Measuring Integrated Comms Efforts: Are We There Yet?

PR professionals are quick to glorify the Holy Grails of communications and, while everyone seems to be sipping from a different chalice, there are a few regulars that usually end up on the table--integration and measurement among them. But, with the continuous evolution of technologies, communications platforms, audiences and metrics, no one has managed to identify a surefire solution to measuring integrated communications efforts. The good news? There are a few valiant efforts that, in the interim, can be valuable to any type of organization. Consider Ernst & Young. Imbedded in an industry that's plagued by scandal, the accounting firm has had success in measuring stakeholder relationships across the entire organization in the wake of the Enron debacle. However, Kenneth Kerrigan, director of Americas communications and marketing for E&Y, paints a grim picture of the company's path to that end: Arthur Andersen imploded amid charges of document destruction and obstruction of justice; E&Y was caught up in an association with $4 billion in fraud committed at Healthsouth; and the company was among those at the center of a Senate hearing on abusive tax shelters. With this as a backdrop, he asks: What do you do when your client or company is being raked over the goals and you've been asked to "fix it," especially when measurement hasn't been done before and senior management thinks it's the media's fault? As it turns out, those same experiences at E&Y have enabled him to answer his own question in three simple bullet points: Analyze share of voice, but know that counting clips can get you killed. "If management thinks it's the media's fault, you risk perpetuating that view, and you could become part of the problem," he says. Understand the audiences that drive your company/client's business. Know how to reach them, what they expect and what drives their behavior and views. Redefine the role of PR in the organizations. "Establish trusted relationships using all communications channels," Kerrigan says. "Measure the dialogue both internally and externally, and identify gaps." These approaches speak to measuring communications around a specific event or situation, but where does integration fit in? "Don't pretend PR can have all the answers, even with the most well-intended measurement approach," Kerrigan says. "You won't get a seat at the table without an integrated approach. Allow measurement to help design strategy--not to justify how well your plan worked." Of course, Kerrigan's last point requires creating a strategy. For E&Y, that strategy is to listen to stakeholders and change accordingly; to engage in dialogue at every level- -and in multiple forms of media--to openly discuss issues; and to partner with Atlantic Monthly on a series of "dialogue dinners" with key players, including regulators, senior media representatives and academics. That strategy, in turn, uncovered a few key points: where E&Y was taking a hit in its ability to recruit new talent out of college, and HR recruiters were the front-line ambassadors for the firm's changing face. With that knowledge, execs aggressively promoted the company's commitment to "do the right thing," especially among potential recruits. They established a presence on Facebook to reach this audience transparently. This is just one of many positive impacts that a calculated and measurable integrated communications plan had on one organization. But what about your organization? How do you get started? Angela Jeffrey, VP, editorial research of VMS, recommends the following five-step measurement process: 1. Set organizational goals. 2. Define audiences and prioritize. 3. Set PR objectives against prioritized audiences that are specific and measurable. 4. Determine how you will measure each (with what tools) and benchmark. a. Determine who/what to measure against (yourself or competitors). b. Choose output, outtake and outcome tools, and link them. 5. Finalize results (ROI), then measure continuously and adjust programs accordingly. Of course, many PR professionals' greatest challenge isn't knowing how to measure integrated efforts, it's getting senior buy-in and a budget to make it happen. To that end, a first step is making the leadership team aware of integrated communications' many benefits. Ben Billingsley, VP of Horn Group, cites these as just a few: A consistent and complete message. Fewer agencies to manage. Cost/resource benefits. Increased efficiency. Brand consistency and longer-term engagements. PRN CONTACTS: Kenneth Kerrigan,; Angela Jeffrey,; Ben Billingsley, A Sampling of Efficiency Measures Metric Examples How to Calculate For Comparing Against Others Share of Discussion Compare the Quality and Quantity of your media coverage to that of your competitors. Best metric to use is Media Value refined by Slant and Prominence. Plot results on graph and compare against outcome metrics. Correlations are seen in a very high percentage of studies. Share of Mind Compare mentions or clip counts for each competitor. For Measuring Against Yourself ROI: Result Divided by Cost Result = some contribution to the outcome desired, like queries, leads, new customers. Cost = whatever it took to generate the result. Cost-per-Impression Divide total positive + neutral impressions generated by cost of campaign or PR department and compare to paid-media costs, or against time, objectives or competitors. Divide impressions numbers by 1,000 to get cost-per-thousand, which is commonly used for advertising efficiency. Cost-per-Media Value Ratio Divide positive + neutral Media Value totals by cost of campaign or PR department and compare as above. A ratio of 1 means you're no more efficient than buying media. Cost-per-Message Divide total messages obtained by costs, or segment out individual messages and allocate costs to each. Blog Conversation Index Divide number of your posts by comments + trackbacks. Number should be less than 1 if your blog is effective. Return on Impressions Rate each article by a point score based on goals, and multiply by positive impressions. An article would score high if it was in a target publication, had a key message, was positive, and had prominent placement. Return on Earned Media Rate each article by a point score based on goals, and multiply by positive impressions. An article would score high if it was in a target publication, had a key message, was positive, and the client was prominent. Source: VMS, David Kistle and Jack Bergin, Katie Paine, and Ketchum ROI Lab

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