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Important Trends in PR Measurement: Where Small Numbers Mean Something Bigger

September 20, 2019
byJeffrey Davis inPublic Relations

Advances in digital marketing make measurement of communications more accurate, such as tracking the behavior of website visitors. The same goes for PR measurement. Reports that once bragged about massive impression numbers and the made-up value of news coverage are being discarded in favor of more meaningful, albeit smaller, metrics.

At the recent “Communication and Change Management Summit” in Seattle, sponsored by the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), I led a workshop on what’s new in PR and social media measurement.

I shared five trends that experts such as members of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication are talking about:

  1. There is a continued push to move beyond simple “vanity metrics” on social media such as number of followers.
  2. The dispelling of metrics such as advertising value equivalencies (AVEs) is still a challenge as many organizations still try and hold onto them, likely because of their acceptance in the C-suite.
  3. Challenges are being made to big impression. As an alternative, communicators are measuring smaller incremental steps toward a goal.
  4. One problem is that while measurement solutions are available, they are not simple to implement. For example, it’s easier to count big impression numbers, assign a dollar value to them and hand off a report to the boss.
  5. The fifth trend in PR and strategic communications is that measurement and evaluation are shifting from analyzing past activities to becoming a critical tool for strategic planning to improve future performance. Don’t just issue the report. Do something with what the numbers are telling you.

How to put these trends into action?

When planning your PR program, start with the goal of the campaign. What are you trying to accomplish? Now, break down the steps and use metrics to track the incremental steps to that success:

  • Visits to a website or landing page; length of time spent on a page
  • Shares, retweets, and posts on social media; comments and reviews
  • Registration for a tour; attendance at an event
  • Subscription/form completion; registrations for an e-newsletter
  • Visits to a thank you page; purchase of a product (such as an E-ZPass transponder in the case of my IBTTA attendees)
  • Has the audience increased understanding of a topic, changed attitude?

Compare “we had 15 gazillion impressions that were worth $5 million” to something more realistic, step-based and actionable. It’s going to take time to get everyone there, but that’s the future of PR measurement.

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