Making PR Decisions That Are Based on Data (Not Your Gut)

David Woolwine

In an increasingly digital age, in which every conceivable piece of content can be logged, tracked and analyzed, going with your gut seems to have diminishing returns among PR pros. In their efforts to establish better metrics for their PR campaigns, communicators need to prioritize and make decisions that are based on data, not instinct, according to David Woolwine, director of corporate relations at Allstate Insurance.

“Quantitative research must be integrated into every aspect of PR planning and implementation,” he said.  Woolwine will participate in the session titled, “Case Studies: Real-World Applications of Successful Measurement Tactics,” at PR NewsPR Measurement Conference in Washington, D.C. on May 15.  We caught up with Woolwine to talk about some of the current trends in PR measurement.

PR News: For PR pros, what are some of the main tenets for baking measurement into their PR campaigns from the outset?

David Woolwine: First, know your audience. Determining which stakeholders are most important to achieving your business objectives is a critical first step. Then, determine where you stand with each stakeholder and what you hope to accomplish with your campaign. Are you trying to build awareness? Understanding? Support and advocacy? Once you’ve figured out whom your campaign is targeted toward and your goals for each group, you can create effective measurements that will help determine your success. Doing this requires more than intuition.

It requires stakeholder research and measurement at the outset of any PR strategy or campaign. You must understand where you stand with stakeholders before you can determine whether any kind of campaign will be successful. Effective measurement will also inform when campaign adjustments are needed.

PR News:  What are some of the methods in which PR pros can apply metrics more holistically, so they can transcend the various PR disciplines, whether social media, media relations or crisis communications?

Woolwine: Any effective PR measurement system begins by establishing a link between campaigns and business results. This can be done by tracking sales, stock price [and] external satisfactions studies, alongside PR metrics. Finding linkages between campaign outcomes and business results demonstrates to business leaders the business value of your campaign and, over time, establishes a correlation between business success and PR programs.

PR News: Traditionally, PR execs have been known to use their 'right brain' (creative). What are some of the steps they can take to build their 'left brain' (analytical) capacity?

Woolwine: Again, it goes back to stakeholder research. Quantitative research must be integrated into every aspect of PR planning and implementation. Once you know what is most important to specific stakeholder audiences and where you stand with delivering on those expectations, you can prioritize and make decisions based on data, not instinct. Quantifying stakeholder expectations also demonstrates the business impact of PR campaigns to company leaders.

Learn more about PR measurement at PR News' PR Measurement Conference, which takes place May 15 at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. 

Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1


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About Matthew Schwartz

Group Editor, PR News: Matthew Schwartz is group editor of PR News, the leading source of trends, how-to content and best practices for PR professionals. Matthew leads the editorial strategy for PR News’ premium content products—including its weekly newsletter—and for its digital presence. Matthew was editor of PR News from 2003-2005. Prior to returning to PR News, Matthew was a reporter for Crain’s BtoB and Media Business magazines, where he covered business marketers and media companies. He was also editor of BMA Buzz, a biweekly email newsletter covering B2B marketing, advertising and social media, and contributing writer to Advertising Age Custom. Matthew has helped to launch blogs on behalf of ZoomInfo and direct marketing agency The Kern Organization. He also spent a few years in cable-news precincts, working as a writer/producer at CNN and Fox News Channel.

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