Even as we all live and work under the shadow of the pandemic, the relevance of Communications has gone up considerably as organisations realise the importance of PR and communication strategies to increase their reach and impact.
I had the privilege to attend the AMEC Global Measurement and Evaluation Summit 2021 which had excellent sessions on the power of data and analytics in communications, measuring the impact of PR campaigns and best practices on communications measurement and evaluations.
These sessions by communication experts from around the world made one fact amply clear. Communication is both an art and a science, but it is the scientific data that lends a concrete shape and structure to the creative process behind what all Communication professionals do.
It also got me thinking. While an MBA in Marketing is one of the more popular professional courses that can pretty much assure a rewarding career, an MBA in Public Relations is looked upon like a lesser cousin, yet to get its rightful place under the Sun. There is an assumption that PR & Communications as a function is more qualitative, deals with sentiment, impressions, tonality and consequently difficult to measure or monetise.
Forums like the annual AMEC Summit (now in its glorious 25th year) have contributed immensely towards dispelling such (mis)notions. What the silver jubilee sessions from AMEC made strikingly evident is that communications campaigns can just as accurately be measured as any other form of marketing campaigns. As Guro Dahl Lindbjerg, Country Manager, Retriever Norway, and Head of Analysis, Retriever Group, highlighted in the Summit, media data in addition to being useful for social research, can also be used for big scale impact measurements even for financial sectors and the overall economy.
At a more micro level, Communicators are increasingly relying on metrics to measure the impact of the work they do for the organisations they work in. But in order to adequately measure the output, concrete goals and objectives aligned to the vision of the organisation needs to be set. The Communication strategy being rolled out must work towards fulfilling the organisation’s end goal and draw up their Key Result Areas in tandem.
The Measurement paradox: To measure or not to measure and how much to measure?
It is a no brainer that campaigns must be tracked and evaluated for impact. After all considerable amount of dollars get poured into marketing campaigns. Measurement shouldn’t be done for measurement’s sake, as Margaret Molloy, CMO of NY-based branding agency Siegel+Gale rightly observes. “Are you getting that right balance between quant and qual? And are you making sure you appreciate popular metrics, but understand their limitations and account for them?,” This is Molloy’s pertinent question to communicators.
Too much measurement or data analysis can in fact lead to a ‘right size fits all’ approach, making the whole process counterproductive and also counter intuitive. The push to measure impact leads to excess focus on this one area to the detriment of others. Sometimes it also flies in the face of common sense. A viral campaign need not be measured and others like CSR Campaigns should be measured only by way of the benefits it actually brings to the under privileged.
It’s a bit of a paradox, but the fact is for the most part, measurement is essential and contributes to the greater good and success of any organisation. Measuring communication campaigns both external and internal are part of any organisation (or MBA Classroom’s) best practices.
Both internal & external communications are quite distinct from each other with very different stakeholders and outcomes. However, in most organisations both these functions roll into the same individual who then becomes responsible for the success of both. And both functions are critical to the success of an organisation and especially its brand and image, albeit in different ways.
Of the two, external PR campaigns are usually tracked more for impact, and there are a few easy and established ways to measure its RoI.
- Share of Voice: SOV is essentially how the organisation fares against like-to-like peers in its particular industry in popular media. It can be easily calculated viz. the number of mentions that your brand gets in the media vis-à-vis competition. This is really just a form of competitive analysis. How many clicks did my press release get versus my nearest competitors?
- Media Impressions. Another method of assessing PR efforts is to calculate the number of media impressions for a given period. It’s a simple process derived at by multiplying the number of press clippings by the total circulation of the publication in which it appeared. For example, if The Times of India mentions your company and it has a total circulation of 3 million, you automatically achieved 3 million media impressions. Goes without saying that the media mention should be positive, otherwise the efforts of the poor communicator would backfire!
- Sentimental analysis: This is a slightly more amorphous area than the first two but is still considered very useful to gauge impact. Is the Company’s content resulting in the desired outcomes? For example, did my blog get read by a potential customer and can a conversation be started based on this? Can a just published article be used to break the ice with a reluctant prospect? Time and time again, good content has proved that it can and does open new doors.
- Website hits: PR is being increasingly used to increase traffic to a website with the help of backlinks and organic content. Storytelling plays a very important role here and a skilled Communications team will always attempt to catch the reader’s attention with attractive formats, colorful templates and a winning mix of visuals and good content.
- Going beyond measurements: Getting back to our original point about the Measurement Paradox, sometimes a campaign becomes so successful there is just no need to spend manpower and resources to measure statistical evidence of its success. That is the end goal of every PR & Marketing professional (Just think Shot on iPhoneX).. Moreover, sometimes even a bold impromptu statement from the spokesperson can make the front page effortlessly. When it really resonates, there is no need to measure the impact.
To conclude, there can be no one rule book to ensure the success of external communication campaigns. To succeed, would require a judicious mix of gut instinct, experience and reliable measurement tools. In my next piece, we will look at another interesting trend: the rise of internal communications in the new normal and ways to measure its impact.
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.