Data, data, data. It’s all we hear now. However knowing what kind of data to look for in a PR campaign can make a massive difference, says Meltwater’s David Hickey.
In today’s digital world, finding the connection between data and the art of communications is key to making an impact using public relations. The link between the two helps us find the right message for the right people on the right channel – and this knowledge gives us the best shot at engaging them.
Commentary on influential industry blogs, social mentions that include a link to earned media placement, or lively discussions on relevant LinkedIn groups are more meaningful KPIs than vanity metrics such as social media followers or likes: the former measures achievement in the form of engagement, and that engagement gives us impressions as the by-product. The latter is simply an indicator of opportunity.
PR measurement – like the metrics associated with other relationship marketing disciplines (events, social media etc.) – have been traditionally hard to come by. But in today’s tech-fuelled communications landscape, it’s now a lot easier to set data-driven PR metrics that senior executives can understand and appreciate.
1. Engagement is key to a data-driven PR program
In the modern messaging landscape, success = engagement. Whether it’s via traditional media or engaging an influencer on Twitter resulting in a RT, our payoff is the same: we are earning media, and as a result we garner the impressions that we’ve traditionally used to measure success.
The great thing about setting engagement as our primary goal in a socially-networked communications landscape from a PR metrics perspective is that – unlike “impressions” – it’s easy to prove: most engagement comes in the form of a click.
2. Determine what engagement looks like for each channel
Engagement means that someone decided to share your message. With media coverage, how many articles where published? Social networks have their own metrics of engagement: a share on Twitter, a “Like” or share on Facebook, etc. All of these channels work together, so understanding what engagement looks like per distribution channel is important. The social engagement is what creates the message amplification we’re after, and as a result those are crucial PR metrics to track.
3. Measure and qualify engagement and reach
How many people took an action in correlation to our efforts? Now that we know what engagement looks like, measuring it is easy with the right tools. A good news monitoring and social media monitoring tool will identify and quantify that engagement for us. One important delineation to bear in mind is the tracking of social shares both from both paid and owned channels where possible (i.e. the article was on the homepage of a news website, and was then shared on Facebook whereupon it took on a life of its own, and it was also on our own Facebook page, which spurred engagement from that audience). That sort of channel-specific analysis will help us both measure and qualify our engagement.
Now, to answer the age-old communications question: is our message actually being heard? The qualitative side of measurement is less linear, but still doable. A good news media monitoring tool in addition to a social listening tool enables us to set up a variety of searches complete with threshold alerts that can tell us who’s saying what – and where. In this way, we can track whether or not the language and positioning we’re introducing into the market is being adopted. If it’s not, by listening we’ve identified both what messages are out there, and where we might insert ourselves and/or engage in order to change that.
In a socially-networked communications model, fostering productive dialogue with the right people starts and ends with listening.
With this in mind, our PR metrics might list a hard number of RT’s, and we might then qualify our success by showing a few concrete examples (i.e. screenshots) of our message being out there organically, in the form of other folks adopting it.
4. Measure reach
The reach and impression numbers that our channel partners give us are also an important part of our PR metrics – impressions are, after all, at the top of a purchase funnel, and we want to understand the opportunity there. This is the PR metric we’re most used to using: in a time of offline communications, it was the best one available that demonstrated the value of media placement.
The power of message amplification via social sharing is that we can get huge, huge impression numbers from earned media – and those impressions might be on important influencers. Today’s media channels don’t operate in a silo: reporters use blogs and social channels and bloggers use social media and social channels and social media influencers use journalism and blogs. Measuring our reach in conjunction with both hard engagement metrics and qualitative messaging analysis gives us a data-driven and holistic view as to the success of our messaging campaign.
David Hickey is the director for online intelligence solutions for Meltwater.