How to Set Up a PR-Measurement System

June 2019
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Setting up a PR-measurement system can be at once overwhelming and intimidating.

If you’ve never done measurement and analysis before, then you may not know where to start. Your gut tells you that you’re delivering, but how do you prove it? Not only that, but how do you make it happen without breaking the resource bank or making your team feel like you don’t trust them?

Luckily, setting up a system can make your people feel more secure in their jobs, not less. It can help answer big questions (such as, “What work can I do to make my C-suite happy?”), and give you a competitive advantage (who doesn’t want to base their strategies on data instead of hunches?).

Creating a PR-measurement system is also a great way to gain respect among noncommunications peers. What used to be regarded as an abstract team of “PR people” evolves into an army of strategic, data-driven individuals. Once you’re brought in, here are the steps to take to get started:

1. Ask leadership what matters to them.

You know how important understanding your target audience is for your business, and the same can be said of your internal strategy. Knowing what your leadership team will deem a success is a core component of any new PR-measurement effort. Pinpoint exactly what kindof data they’re interested in seeing, but remember that these key data points can shift over the life of a project. Gathering intelligence on what will make leadership happy is a crucial first step to planning out the remainder of your analytics strategy. This investigative work will help you deliver meaningful insights.

2. Set measurable goals.

After getting a general sense of what the leadership team’s end goal is, it’s time to home in on the details. What can you realistically deliver and measure? Remember, people who don’t work in communications might express interest in goals that are abstract or not really measurable. A good analytics strategist will acknowledge this desire but then take those abstract goals and distill them into smaller, more measurable objectives. Determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will demonstrate progress toward your goals, whether they’re monitoring your click-through rate (CTR) on a campaign or tracking a post’s engagement. Share these measurable statistics with your team to get everyone’s buy-in and to prove that generalized goals can be met with actionable steps.

3. Set ‘SMART’ guidelines.

Following SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) guidelines helps ensure that what you measure will be worthwhile without breaking your resource bank. You may have to narrow your focus in some areas (for example, “Is this data point relevant to the overall success of the project?”) and widen it in others (“Can we really show a change in public opinion in only two weeks?”). Building a measurement system using SMART goals as its foundation will allow it to be flexible and responsive over time.

Remember, not all projects you work on will be the same, which means that your leadership team’s goals will likely change as well. Approach each project with a clean slate, and without preconceived notions. Focusing on SMART goals helps ensure that your data asks the right questions, so you’re not relying on a one-size-fits-all approach. With this method, measurement is built in.

4. Start measuring every day.

It sounds like a hassle, but really, there’s no better way to set your team up for success than by measuring your content daily. Doing so will help you determine whether your strategy is working. Imagine how difficult it would be to explain to your leadership team where a social media campaign or integrated marketing plan went awry if all you had to show them was annual data. By measuring your campaign’s day-to-day results, you can easily see where and why your audience might be declining. Data tells a story as compelling as the content or product your company creates. Its details are integral to the big picture success numbers your leadership wants to see.

5. Create reports that make sense to your C-suite and support their goals.

Of course, when you present your data to the C-suite team, you don’t want to give them raw numbers or large, uncontextualized spreadsheets. Putting your data together in an easy-to-digest format is essential for concluding your strategic measurement plan. By breaking down your data, you can demonstrate to leadership exactly how data specifics support their goals. This approach is especially helpful when planning for your team’s long-term success. A visual and contextual display of data showing results for your PR campaign will help you continue initiatives that thrived and will help you regroup and strategize on ones that didn’t.

Adopting a flexible measurement system will help your communications team learn from the past and make progress for the future. Rather than relying on hunches, you will have numbers that prove you know what works and can adapt to new challenges — something every leadership team loves to hear.

Kevin Volz HeadshotKevin Volz is the strategy and analytics manager at MediaSource, an award-winning communications agency in Columbus, Ohio.
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