While the vast majority of communicators now measure their PR efforts, including social media, many of them continue to measure the wrong metrics, according to a new PR News survey.
What’s more, 66% of respondents have never heard of the Barcelona Principles, and 40% don’t set goals for social media—and the overwhelming majority of those who do look at “activity,” and “engagement,” rather than specific outcomes.
Then there’s the glass-half-full perspective. More than half of C-level managers now ask for traditional PR and social media measurement reports. That means that nearly an equal percentage don’t. Still, in the annals of PR measurement, even just half of managers asking for reports could be construed as encouraging.
“Companies are getting smarter” when it comes to PR measurement, said Sandra Fathi, president of Affect, who helped develop the study. “A few years ago, there was a sense of, ‘We need to be at the party.’ Now, executives are saying, ‘Which party shall we go to, because we can’t be at all. Which provides the biggest payoff?’”
The survey, titled “How—and Whether—PR Practitioners Are Measuring the Effectiveness of Their Work,” was distributed in March. It produced 145 responses from the communications field.
Unlike, say, a few years ago—when many PR pros were still reluctant to measure their efforts—measurement has finally started to permeate the PR discipline, fueled by the analytics and data that are baked into online media programming.
Ninety-five percent of respondents are currently measuring their PR efforts, including social media. That’s the good news. The bad news? PR folks are measuring the wrong channels.
Swing a cat and you can find a PR or marketing professional talking about the importance of “engagement.” But engagement is a fallacy when it comes to PR metrics. While 76% of the respondents said they are measuring things like the number of retweets or the number of followers for their Facebook or Twitter accounts, just 26% of respondents said they are measuring “business outcomes,” including new customers and revenue generation.
“Activity doesn’t mean anything,” Fathi said. “There’s isn’t any value in activity if it doesn’t drive business outcomes.”
Rather than preoccupy themselves with how many retweets their brands are generating, PR pros have to learn how to track a retweet or a follower to a legitimate conclusion. Most PR pros “haven’t yet made the connection between the tweet and how to turn the person who made the tweet into a customer,” Fathi said, adding that PR pros have to immerse themselves in their organization’s sales funnel.
Communicators “need to understand how to follow the bread crumbs,” Fathi said. “How do you get a tweet from someone who then might go to your website or an event, who then becomes a customer and makes a purchase? All too often PR pros stop at, ‘Hey, they retweeted us.’”
Mark Stouse, VP of Global Connect at BMC Software, amplified that notion. “Our professional metrics are tactical measurements that have no relevance to a corporate income statement,” he said. “We must start with metrics and logic paths that the business already uses and respects, and then work back to connect those with the functional metrics. CXOs do not take communications and many marketing metrics seriously because they are not connected, correlated or seen as causal to business outcomes.”
The closer PR pros are able to get to the end of the sales funnel, the more value they will demonstrate and, subsequently, the more dollars they will land when budget season arrives.
The survey also found that a majority of PR pros have not heard of The Barcelona Principles, a guide for measurement and evaluation of PR. This suggests there needs to be a lot more education about the principles (see story on page 1).
Another challenge for PR pros is how to bring sophistication to their social platforms.
The survey found that 60% of respondents either had no budget for social media efforts or that the allocation of budget for those efforts was essentially arbitrary. PRN
This article originally appeared in the April 7, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.