Wed, Mar 25, 2009 by Steve McAbee
There is a major shift occurring in measuring communications activities, brought about in part by the proliferation of internet publications, social media and the current economic landscape. More than ever, companies are strategically assessing PR’s contributions to ensure spend does not exceed expected return. Companies are trying to measure the value of the “link” in conjunction with more traditional “ink.”
Measuring conventional media relations results has long been a game of hits, clips, and media impressions, with higher value placed on articles in publications that have the most influence over consumers. “The Clip Book” was the trophy PR agencies would print, bind and distribute to their clients and in-house communications professionals would submit to senior management in an effort to show continued value.
This process was moderately improved in the last decade when analyzing the numbers began to drive more value out of a company’s communications investment. Insight into share of voice, tone and brand perception evolved old-school data collecting into actionable metrics used by PR practitioners worldwide to dynamically modify key messages, delivery methods and targets. But the challenge of measuring the degree of influence over consumers has always been a mystery.
Ask yourself when was the last time you heard of the launch of a major market newspaper? Hardly a day goes by that you don’t hear of another newspaper or magazine stopping the presses. Thankfully, many are thriving still, only now in digital form. But there is a new reporter: the consumer. Websites, social networking, webinars, blogs, and podcasts have helped to transform consumers into proactive advocates or detractors of a company’s brand and products. Companies who do not embrace this change risk losing control of their messages and reputation.
With fewer print opportunities, and a more transparent relationship between companies and customers, PR measurement must evolve to include the power of the hyperlink. Communications departments and agencies are overwhelmed with tracking and analyzing the deluge of data coming from the consumer-as-media experience, as well as conventional media relations. But the “link” gives access to data not available from print. Link analysis can show which products resonate with customers, what website pages stick with customers, which keywords are most effective, and much more.
Merging data collected from online media with print allows a company to develop a cohesive communications strategy that effectively uses both forums to influence buyers. Further, the metrics can be utilized to effect the entire organization, including research and development, production, marketing and sales, distribution, and customer service.
Without a doubt, comprehensive communications metrics improves business value and enables companies to identify trends and opportunities that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. But only time will tell if the value of the link exceeds that of ink.