ANALYSIS <b>PR Measurement</b>: More clients, agencies find the value in measurement

Agency leaders gathered recently to talk over issues related to one of the PR industry's hot-button issues - measurement. PRWeek presents excerpts from the discussion

Agency leaders gathered recently to talk over issues related to one of the PR industry's hot-button issues - measurement. PRWeek presents excerpts from the discussion

PRWeek is partnering with the Institute for Public Relations on a series of roundtables to discuss issues related to PR measurement, moderated by Julia Hood. Our first gathering (covered here) brought together top corporate PR pros. Our second one, which brought together PR agency leaders, took place May 12. A sampling of the conversation follows. PRWeek: What systems of measurement or products do you provide for clients now? What sort of demand are you seeing? Rockland: We have a global network, here in New York and about six other offices that report into a single profit center, and offer clients a range of services in outputs and outcomes. Over the years, one of the things I've discovered is that as we have been able to ... develop relationships with market-research groups within the client, which can be difficult because they're reporting to somewhere completely different in the company. But when we can hook into stuff they already do, we wind up having a more robust measurement program and costing the client less money. Jolly: We're a centralized research group within the St. Louis office. A big role of our job as research professionals is to reach out to the account managers who may not have a research background and understand measurement and metrics, and work with them through brown-bag seminars and presentations about how to go about doing a program measuring outputs and outcomes. Kessler: The closer you are to an objective that relates to marketing products, the greater demand there is for a clearly defined ROI component. The further away you go from that, the closer you move to what is a large sector of our business in public affairs and corporate issues, and the ROI question becomes more difficult. We've had our greatest successes delivering against promised outcomes with clients who are trying to move product. The challenge is to attach value to the services we provide when our job is keeping our clients out of the news, or maybe our job isn't about media relations at all. Bartholomew: Measurement is white hot at our firm, driven primarily by clients. But probably the biggest single barrier to adoption is the cost. I think with some of the automated-content analysis, that's starting to change. I've seen very few examples of what I would consider ROI in PR. What we're talking about is performance against goals; it really isn't ROI. Spong: The way we think about it to our staff is we always talk basic anatomy - the head, heart, and feet. The head deals with awareness, familiarity. The heart being consideration, preference, some of the more intangibles. The feet being behavior, whether driving traffic to the website or the retailer, or getting someone to vote yes, vote no. I asked our leadership team how many clients are using us in some form for measurement, and the feeling was almost 100%, at least with media analysis. Anderson: Virtually all the clients of the agency get a measurement program, set up against key results - business results for the client and communications results. Some of the concern clients have with some of the online providers is that they don't know what to do with the data, so they need some analysis so they can take it further. One place we may have fallen down as [an industry] in terms of evaluation is we haven't argued the competitive value of using evaluation. Too many clients see it as a report card. Einhorn: We do a whole range of measurement, and our guiding principle is it should be adjusted according to the goals of the campaign. One of the big issues is cost, and many clients want to have a discussion about measurement, but using services they aren't willing to pay for it. But I've noticed an increase in government clients for federal and state programs where they build it into the budget as far as measurement of outcomes and survey research. We also have some clients where the compensation is tied to that, or at least incentivized. Makovsky: It varies on a client-by-client basis. When we start programs, some clients very much want measurement, and we use outside third parties to provide that. Some clients are very clip-oriented in terms of how many media clips are produced against their biggest competitor. In several cases, the clients are measuring that, so they will cite at the beginning of the campaign, "These are our five competitors and we track media campaigns of these on a monthly basis." When we go to set up metrics, clients often want them, but it's been my observation that there are three reasons why clients don't measure - budget, fear, and lack of knowledge. PRWeek: Do clients want to pay for measurement, and how do you set goals and expectations? Anderson: We have two clients where the need to measure is based on the need to report to senior management. In both cases, our reports go up to the boardroom, and they spend money to do it. I think one of the big drivers for measurement is accountability, and I think what happens when folks do that is they are more likely to get the coveted seat at the management table because they talk in the same terms as HR with its measures and operations with its measures. Kessler: We have clients where they are utilizing data to move and inform the campaign itself. We're seeing a lot more of that. Our firm is sort of grounded in this political heritage, where polling is a way of life where you do it every day, take the data back and analyze it, and revise the campaign. That's the rare, enlightened company, but we are seeing more of it. Jolly: We're seeing a trend where research is being driven by the C-suite. They want some predictive modeling almost, where they say, "If I'm spending $500,000 on communications, what can I expect in terms of outcomes?" We're striving now to develop a process where you sit down at the beginning of a program, and you go through a process of objectives or goals, and what outcomes [you are] looking for. Then [we] develop a database that we can go back to [with the results]. So when we get clients who say, "Our objective is to portray our reputation in a better light, but we have $500,000 to spend. What can we expect in terms of impressions, in terms of changing audience attitudes?" then our archive can say, "Well here's 10 case studies; here's what we got." Maybe that could help make the case to increase the PR budget. Spong: I think there are four immutable truths of measurement. One, everything we do can be measured. Second, not everything the client wants measured can be attributed to PR. For instance, sales. There are so many variables in the sales process. Everything we do we can measure, but not everything the client wants to attribute back to PR we have responsibility for. You can't measure the price in the market place, quality of the sales force. You can't even measure the product's quality. Third, I really believe most firms are about 98% there in terms of how we look at measurement. We might brand it or have some kind of proprietary process, but I don't think any quality firm is going to differ that much in how they look at the measures. Fourth, it comes down to "at what cost." I think clients hear research and automatically think it's $90,000 to $100,000, 15% of my budget. That's our challenge in terms of cost. Rockland: I wonder if when we talk about measurement and the way we go from spending dollars on PR, and what the client wants implies a linear way of thinking. I don't know if we can argue that all decision making takes place that way. People impulse buy - they go right to behavior without any other stuff. Or like The Tipping Point, a few little things happen and then all of a sudden there's a swing. I don't know how you'd measure the Burger King subservient chicken going to swing everybody to go buy chicken sandwiches. The Participants Forrest Anderson MD, Context Analytics (part of Text 100) Don Bartholemew SVP, director, measurement and evaluation, GCI Group
Steven Einhorn MD, knowledge, Burson-Marsteller Washington
Sue Jolly SVP and partner, Fleishman-Hillard Joe Kessler President, global technology, Weber Shandwick Ken Makovsky President, Makovsky & Company David Rockland SVP and global director of research, Ketchum Doug Spong Managing partner, Carmichael Lynch Spong

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