I recently visited Orlando, Fla., to speak to the PRSA chapter about measurement.
I have an uncomplicated, five-step approach. It might be helpful to you, especially if you have a small budget and no access to fancy dashboards.
Before I get started, though, I have a few don'ts:
- Get caught up in shiny new measurement tools, because then you'll start to measure the tools, and not what you should be focused on.
- Get stuck just counting Twitter followers, Facebook fans, media impressions, etc. Note I said "just counting."
- Go crazy trying to find the one-size-fits-all measurement solution—it doesn't exist.
ranted expounded on some measurement no-nos over at Kimber Media's blog. Go have a read.
Now that you've read the don'ts, here's what to do.
1. Identify the business objectives for your program/campaign.
Based on these business objectives, what do you need people to do? For example, if your objective is to increase sales, you need people to buy more of your product.
While increased sales is a common example, your objective could be anything. If you work for a nonprofit organization, your objective might be to increase members of an online community. An online community has people you can convert into members/donors.
That last bit is the most important. All roads might not lead to Rome, but they should lead to your business objective.
Your business objective(s) should be at the core of your measurement program. Before you do anything else, figure them out.
2. Identify how you will measure the success of these objectives.
If your objective is to increase sales, what percentage do you want them to increase by during your chosen time period?
If your objective is to grow your email list—that is where you convert the most prospects into customers—how much do you want it to grow? In what time frame?
Be as specific as you can. Don't just quantify what you want to achieve, but identify the time frame in which you want to do it.
3. Outline your communication strategy.
The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn't plan your strategy first. You should look at your business objectives and then decide how to use various communication vehicles to achieve those objectives.
In order to do this, you must understand how your audience reacts to and uses different communication mediums. Your program will be more effective if you include those mediums in your plan.
Don't seize the shiny, new toy du jour and say, "Oh, everyone's on ____! We're going to use _____!" Or, "Let's make a viral video like KONY 2012!"
You don't have to be everywhere all the time. Be where it makes the most sense.
4. Figure out how you will track your efforts.
This part is a lot of fun for me. With so many of our communications moving online, it's possible to track a lot of things—and I mean a lot.
Don't get caught up in tracking nonsense numbers. You might get an ego boost when you see your number of Twitter followers grow, but if that growth won't help you reach your business objectives, what's the point?
Tracking URLs are commonplace now. Use them. Get comfortable with Google Analytics and Google's URL Builder. You will be amazed at how much insight these tools give you, particularly when it comes to understanding what drives actions, clicks, downloads, purchases, sign-ups, etc.
This insight makes your strategy more informed and effective. It will also tell you what's not working so you can decide whether it's important enough to fix. Smart tracking lets you know what worked so you don't have to guess.
Even if you're not a statistician, you probably already know about correlation. Correlation is when one thing is related to another in a way as to have an effect on it.
For example, say you get a terrific hit on a blog you know is popular with your target audience. If your site's traffic increases more than usual, there is probably a correlation between the two.
Keep track of your outbound activities—new blog posts, news releases, email campaigns, and so on—and see what effect they have on your desired outcomes. (This is why you need to get comfortable with tracking.)
You should keep track of everything anyway so you don't mistakenly draw a correlation where there isn't one. Most of the time I don't have access to fancy dashboards, so I've found the easiest way to do this is to combine a few things:
- Use Excel or a Google spreadsheet to track outputs and outcomes.
- Make sure the time frame in which you track different things—traffic, downloads, purchases, etc.—is the same.
- Watch Google Analytics regularly, and see if there is a correlation between outputs and outcomes.
If you keep an eye on everything you do, and also look at the back end, you'll be able to tell what works and what doesn't.
And, if you want to find the statistical correlation, Excel has a formula to help you out. I'd suggest you work with someone who is really into statistics to make sure you understand what you're doing.
Put these five steps to work, and I'm fairly certain you will take giant steps in demystifying measurement. Who knows, you might even have fun!
Shonali Burke runs a successful agency of one, is the founder of the popular #measurePR Twitter chat, and Adjunct Faculty at Johns Hopkins University's M.A. in Communication program. A version of this article first appeared on Waxing UnLyrical.