In November 2007 I suggested the current Outputs, Outtakes, Outcomes model and taxonomy for public relations measurement was confusing and therefore often misunderstood and misapplied (Let’s put Outputs, Outtakes and Outcomes in the Outhouse). At that time I suggested a simpler, more descriptive approach was in order and offered the following:
“What we need is a metrics taxonomy that is easier to understand and explain. Perhaps simple and descriptive enough that we could skip the need for explanation altogether. I propose the following three terms:
* Exposure – to what degree have we created exposure to materials and message?
* Influence – the degree to which exposure has influenced perceptions and attitudes
* Action – as a result of the public relations effort, what actions if any has the target taken?”
Since November, I have given a lot of thought to the E-I-A construct and how to improve upon it. Some of the feedback to the model was the gap between Exposure and Influence was too great, and perhaps there should be an interim step called Understanding or Relevance. There is also the social media dynamic to consider since the measurement model should be flexible enough to work for both traditional and social media.
What seems to fit best between Exposure and Influence, and adds richness to social media measurement, is the concept of Engagement. Not only is it one of the hotter topics in social media, it is consistent with the desire to have more descriptive and easily understood metrics. With Engagement we now have an category that nicely contains such emerging key metrics as view-thrus, duration spent with content, repeat commenters and comments/posts ratio. It also works well for old school metrics like recall and retention. Engagement is what helps set the stage for Influence to occur. Engagement is necessary for communities to form. Engagement is fundamental to brand.
Here’s a graphic that shows the new model and sample metrics that might be used at each stage:
Would love your feedback on this new Exposure — Engagement — Influence — Action model.
There are still a few challenges in adoption of the model, not the least of which is that there is no consistent definition of Engagement. Current definitions range from the simple comments to post ratio used by BusinessWeek in their Reader Engagement Index, to the 8-term formula for Engagement offered by Eric T Peterson. The next year should bring more clarity and consistency to our understanding and use of Engagement. At least there is modest agreement on the specific metrics contained within the category of Engagement.
Thanks for reading, Don B