2008 PR News Platinum PR Issue Winner: Research/Measurement

The winners and honorable mentions in this year's PR news Platinum PR awards issue exemplify the most innovative approaches to redefining traditional PR with anything-but- traditional strategies. From a marketing communications effort that united a country over the search for the stars of a 1950s TV commercial to an event that landed a flock of pink flamingos around the windy city, the following winner confirms that the PR profession has indeed stepped out from the shadows to take a front-and-center role in delivering business results to their own organizations, and to their clients. Below is the winner of the 2008 PR News Platinum PR award for research/measurement:

Hewlett-Packard, Porter Novelli & The Bivings Group

HPWatch: A Swiss Army Knife for Measurement and Evaluation

Like many large organizations, the Hewlett-Packard Imaging and Printing Group's (IPG) communications team must report to numerous stakeholder groups, all of whom need to understand the impact of the communications program on their individual focus area. But HP's measurement program lacked the sophistication, market segment alignment and competitive positioning insight needed to tailor results accordingly; what's more, the new media environment threw another wrench into the team's outdated measurement mechanisms.

Two Steps Backward, One Step Forward

To create a modern, enhanced measurement system, the communications team worked backward to identify four key questions that internal and external stakeholders wanted answered:

·         How does IPG's media representation compare to that of its competitors?

·         How are specific communication programs and initiatives impacting perception?

·         Which programs are generating the best return on dollars invested?

·         How are HP products and brands faring in the new media landscape?

Having this knowledge to shape strategies, the team identified the specific information that would be needed to answer those questions, including share of voice, key message pickup and tonality of coverage. With that, not to mention the help of Porter Novelli and The Bivings Group, they set forth to develop a robust measurement database.

Tag--You're It

The team customized the HPWatch database to accommodate individual stakeholder demands by applying tags to articles to allow for segmentation of results, as well as templating reporting outputs. Plus, according to Porter Novelli account manager Rob McMurtrie, "instead of trying to measure traditional and new media with the same yardstick, the team decided to apply the best available measures to each group individually, providing HP with separate 'dials' on a dashboard of metrics that would guide program evaluation."

Key lessons in evaluating HP's measurement solutions were that "news aggregators were efficient in collecting content and data but contained inherent limitations," McMurtrie says. "manual processes were more robust, but fraught with error."

Ultimately, the final HPWatch measurement program adapted to the nuances of the new media environment by "separating the content delivery from the measurement processes [so that] we can capture content today that we may not be able to measure until tomorrow," McMurtrie says. More than 150 customized reports with consistent metrics across nine market segments were created in 2007 alone, and the team was able to report a return of 490% on PR spend to HP executives.

"The most useful insight to how PR strategies are working is gained by analyzing historic data," McMurtrie says. "The best time to start measuring a PR program was yesterday. When five years of news is captured, analyzed and quantified, trends come alive."