Measuring PR in metrics your leaders will understand

New skills are needed to prove success as the creative side of PR merges with analytics. So make friends with your data-smart colleagues.

David B. Rockland has advice for PR warriors that will not only perk up your workday, but also improve your standing in your organization: Make some new friends.

Public relations pros tend to be right-brain types, eager to apply their creativity to a campaign, says the chief executive of Ketchum Global Research & Analytics.

So they should befriend the left-brain, analytical types who can help target the approach and prove results, Rockland says in the talk, “From Barcelona to Integration: Powerful Measurement Principles for Superior PR Programs.” The speech can be viewed free courtesy of Nasdaq Media Intelligence and Ragan Communications.

“See if you have a market research group somewhere in your organization, and make them your best friend,” Rockland says.

He describes the integrated marketing world that has evolved with the writing of Barcelona Principles—a global, overarching framework for how one should approach communications measurement. In the past 15 years, PR measurement has gone from clipping articles to using data to improve organizational performance and drive sales, says Rockland, who led a group of scores of professionals who drafted the Barcelona Principles.

View Rockland’s entire speech for free.

Measure in the language the bosses speak

PR must get away from metrics such as impressions and advertising value equivalency, which mean nothing to the leadership of an organization, Rockland says. Measure in a language your company or organization already speaks.

“Who are you trying to get to?” he says. “What about them is going to be different when you’re done? … And by when is this going to happen.”

He contrasts a list of good versus bad goals. Among them:

Bad: Drive media coverage.

Good: Through targeted media relations, reach 10 million target audience members by the end of the year. Deliver messages in 60 percent of all coverage.

In bad goals, he notes, there are no numbers or dates. The good ones predict what a campaign seeks to do and how its success can be measured.

But what about those free spirits who entered PR because of their creativity, not their slide-rule smarts? Luckily, the profession needs both sets of skills.

Use the data you’ve got

“It isn’t just about the numbers,” Rockland says. “It’s also about what makes people tick—and it is definitely not just about big data. We’ve got way too much talk about big data. Figure out first what you do with the little data that you’ve already got.”

Example? Rockland was working with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which successfully fundraised through volunteers who would get friends and relatives to pledge money when they ran run half- or full marathons. The return diminished as other organizations started copying the sports sponsorship tactic.

The organization had a lot of data; it just didn’t know what to do with it, Rockland says. The society knew how many people signed up for races in 56 markets nationwide, and how much was raised through direct mail, radio, online, and point-of-purchase, meaning displays in places such as Sports Authority or Walmart.

“We were able to say, for every thousand dollars you spend in each market for these four different channels, here’s how many leads you end up getting,” Rockland says.

Ketchum found that by reallocating money, the society would get 3,000 new leads. That equals $8.2 million for blood cancer research-based on conclusions from data the organization already had.

“One of the things we find a lot with our clients is they have all the data,” Rockland says. “It is rare I’m ever with a client and I say, ‘You are data poor.’ The vast majority of the time with clients what we’re saying is, ‘You’re data rich. You are analytics poor.'”

PR wants to be at seated at the adult table, but it often gets relegated to the kids table. It doesn’t have to be like that.

If you have the data and analytics to prove it, measurement can prove you belong with the grownups of “the C-suite,” Rockland says, referring to the executives with a C in their title, such as the chief executive officer and chief marketing officer.

The field, he says, “is really at the point where we really can demonstrate the things we wanted to demonstrate to get at the big guys’ table, to get at the C-suite table.”

View Rockland’s entire speech for free.

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