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Learning to Love Math and Analytics: One PR Pro’s Measurement Journey

December 3, 2013

Sometimes, when I give a speech to PR practitioners, I’ll ask, “How many of you went into public relations because you really like math?” Usually, only one or two people out of a couple hundred raise their hands.

The brain is composed of two parts — the left brain is the analytical side, and the right brain is the creative side. As we’ve discussed, most PR professionals have more of a right brain, and most measurement types have more of a left brain.

One of my favorite clients is Stephanie Moritz, senior director of public relations and social media at ConAgra.

She is someone who started off with a much stronger right brain than left. However, she has successfully built both sides. The reason is that she saw that in the absence of understanding analytics along with the stories they tell, it would be more difficult to justify communications programs in her company.

Here are her tips on how to make the transition:

1. Walk into measurement.

Think about measurement first. Plan for measurement up front, right from the start. Identify your objective, what you are measuring, how you will measure it and what tools you will use. If you don’t think about measurement from the start, then you will not be successful.

2. Identify core KPIs.

Demonstrating impact — going beyond impressions, or showing that consumers took action because of what we did — was necessary to show that ConAgra’s programs were meaningful. In order to demonstrate impact, we identified core key performance indicators (KPIs). When we started measuring, we created a toolkit and grid to ensure consistency in process, language and terminology.

Our consistent measurement approach centered on return on marketing objectives (ROMO) and tied to correlations to sales to demonstrate the impact of our efforts. As we evolved as a discipline, our measurement and analytics evolved.

Today, our core KPIs focus on our business objectives and include purchase intent, change in attribute awareness and engagement. We have a consistent way to measure and align both internally and across our agency partners.

3. Tell your story.

It’s important to build internal demand by creating believers and advocates for your work. Share lessons learned, discover what did and didn’t work, and realize the impact on the perceived importance of communications to the business.

We actively share our story both internally and externally in a sound bite format, which focuses on our core KPIs as well as learnings, impact and implications.

4. Know that the “m” in marketing stands for math.

Marketing has transformed beyond just creativity, imagination, ideas and design to include data as part of the natural fabric of its DNA.

Being a marketer and analyst all in one may have been an anomaly, but this is changing. Having the ability to be both creative as well as analytical is a coveted skill that will set apart the future stars. Learn to write a smart, measurable business objective and how to use the tools and resources available to assess it from the start.

5. Realize that as marketers, we must love math.

Moving forward, as marketers, we must learn to like — if not to love — math. Our discipline is behind others in embracing and using data in everything from pitches to presentations to everyday conversation to reporting. This is an area of vulnerability that we can’t continue to lag behind on. Media, digital and consumer promotions are data-heavy. Even social media is beginning to catch up with new technology and tools.

Public relations has relied on impressions for far too long. We need to continue to test and find new ways to leverage data, insights and analytics and bring them to the forefront, pushing our discipline forward so we aren’t left in the dust.

This is a data-driven world, and CEOs and CMOs are going to be less impressed and less patient with impressions. With more companies and agencies creating digital news rooms, and more executives asking for the hard ROI on marketing tactics, we need to be ready with an answer as we battle for dollars.

Are we ready? What’s our ROI? What’s our plan?

Have measurement questions? Email

Have comments for Stephanie? Email

David B. Rockland, Ph.D. David B. Rockland, Ph.D., is partner/CEO and managing director for the research and change communications businesses at Ketchum. He has held leadership positions in corporate communications and research throughout his career, with extensive global experience in both areas.


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