In my last Blog I wrote about how to set measurable communications objectives that are linked to the business goals of your organization. In this Blog I will outline how to evaluate the success of your program against your communications objectives.
As you will recall, our business goal was sales, and the measurable communications goal we derived to support sales was:
- Increase awareness of the product by 10%
- Among U.S. women (or women in a specified market)
- With children five-years old and younger
- Household incomes of $80,000 to $150,000
- Within six months
"A survey!" I hear some of you saying. "Those are expensive. What about our media and content analysis service. Can't we evaluate using that?"
Measuring An Output Goal
Yes, you can, but it takes you one step further from the business goal you are trying to support. Our business goal is increase sales; this is what we in measurement call an outcome goal. Our communications goal is increase awareness among the target audience by 10% within six months;.this is what we call an outtake goal. If we have not the budget or for some other reason cannot measure awareness, we can step down to how you expect to achieve the communications goal and create an output goal.
In this case we assume that if we get coverage in traditional, digital or social media that we know reach our target audience, that some part of our target audience will see the coverage, become aware of our product as a result and buy it. These are all fair assumptions, but, as you can see, we're getting to be a number of assumptions away from the business goal. Our output goal might be some number of impressions that carry our message in the media we know reach our target audience. To measure our success, we then need to monitor those media and evaluate the coverage to ensure that it actually carries our message points. It also is useful to determine how much competitive coverage is mixed in with ours. For example, are we in a round up story including all the competitors? If so, how did we come out? Is it a feature story only on us? Obviously, these would be rated differently in terms of the success of the output.
Getting Your Media Analysis Vendor To Provide What You Really Need
One of the problems many media analysis vendors have is they do not understand PR very well, and they do not know how to articulate output objectives that support communications (outtake or business objectives. Consequently, when they set up their programs for clients, they end up measuring the wrong things and their measures have limited usefulness in assessing the success of campaigns. If you as a practitioner can make explicit what the business, communications (outtake) and output goals are, you will be in a strong position to demand from your vendor that she provide metrics that enable you to evaluate your output. If she cannot, find another vendor who can. There are good ones out there.
Measuring By Activity
Now to the lone practitioner who has virtually no budget. I meet these folks regularly. They want to demonstrate their value to their clients, but their clients have budgets so small that any kind of external evaluation is out of the question. In these cases I still suggest research, but it is the up front research that should drive all PR. Identify the target audience for the business goal, determine through further research the kind of message that is likely to persuade that target audience to behave in the way that will enable the business to achieve its goal and identify the media that will reach that target audience. Unfortunately, with limited resources the research to do this may not be as sophisticated as we would like. Much of it may come from those who are in contact with customers. Perhaps the practitioner can talk to some customers herself to find out why they buy and how they find out about the product.
But once that is done, set some specific targets. For example, if your research suggests your target reads some specific trade magazines (traditional or digital) and blogs, make a list of them and make your goal be to get your client's product mentioned in six (or some other reasonable number) of these media venues in the next six months. Make this agreement with your client.
Here, too, you might be able to get unique URL in the material you place, which would give you an actual link to behavior in the form of web site visits that would lead to achieving your client's business goal.
What's Stopping You?
So, it can be done. The only thing that's really stopping most practitioners is the fear that measurement will show they have not achieved their objective. That's just unprofessional. How will you ever get any better at your profession if you don't regularly assess how well you're doing?