Measurement expanding to online conversations

Measurement remains one of the most significant challenges for PR agencies. The ability to prove that work is producing results for clients is what keeps the money coming. And as if effectively measuring the success of a PR campaign wasn't hard enough, it's becoming even tougher as the importance of blogs and online communities continues to grow.

Measurement remains one of the most significant challenges for PR agencies. The ability to prove that work is producing results for clients is what keeps the money coming. And as if effectively measuring the success of a PR campaign wasn't hard enough, it's becoming even tougher as the importance of blogs and online communities continues to grow.

Jennifer Scott, MD of insights and research at Ogilvy PR Worldwide, says the firm is expanding its measurement capabilities to blogs and online conversations because clients want it. Ogilvy's MediaDex product, she says, uses automated technology to search and analyze formal and mainstream media.

"We're extending this capability to include not just blog search and analysis, but also online communities and chat room search and analysis," Scott explains. "MediaDex lets us not just look at those categories independently, but see how they influence one another, which is becoming a very important part of measurement."

Scott believes being able to measure the impact of word of mouth is going to be an important part of PR metrics going forward.

"Traditionally, PR occupies the space where the conversations and influence are," she says. "We followed that and found conversations are dispersing from main- stream avenues down to grassroots among consumers, b-to-b, and even patients chatting with nurses. To effectively measure how our campaigns are part of that conversation, we must first determine the value of that conversation, which the industry has yet to answer."

Andrew Eberle, EVP in the information services group at Weber Shandwick, says companies must not go blog-measurement crazy.

"I think the energy most clients are putting toward that is probably a reaction to what they think might be happening out there," he says. "Once they scratch the surface of the blogosphere, they realize there is both junk and some meaningful stuff, but it's a more manageable thing. Scenarios in which people must keep a finger on the pulse of
a million blogs on a minute-by-minute basis is not a reality."

Doug Costle, VP at Context Analytics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Text 100, says the next few years will be an exciting time surrounding measurement.

"We are entering the third stage of analytics, not just around PR, but all of marketing," he says. "In some ways, PR has been laggard in terms of the sophistication of analytics, but it's starting to catch up. You're seeing more sophisticated analytics being applied to communications events, the inclusion of PR more frequently in marketing-mix models, and you're going to see how PR can address the fragmentation of markets that have been enabled by consumer-generated media. So blogs and online communities are of interest."

Costle says the next wave of analytics will be the development of more sophisticated ways to analyze the information in online communities, identify who the influencers are, and offer a method that will let companies stay active in that network of conversation.

"When you talk measurement, you're talking about the objectives of the campaign, so the more clients are focused on that, the more they automatically focus on measurement," Ogilvy's Scott says. "So it becomes an integral part of what we offer. We can't be really strategic for our clients without having ultimate goals in mind and having a smart way to demonstrate that we've achieved them."

Key points:

Persuade clients to be receptive to new measurement tools

Deliver actionable information across multiple media and within a broader marketing perspective

Recognize that there is both relevant and irrelevant information in blogs and online communities

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