Measuring What Matters

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the monthly luncheon of the Dallas Chapter of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) with a few of my fellow Southwest Communication and Strategic Outreach employees. The Joint Communicators Luncheon focused on media monitoring and measurement – which happens to be almost the exact title of my intern position in the Media Monitoring and Measurement division of the Communications Department!

I was especially excited to attend because not only was I going to gain further insight into an area of my own interest, but also because I was there on behalf of the Alan Scott Chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America. PRSA luncheons are a great source for learning new industry trends and an amazing networking opportunity for students and professionals alike.

It was pretty awesome to walk into the room of 100 plus Dallas-area professionals from PRSA, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), and the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI), with my Southwest Airlines intern badge and supervisors. I felt like I was walking in with the popular kids you never thought you’d get to hang out with.

The guest speaker, Katie Delahaye Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners, spoke about formulating the right measurement strategy and then using the appropriate tools to accomplish the goals of your company or campaign.

Ms. Paine is something of a measurement and analytics guru in the communication industry. Her firm specializes in public relations and social media research, which, as everyone knows, is growing and becoming an ever more complex field as clients want the work being done quantified in hard numbers.

Much of her presentation was centered on the Barcelona Principles, a set of principles of measurement from the 2010 Barcelona Summit:

  1. Goal setting and measurement are fundamental aspects of any PR programs.
  2. Media measurement requires quantity and quality – coverage clippings in themselves are not enough.
  3. Advertising value equivalents (AVEs) do not measure the value of PR and do not inform future activity.
  4. Social media can and should be measured.
  5. Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring media results.
  6. Business results can and should be measured where possible.
  7. Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement.

I had learned about many of the topics in Katie’s presentation in my previous coursework or in articles skimmed online, but I gained a more analytical perspective from her analysis.

  • Measuring sentiment, or the contextual expression of opinion regardless of tone, is a popular metric right now. However, 80 percent of conversation is neutral, so if sentiment is measured, there needs to be enough positive or negative conversation for it to even matter.
  • As Katie repeated several times during her presentation, ad value equivalency (AVEs) for public relations or social media work is faulty and inaccurate. “No board member ever hired a PR person to get column inches,” Paine said. Any company or agency that gives a client AVEs is basing it largely off of guess work and incredibly flawed metrics.
  • There are several types of measurement and analytics tools, which is something I’ve always known, but I still tended to file them all into one single drawer in my mind. Katie broke the categories down based on four different measurement goals:
  1. Rank: measuring messaging and position themes.
  2. Sentiment: implementing content analysis.
  3. Awareness perception: disseminating a web survey.
  4. Engagement: executing a web analysis.

As platforms and tools develop, it is important that we continue to adapt our measurement and analyses efforts. On Katie’s “Kick Butt Index” communications professionals that are attempting to give new significance to their efforts want to try and kick butt. Producing generic coverage reports or touting how many ‘likes’ a post received without providing a measurable meaning will result in your client or other professionals “kicking your butt.” Generating detailed and supported analytics of your various public relations efforts will receive notice and positive recognition. Then you’ll really be “kicking butt out there.”

– Rachael Sperling, UT PRSSA President