Cost is one of the key inhibitors of public relations measurement becoming more prevalent. It probably is THE key inhibitor, with ignorance/lack of education a close second. Cracking the code on lowering total costs of measurement would go a long way toward making measurement the rule rather than the exception. In order to understand how to lower costs, you first have to understand what the largest cost drivers are in most measurement programs today. The primary cost drivers are content acquisition/aggregation and human analysis of articles.
Up to 40% of the total cost of a media content analysis program can simply be acquiring and aggregating the content to be measured. Common content services like Factiva, Lexis Nexis, Bacons, eWatch and VMS are not cheap. In order to cast a wide net, many PR professional feel they need multiple services to cover (almost) every possible outlet where coverage may occur. Content costs can quickly get out of hand.
The other major cost driver is the need to have real humans analyze coverage. And no, automating article analysis is not a truly viable option right now. IMHO, the accuracy of such systems is not high enough to justify the potential cost savings. Even with many content analysis operations being off-shored to low cost countries like India, the cost for analysis on a per article basis ranges from $1.50 – $3.00. If you are garnering a lot of coverage, these costs can add up in a hurray.
The good news is that one can address both of these cost components by simply measuring a subset of your total coverage rather than every single article. There are two ways to accomplish this – by taking a nth. sample of your total coverage, or, the approach I prefer, determining the relatively short list of publications/outlets that have the most influence on your targets and only measuring coverage within this smaller population. By relatively short, think 100 total publications or less. With a little work, you can probably get your list down to 50 outlets that really make a difference. I worked with a F500 company that targeted 64 publications they felt really helped move their business. That is 64 globally.
By confining your measurement program to the most important and influential outlets you hold down both content and analysis costs. So why don’t more people pursue this easy fix? I believe it goes back to the industry attitude that views measurement as a score keeping mechanism more so than a diagnostic tool. (read more here). If our industry remains prisoners of the ‘tonnage’ model of coverage, then measurement cost reduction is very difficult.
To close on a positive note, the quality of the free content sources and tools is getting better and better. Now that is supports archiving, Google News is a viable source to acquire content. Google Analytics and BlogPulse from Nielsen Buzzmetrics provide some interesting blog and website metrics at an aggressive price point – free.
Thanks for reading. -Don B