The clock is ticking off the minutes, hours and days until 2017. Somehow you ended up with a 2016 PR budget surplus that you didn’t expect.
You’re not sure how this happened after such careful planning throughout the year. You realize, though, that you have to spend every penny or your budget allocation will be smaller in 2017. It’s a case of “use it or lose it” in several senses.
What to do, what to do?
It’s too late in the year to plan and execute a new PR campaign. And you lack the amount you would need in the budget for another major expenditure.
But your use-it-or-lose-it situation means you need a smart solution, stat.
Have no fear: It’s measurement to the rescue.
Think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate to your company leadership that you can be resourceful and that you understand the importance of data.
In other words, use the rest of your budget in a data-driven media analysis to substantiate the influence of your 2016 PR effort and provide a strategic roadmap for 2017.
An End-of-Year Measurement Program
The beauty of this solution is its flexible cost.
If you have $20,000 or more to spend, you can delve deeply into your media coverage for the entire year, mining data for valuable insights and developing recommendations to drive creative strategies and outcomes in 2017.
With $3,000-$15,000 remaining in your budget, you can conduct high-level research into your most important 2016 campaigns or programs. A mix of quantitative analysis (the results) and limited qualitative analysis (the outcomes) can show what worked and what didn’t, at a lower cost.
Why is there such a wide range? The price tag is based on the scope you choose: the number and type of metrics, the media channels (e.g., print, broadcast, social or digital), the type of analytics (e.g., paid, earned, owned or shared), the countries and languages in the coverage, the number of competitors or peers (if you are doing a competitive analysis) and the split between quantitative and qualitative analysis in your report. The broader the scope, the higher the cost.
If you have $20,000 or more left in your 2016 budget,you can conduct competitive analysis in traditional, social and digital media across different business units and/or in several locations around the world.
Such research would help determine the awareness and perception of your brand in geographical markets, your target audiences’ reaction to your messages and the effectiveness of your thought leadership effort as well as your executives’ positioning. You can also see which strategies and tactics connected with your audiences and why. You also might find that your competitive intelligence sparks ideas for new campaigns and programs in 2017.
Specifically, your analysis can determine which messages are resonating in the media, which media channels are used most frequently by your target audiences, who are the influencers leading the conversation on topics that are important to your business and if your content was successfully amplified across channels.
If you have $20,000 or less remaining in your 2016 budget,the money can still be well spent by analyzing a specific campaign or program that ran during the year. Instead of looking for trends across 12 months, your focus should be on success metrics in the time period of your campaign.
Research can tell you if your messages appeared in top-tier media channels, or if your brand generated recognition by analysts, stakeholders and other influencers. You can also find out if and how your earned media coverage and creative content were shared across channels.
To keep costs down, you can tally the results for metrics such as coverage volume, coverage by media channel and sentiment, and just focus your insights and recommendations on coverage that spiked during the campaign. By using the lower-cost quantitative results with the more time-consuming qualitative insights, the price will not be as high as the broader-scope, deep-dive analysis.
Either type of report can help validate your PR effort to senior leadership and help you plan for 2017. You also will put a stake in the ground by setting a benchmark, with baseline findings that can be compared to the results and outcomes of PR strategies and tactics throughout the new year.
You might ask how you can afford an ongoing measurement program. But how can you not afford to find out whether the course you’re on is the correct one? It is not incomprehensible to spend 10% of your PR budget to find out the success of the other 90% through a meaningful measurement program.
Yes, according to industry standards, a meaningful measurement program typically costs 10% of a PR budget. As with most metrics, however, this number doesn’t apply to all situations, particularly because your analytics approach should be customized to meet the individual needs of each company, brand or client.
For example, measurement expert and PR News Pro contributor Katie Paine showcased several scenarios to determine the cost of different types of measurement programs in an article in these pages. Paine urges PR pros to “Take the total budget for” the project being measured. “Factor in the importance of the project to the bottom line of the organization, and make an educated guess as to what is reasonable to spend on measuring how successful that program is.” [https://www.prnewsonline.com/topics/measurement/2014/10/27/how-to-boost-budget-for-pr-measurement/]
In an article for the Institute for Public Relations, Mark Weiner, a frequent contributor to PR News Pro, declared that “the 10% rule is a myth” and offered five ways to determine the right amount to spend for PR research. He also noted, though, that 10% might be “just right” if you prioritize PR over other forms of marketing. As Weiner writes, “While budgeting depends on a given set of circumstances, blindly following the “conventional wisdom” will almost certainly lead to problems.” [http://www.instituteforpr.org/the-10-percent-rule-is-a-myth-five-smarter-ways-to-determine-the-right-amount-for-pr-research/]
But all measurement experts agree that demonstrating your success is critical to every communications plan. If properly executed, ongoing analytics highlight that success and provide relevant, actionable and data-driven recommendations to shape future strategy.
This content appeared originally in PR News Pro, December, 5, 2016. For subscription information, please visit: https://www.prnewsonline.com/about/info