A healthy appreciation for measurement

PR has advanced far beyond being viewed as something nice to have and is now perceived as a must-have.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the AMEC European Summit on Measurement in Madrid, Spain, where research experts discussed and debated the standardization of metrics to monitor, analyze, provide insight, and evaluate public and media relations efforts to make a greater impact on business results.

After the conference, I tried to comprehend what I learned and determine how this will affect the Cleveland Clinic's strategy going forward. Most of us in PR are more “right brained” than “left,” so engaging in this was a bit beyond my comfort zone.

The takeaways from the gathering, however, are important for us to better understand and demonstrate the real value of PR on the bottom line. In a time of tremendous challenges in healthcare and declining reimbursement for services, PR must prove its worth. In healthcare, treatment for patients is based on proven therapies. In PR, we must also quantify the direct impact we have on business. In many circles, PR has advanced far beyond being viewed as something nice to have and is now perceived as a must-have. Effective use of measurement and analytics, which was an obvious focus of the summit, will facilitate that even further.
Monitoring “media by the pound” is not nearly enough to demonstrate retrospectively what we've done lately. Instead, we must shift our thinking and practice to better utilize the full range of metrics available to drive strategy. To do this, we need to fully understand our target markets, set clear goals, train our staff, and measure outcomes – not outputs – to keep up with this rapidly changing communications environment.

PR often delivers the greatest efficiencies and the highest returns from a cost-benefit perspective. However, PR that matters is important so that we're sending the right message to the right audience through the right medium. We need to do a much better job making the PR-to-sales connection.

Brand and reputation are intrinsically linked and research can help you better understand the interplay between them. Benchmarking your reputation can truly help you develop your strategy, drive greater efficiency, and strengthen your messages. Integrating your efforts with your advertising, social media, and marketing efforts will allow for an even greater impact.

My team at the Cleveland Clinic, like many in the PR field, is moving in the right direction, but still has a way to go. My advice is to educate yourself about the importance of good metrics, find the technical experts you need to help, and begin to use metrics to guide your strategy to support the business you're in. To be successful in the future, we need to bring together the art and science of PR.

Eileen Sheil is executive director of corporate communications at Cleveland Clinic, one of the country's top nonprofit academic medical centers. Her column will focus on the myriad challenges of healthcare PR and topics related to the management of the comms function. Sheil can be reached at sheile@ccf.org. 

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