Tough times demand research, but go beyond usual PR metrics

If I had to guess, despite the tough economy, PR research companies are probably doing pretty well these days. When the bottom line gets extra scrutiny, everyone typically steps up to make sure they have quantifiable metrics in place to support their business operations. Still, I would encourage a deeper dive.

If I had to guess, despite the tough economy, PR research companies are probably doing pretty well these days. When the bottom line gets extra scrutiny, everyone typically steps up to make sure they have quantifiable metrics in place to support their business operations. Still, I would encourage a deeper dive.

Most chief communications officers are under increasing pressure to link communications performance to measurable business results.

It's no surprise. Most corporate executives I meet cannot readily articulate how the PR activity in their organizations measurably impacts key business drivers.

Yes, they appreciate that PR is important. And the results they see, often in the form of media analysis, are generally positive. But the language of media analysis is not the language of the C-suite, and few senior execs can make the case for PR in a quantifiable, compelling way.

In a tight economy, every hour spent and dollar allocated should go to business-impacting results – and that impact should be expressed and understood. Some ideas:

Identify the three or four major communications platforms that drive your company's business performance. These might include things like a reputation for innovation, employee engagement superior to all competitors, or a game-changing product launch.

Then inventory all your communications activity and look at it through the prism of these platforms. What doesn't fit, consider dropping. What does fit becomes the foundation of a rigorous exercise for you and your team.

Take your key platforms and succinctly articulate your communications objectives for each. And be sure to link those objectives to business outcomes.

Now articulate your strategies for achieving these goals. Avoid generic strategies like “media relations” or “third party support” and strive for powerful, relevant language like, “Direct, personal engagement with the industry's top 20 Web influencers to generate product trial and active endorsement.”

Now comes the hard part. Creating metrics for each.

How will you regularly evaluate your progress against these goals in ways that link your work to the business? Share of voice versus competitors may be a good start.

But I would submit most corporate executives don't focus on share of voice. They focus on customer preference. So, force your group to go to the next step. Why not execute brief quarterly surveys of brand preference and then create a visual metric that tracks share of voice and brand preference. Over time, track a linkage to the pattern.

Meaningful measurement requires a holistic view of communications; much communications happens outside the communications organizations purview. A sales call is communications. A financial analyst report is communications. A well-read blog outside your influence is communications.

If you want to be of value to your peers at the most senior level of the corporation, measurement must be holistic, focused on business outcomes, and in the language of management.
 
Bob Feldman is CEO of Feldman & Partners, a communications management consulting firm. He can be reached at bob@feldmanandpartners.com. Bob's monthly column focuses on management of the corporate comms function.

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