Measurement Lesson of the Day: Don’t Be Afraid of Data

Admit it, PR measurement has a PR problem. It’s particularly bad because some communicators are reluctant to work with data.

Yet communications’ reliance on data is growing. An important part of the brand communicator’s job, for example, is measuring and deriving insights from data. This includes monitoring social media so potential issues can be spotted and dealt with before they become crises, says Brad Ross, chief communications officer for the city of Toronto.

Preparing for and measuring a crisis is just one of the topics that experts will address at the upcoming PR News Measurement Conference, being held April 17-18 in Washington D.C. Pros from major brands, nonprofits and agencies will also tackle next practices in social media measurement, building an integrated communications measurement program, and much more.

The good news is data collection and measuring are teachable skills. Communicators “don’t need to be data experts” to track key performance indicators (KPIs), argues John Glinski, who is a data expert. “You need to understand what data is available or whom to reach out to so you can get the data you need,” says Glinski.

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Where to Begin?

“Start by having conversations [with data experts in your organization]…you don’t need in-depth knowledge of programming language to do this,” he argues. “Tell them what you’re interesting in learning.”

Then formulate basic questions that data can help answer. For social, he suggests: How are users accessing our site? What are they searching for? What does engagement look like at our social channels?

In Glinski’s straightforward approach, “dashboards do not have to be complicated” either. The point of a dashboard, he says, is to “answer pointed questions…and foster conversations” with stakeholders.

Data to answer these questions was found through the referring site, internal search terms and various social channels, respectively.

Glinski’s advice is well-taken. He collaborated with members of Vanguard’s PR team on efforts similar to those described here. The process involved interviews to discover what questions PR wanted to answer with data. Glinski also conducted dashboard-reading sessions with PR.

Glinski’s last tip also is counterculture but smart: “It’s important not to overreact to data,” he says, “but it’s also important to make sure data is part of your process.”

Seth Arenstein is Editor of PR News. Follow him at: @skarenstein

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