The use of measurement and analytics in PR: advice from the #PRAnalytics conference

  • 1
  • March 20, 2014
David White

David White

Head of Content Marketing

Recently, I attended’s PR Analytics conference. Designed to highlight the importance of insights and analytics to successful PR campaigns, the conference featured industry leaders and well-known brand representatives, all highlighting the need for proper campaign measurement.

Andre Manning, Vice President and Global Head of External Communications at Royal Philips, described the changes of measuring PR activity. From the dark days of clipping books, to the sleek, online portals we use now – there has been so much change, and 2015 is being seen as ‘the era of analytics and ROI’. To encompass this, we must overcome Andre’s ‘biggest roadblock’ – being able to strike a balance between ‘the creative side of the brain, and the data side of the brain’ in successful PR campaigns.

This was a theme that was reiterated throughout the morning, the importance leant on the ability to use data as a way of informing, as well as problem solving. I’ve put together the five key messages that I took from the conference, to help you use data and analytics to better your PR strategies and results.

1. ‘We are using data to find answers to questions, rather than using data to determine the questions we should be asking’ – Chris Foster, Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton

Using data allows us to measure how successful (or unsuccessful) our campaigns have been. However, it’s important not to keep data analysis solely as the end goal. The data gathered by one campaign should inform the process of the next, by taking into account the successes and downfalls faced.

Generating data, such as the target audience of your brand, and the likes/dislikes of this demographic, should always be considered before a campaign is put together. If you’ve not got your target audience in mind, your campaign will be running blind. PR is all about getting a certain brand message where it needs to be. It takes insights and evaluation to find out where to place a message to get the best possible results – which is why data should come first.

Ben Levine, Research Director at Ketchum, summarised this in a simple step-by-step process:

Identify – Explore – Engage – Share

 Identify your audience, figure out the best way to reach that audience, interact with them, and share the information to communicate with your target audience.

 2. ‘Receiving patterns and trends can help predict how information will move in the future’ – Chris Foster, Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton

In many PR campaigns, all the focus is on the end result. Not enough time is given to watching and analysing exactly how messages and information move throughout the duration of the campaign. By watching how information moves from the beginning, not just a broad overview at the end, we can predict how this particular type of information will move in the future.

Chris described how he’d spoken to 25 of the biggest brand managers, and one of the biggest issues they faced was an inability to control conversation. By monitoring the information and interaction at various points of a campaign, it will become easier to predict.

Also, social listening allows us to have an insight as to what parts of the brand people are talking about, and how they’re talking about them. By tailoring a campaign around what people interpret as the positive aspects of your brand, you can be more certain that the campaign will have a positive social impact.

Of course, we can never have a set structure where we’ll know exactly what will happen with a campaign at every single point. PR is unpredictable, but most importantly, people are unpredictable. However, we can spot patterns, and these patterns can be used to tailor your campaigns the best way possible, according to the data received at every step.

 3. ‘Turn PR language into business language’ – Andre Manning, Vice President and Global Head of External Communications at Philips

This quote highlights one of the main themes that ran through this conference. Make sure you’re constantly tying in your campaigns to your business objectives. Your client cares about sales, about getting their brand in front of the right people, at the right time, to generate revenue. To them, we are a cog in a huge marketing machine that aims to generate profit. In PR, we get so tied up in campaigns, reports, meetings, budgets etc. that it can become easy to overlook how your work is boosting sales. When measuring campaigns, we tend to look at how much coverage was received, or how many social shares were generated, etc. as measurements of success. However, how often do you receive information from the client themselves, that tells you exactly how much your campaign has boosted their revenue? Frameworks should be put in place to tie PR activity and business objectives together, ensuring a smooth communication process.

You can explain the most high-tech, effective algorithm, strategy or measure system to your client, but if they can’t see how that will be beneficial to their business, why would they want to invest? This is why it’s so important to work with your clients, and tie your campaigns into their business structure. By doing this, they’re guaranteed the most useful results, and you know that your campaigns are as effective financially as they are socially.

 4. ‘Measure what counts, not just what’s easy to count’ – Richard Bagnall, Chair of the Social Media Committee at AMEC

Recently, AMEC have been looking into PR measurement in great detail. This year, their Amsterdam Summit is based upon measurement and insights, and the 15th-19th September is AMEC’s Measurement Week. With such a focus being put on measurement, the issues with current practises are being aired, and resolutions trying to be found.

In 2010, the Barcelona Principles were formed as a way of guiding PR reporting into measuring what’s relevant, and examples of things that can and should be measured, instead of the old AVE measurements.  Due to the fact that there’s still no standard metric of PR activity, the measurement debate is still at the forefront of PR conversations. So, the answer at the moment to the question of measurement – is to measure what counts.

Due to the fact that the PR industry lacks a standard, we need to measure the aspects most relevant to yourself, and your clients. So, if your client is all about the bottom line, they’re probably not going to be too bothered about how many impressions a piece of their content has had, as impressions don’t indicate any actual interaction. It’s important to select appropriate methods of measurement according to each campaign, to ensure that the data you collate at the end is the most relevant to yourself, and your client.

 5. ‘Social word of mouth is a massive opportunity for the PR industry’ – Mark Westaby, Director of Spectrum Insight

Social media has broken down the wall between brands and consumers. More and more often, Twitter is now the first point of call, whether a consumer wants to rant or rave about their new favourite purchase or customer service they’ve just experienced. This has led to social shares and conversation fast becoming one of the most important methods of measuring PR activity.

There are numerous tools around now that enable you to track what people are saying about your brand. With the ability to document what is said online, and when and why it was said, you can search your brands’ mentions at the point of developing a campaign, to see who your brand ambassadors are, any negative mentions to see how your campaign can counteract this, and key themes that are mentioned along with your brand. By doing this, you’re ensured a tailor-made campaign for your target audience.

Alternatively, as a social brand, you can use data from customer contact to tailor your social activity. So, if the majority of your customers are getting in touch regarding a particular positive point about your company, tailor and run social campaigns around this to guarantee maximum engagement.

From all the speakers that took part in the conference, there was clearly one message that they all wanted to hit home. Measurement and analytics has never been so important to the PR industry. We can only fully recognise the effectiveness of a campaign, if we have the right metrics to do so, and these metrics should be campaign-specific. Data should be used in the initial stages of thinking about a campaign, not just to measure the aftermath, to make sure campaigns are as audience specific as they can be, and of course, to ensure that your campaign reflects the business goals of your clients.