To define and measure success for their clients with online programs, firms must now show ROI that exceeds impressions and demonstrates engagement with target audiences.
Clients want to find out how a campaign influenced a targeted consumer and if that consumer was able to retain the intended message, according to Natasha Fogel, EVP of global media analytics and secondary research for strategy at Competitive Insights, a measurement agency operated independently under parent company Edelman.
“[Clients] want to get to quality... by doing primary research and understanding how [the message] is affecting consumers and stakeholders,” she says. “They're looking at revenue, Web site traffic, and the media to look at the quality of the story.”
For Edelman and other agencies she works with, Fogel says, “We'll do a retroactive analysis where we can benchmark [results]. That can help inform strategy.”
Measuring online efforts, while still in its infancy, is making strides. Fogel says her group has been using primary research, social media analysis, and conversation audits to identify the degree to which someone is engaged, where they are linking, and the level at which they qualify as an “influencer.”
John Bell, MD at Ogilvy's 360 Digital Influence practice, says a rise in the importance of PR measurement is partly due to a lower trust in advertising and higher trust in peer-to-peer communications, especially online.
Ogilvy is putting much effort into online engagement. In a program with Lenovo, Bell's team recruited 100 Olympic athletes to take part in a video blog from the Summer Games in Beijing.
“It was set up in terms of what our goals were and what we'd measure,” he says. “It was a good case where we focused on engagement metrics.”
ROI was largely based on consumer-generated content, social media impressions, and sentiment, which Bell explains is still largely a “human interpretation.”
Ogilvy is also working on a new process-based measurement model for 2009.
Tim Marklein, EVP of the measurement and strategy practice at Weber Shandwick, says the big change the Web brought to measurement is to make results – conversations in the online communities – much more visible to more clients.
“Dial back 10 or 20 years; most of the measurement done in the business world for PR was quarterly,” he notes. “In the Web world, quarterly doesn't cut it.”
Marklein provides clients with monthly and weekly, and, in a crisis, daily reports. “We've... stepped up [our] investment in the past two years,” he says, “particularly to provide linkages and insights across various measurement sagas.”
Measurement's importance has risen because of the down economy, explains Bell. However, it's possible to have too much information.
“There's nothing more important to clients than knowing they're making the most efficient marketing choice,” he says. “We'll take an insightful look at the data we've got and be able to report on something indicative of consumer action.”
Identifying influencers is key in measuring online engagement
The Web necessitates that firms report results to clients with frequency
Defining measurement goals in advance helps inform overall strategy