

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2. Outputs

The need to put PR results in a business context has never been greater.  We need to be able to address the question – what are we doing to help drive the business?  If you are focused on output metrics like impressions or message delivery, you will always have a hard time explaining business impact.  Instead, we need to focus on outcomes and answer the question – what happened as a result of our program or coverage?  Understanding outputs has primary benefit as a diagnostic tool rather than a ‘scorecard’.

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3. Impressions (and Multipliers!)

The most common PR metric today is Impressions.  While it is a somewhat dubious metric for traditional media, it really loses meaning in social media where engagement not eyeballs is what we seek.  Impressions also (greatly) overstate actual relevant audience.  Generally only a fraction of any particular magazine or newspaper’s circulation meets your target audience demographics.  And impressions merely represent an opportunity to see, they do not attempt to estimate the (small) percentage of the potential audience that actually saw your content.  To compound the problems, many PR practitioners use a multiplier on impression numbers to account for pass-along readership or a mythical credibility advantage PR has over other communication tools.  The simple fact is there is no factual basis (e.g. research proof) that multipliers should be used in any case.

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4. Ad Equivalency (AVEs)
There are many reasons why using ad equivalency as a proxy for PR value is not advisable.  Here are five good reasons they should be avoided:

  • AVE calculations vary and there are no standards.  Tonality, article length, competitive mentions and other factors are handled differently.
  • AVE results can be misleading.  AVEs may be trending up while metrics like message communication, share of favorable positioning and share of positive press are falling.
  • AVEs reduce PR to just the media dimension by only assigning a value in this area.
  • AVEs only apply to traditional media.  What is the AVE of a positive conversation about your company on a leading blog?
  • How much is it worth for a troubled company to not appear in the Wall Street Journal?  AVEs cannot address this.

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5. Return on (Engagement/Influence/etc.)
Not a day goes by on Twitter without someone declaring a new and improved metric for the acronym ROI, or stating that ROI does not apply in social networks.  Wrong and wrong.  Most of these folks either don’t understand ROI or don’t know how to obtain the data necessary to calculate it.   There is also a lot of confusion between creating value and ROI.  Generating awareness creates value, for example, but may not immediately result in demonstrable ROI.

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Things to Learn in 2010

1. Total Value of PR

Microsoft PowerPoint

The majority of current PR measurement efforts focus on marketing/sales and output metrics.  The Total Value Cube is a way to visualize and think about all the potential value your PR and social media efforts deliver.  Beyond marketing to include brand and reputation, beyond outputs to include engagement, influence and action, and beyond revenue generation to include cost savings and cost avoidance.

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2. A New Model for Measurement
Many public relations practitioners regularly get their Outputs confused with their Outtakes or Outcomes.  Outtakes is not often used in the U.S. – it seems much more prevalent in Europe.  The overall terminology is confusing and is defined in different ways by different practitioners.  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’.

What we need is a metrics taxonomy that is easier to understand and explain.  I like this one.

Social Media Model.pptx

Exposure – to what degree have we created exposure to content and message?

Engagement – who, how and where are people interacting/engaging with our content?

Influence – the degree to which exposure and engagement have influenced perceptions and attitudes

Action – as a result of the PR/social media effort, what actions if any has the target taken?”

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3. Three Zones of Measurement

PRSA.FPRA.07.23.ppt-3

From the left, companies or brands control, own or manage websites  – corporate sites, FaceBook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn pages and blogs by way of example – and create content that consumers may engage with.  This zone is measured primarily by web analytics.  In the middle are the actual social networks and conversations between individuals.   In this zone we are interested in data sets that cannot be gathered solely using web analytics packages.  How often is the brand being mentioned in conversation?  What is the sentiment of the comments?  How often is the brand being recommended and by whom?  Content and behavior analysis, including tracking technologies, are the primary measurement tools in this zone.  The third zone represents all the real-world, offline transactions that may be of interest.  Did someone visit the store or attend or event?  Did they buy a product?  Did they recommend the brand or product to a friend over coffee?  Primary audience research is necessary to address many of the questions, as well as scan or other purchase data in some cases.

Your measurement strategy should be to take a holistic, integrated approach using methodologies, tools and data from all three zones.  The Holy Grail in many ways is to be able to track behavior of individuals across all three zones, cross-platform, understanding how online behavior impacts offline behavior and vice-versa.

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4. New Metrics

PRSA.FPRA.07.23.ppt-2

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5. The Difference Between Impact/Value and ROI
ROI is a form of value/impact, but not all value takes form of ROI.  ROI is a financial metric – percentage of dollars returned for a given investment/cost.  The dollars may be revenue generated, dollars saved or spending avoided.  ROI is transactional.  ROI lives on the income statement in business terms.

Value is created when people become aware of us, engage with our content or brand ambassadors, are influenced by this engagement, and take some action like recommending to a friend or buying our product.  Value creation occurs over time, not at a point in time.  Value creation is process-oriented.  Value lives on the balance sheet.

Your investments in social media or public relations remain an investment, creating additional value if done correctly, until which time they can be linked to a business outcome transaction that results in ROI.

Inflationary Twitter Audience Numbers Hurt Social Media Credibility

6 Jul

In yesterday’s New York Times, you may have read the article, Spinning the Web: P.R. in Silicon Valley, an interesting although not overly insightful piece.  From a social media measurement perspective, two items caught my eye.  The first, referring to Brian Solis, Principal of FutureWorks, about how he calculates social media audience figures:

“Instead of calculating the impressions an article gets by estimating a publication’s circulation and pass-along rate, Mr. Solis counts the number of people who tweeted about a company and their combined following, the number of retweets or clicks on links, as well as traffic from Facebook and other social networks.”

Toward the end of the article, we learn:

“By 6:30 p.m. on the day Wordnik went live, Brew’s staff calculated that 1.43 million people had seen tweets about it.”

Setting aside for a moment that the article and these sorts of audience metrics take a broadcast-oriented view of Twitter (Mr. Solis discusses the shortcomings of the NYT viewpoint here), the emerging view of audience measures for Twitter is to calculate the Followers of each person tweeting about the subject of interest, and then adding Follower numbers for each person retweeting the subject and so on.  The issue here, much as it is in traditional public relations, is that the audience figure that results from these sorts of calculations grossly overstates, by one or two orders of magnitude or more, the actual “audience” for these tweets.  It is a hypothetical number that assumes everyone that possibly could see a tweet has in fact seen it, and everyone who sees it is relevant to you/your brand.  This is fantasy of course.421922_p~3d-Cinema-Audience-Posters-763348

On the issue of relevant audience, here is a quick example.  At the time I pulled these figures, the audited circulation of the New York Times was 4,974,000.  Most PR practitioners getting a ‘hit’ in the NYT would claim this as their audience.  However:

  • If you were only trying to reach a C-Suite audience with your message, the actual audience reached would be 598,000 or 12% of the total circulation
  • If you were trying to reach Women, your audience would be 1,937,000 or 39% of the total
  • If you were trying to reach 25 – 54 year old Men, your potential audience would have been 2,930,000, or 59% of the total number.

There is a large difference between how many people theoretically can see a tweet, versus how many actually saw it/read it, versus how many of those seeing the tweet find it relevant to them, versus how many engaged with it by hitting a link or retweeting.  Part of my issue with this is the language we use to report the figures.  For the Brew staff to use these numbers to estimate 1.43 million people “had seen tweets about it” is wrong.  If they had said 1.43 million people had an opportunity to see the tweet, it would have been more realistic, although still greatly overstating actual relevant audience.

This problem of audience inflation has already been institutionalized in public relations.  The use of Impressions as an output metric does not mean a true impression in the branding sense, but rather an opportunity to see the content.  To make matters worse, many PR practitioners believe Impressions should be factored by either dubious pass-along readership figures and/or use of a multiplier to account for the mythical credibility advantage PR enjoys over impressions generated from advertising.  The simple fact is there is no research-supported, fact-based argument for using any adder or multiplier in public relations when calculating potential audience (here’s an IPR white paper on this subject I co-authored).

For Twitter and other social networks we lack demographics and data about tweet readership averages (i.e. what is the probability that any one tweet is actually read) that would allow for more precise audience estimates.  In the absence of data, believable assumptions should be used:

  • Out of all the opportunities to see, how many actually read the tweet?  10%?
  • Of those reading the tweet, how many find it relevant to them (or from the other perspective, how many of the readers are in your intended target audience)?  Maybe 10% again?

You can see how our audience estimate has already been reduced by a factor of 100.  This may well still be overstating the actual, relevant audience.  The issue here is that unrealistic and overstated audience figures have the potential to hurt credibility and call into question other data and metrics that may be more grounded in fact.  Actually the more meaningful metrics pertain to engagement or outcomes rather than exposure/outputs.  It is more meaningful that 40,000 visited the Wordnik website as a result of the campaign discussed in the NYT article than the overstated 1.43 million who were estimated to have seen the tweets.  40,000 is real.  1.43 million is fantasy.

Media Content Analysis: Are You Trying To Improve Or Just Keeping Score?

13 Jun

One of the maddening aspects of working in PR measurement is the emphasis on using the results to just keep score rather than using the data as a diagnostic tool to determine what is working and what is not.  In other words, too much What, not enough Why.  I have observed practitioners involved with media analysis generally have an orientation toward one camp or the other.  I’m not sure if one’s measurement orientation is genetic or socialized but it is there. 

Certainly the culture of the company or organization may reward one orientation over the other.  In my experience many senior leaders of companies or organizations seem to reward score keeping over diagnostics.  Perhaps this is natural for them, thinking someone else will worry about the Whys. 

So how can you determine your measurement orientation?  Here are a few statements to help guide you: 

  1. If the first question you ask when the quarterly measurement report arrives is, “How many hits did we get this month?”, you’re a scorekeeper.
  2. If you ask, “How many unique visitors to our blog did we get this month”, you’re just keeping score.
  3. If you notice an explosion of positive comments about your brand in online forums and ask. “I wonder what is causing the explosion of positive comments, who is commenting, and how many are re-commenters”, you are diagnostically oriented.  A scorekeeper would immediately be most interested in the total number of comments and unique visitors.
  4. If you are a huge advocate of indexing all public relations results to a single number on a 1 – 100 scale (a la Microsoft and others), you are just keeping score.
  5. If you are perfectly content with only measuring outputs, or Exposure as I prefer to say, and don’t care so much about measuring outcomes (Influence), you most likely are a scorekeeper at heart. 

There is a little scorekeeper in all of us.  But, the highest and best use of media content analysis is as a diagnostic tool used to continually fine-tune and improve your public relations programs.

Thanks for reading.  -Don B     

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