Even if communicators consider themselves well-practiced in the use of data and analytics to demonstrate their personal impact on the top and/or bottom lines, they may fret that they measure the wrong things.
"My biggest concerns in research and measurement today are, first, that public relations professionals still focus too much on output measurement," said David Geddes, principal of Geddes Analytics, who will speak at the "How to Tie Social Media Engagement to Business Objectives" session at PR News' April 20 Measurement Conference. "Second, that PR professionals measure what is convenient to measure rather than what they should measure and, third, that our measurement and evaluation lacks a foundation in what we know from scholarly research in cognitive psychology."
Geddes offers four ways to ensure that PR pros are measuring the right things:
- Understand your business or organizational goals. Corporate communications and public relations serve the organization by establishing a dialogue and building relationships with an organization’s constituencies. Quite simply, communications activities that build and maintain relationships add value to the organization and should be measured. Those activities that do not build and maintain relationships do not add value, and indeed may detract from the conversation.
- Understand your communications and social media objectives, and how these support organizational goals. See the previous comment.
- Set measurable objectives (see relevant key white paper and article). In every business case—whether the organization is large or small, for profit or nonprofit, local or global—there is an objective. Objectives may include generating a profit, approving legislation or giving back to the community. To advance the organization, those doing so need a clear understanding of the organization’s aims. This is true for the public relations team and its agencies: The purpose of every public relations professional is to help his or her organization achieve its business objectives.
While each component of the public relations process is essential for success, the initial stage of objectives-setting research is the basis for the entire PR program. It provides a framework for strategy, execution and evaluation. And, while setting measurable objectives is critical to public relations programming, it also is among the most frequently overlooked.
- Build your metrics upon a sound model or framework of public relations; don’t just pick metrics out of the air. We have the advantage of many decades of scholarly research into how communications and influence work. Too often, I fear that we pull measures out of the air, without a firm framework for measurement. For example, scholarly research on influence goes back to at least the 1940s. We need to build upon this research.
Geddes also recommends that PR pros ask their peers, internal clients and senior executives whether what what they are measuring helps them make informed business decisions. "We are in business to advance the cause of our organizations," he said. "Our research, measurement and evaluation must meet the needs of the organization and decision-making."
David Geddes will be inducted into PR News' Measurement Hall of Fame at its Measurement Conference on April 20 at Washington, D.C.'s National Press Club.
Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI