What are the best ways to show the C-suite that it is worth investing in measurement?

Portray the positive impacts of measurement when trying to persuade the C-suite to invest in measurement, and always include digital in reports.


Dave Armon, President, Critical Mention

Shannon Bowen, Associate professor, University of South Carolina

Johna Burke, SVP, BurrellesLuce

Allyson Hugley, EVP, measurement, analytics, and insights, Weber Shandwick

David Kellis, Director of PR and social media, Clorox

Dave Armon, president, Critical Mention
If there is a CMO or a CFO in the C-suite, no convincing will be required. These are data-driven executives who make decisions by numbers and appreciate clarity in all aspects of the business. However, there may be pushback when a communications department with non-existent or rudimentary measurement capability tries to get approval for an expensive and complex solution when simplicity could work just fine.

Like so many aspects of professional life, it is important to build consensus among those internal stakeholders who would benefit from more measurement. Take a look at analytics coming from other departments - sales, technology, HR, and customer service - and keep the following in mind when proposing programs:

  • Make sure PR measurement clearly maps your company's business goals. Bragging that your work generated more media coverage may not matter as much as demonstrating PR drove a specific business outcome.

  • Keep the reporting simple at the highest level and more complex deeper in the organization. A CEO may not need to know the number of times a piece was viewed, but sales or marketing leadership does.

  • Start out digitally. Make sure your reports to the C-suite contain digital. Embedding video is a powerful way to demonstrate work, especially if it moved the needle during the most recent quarter or month.

Providing the C-suite with even the simplest data concerning PR activities will demonstrate a commitment to transparency and also open up dialog that could lead to additional investment in more sophisticated measurement systems.

Shannon Bowen, associate professor, University of South Carolina
By documenting the effectiveness of the PR function, we ensure that we show how it is contributing to the strategic management of a company by accomplishing C-suite objectives. But how can we use research and measurement to get to that point?

Ensuring PR is seen as a main function within organizations and given access to the C-suite is vital. It is hard for PR professionals to negotiate a budget and show strategic acumen without that access.

I conducted a study of CCOs and found five routes to gain access to top management: a crisis situation, an ethical dilemma, credibility gained over time through correct analyses, issues high on the media agenda, and maintaining relationships with other cross-functional areas in the organization.

Employing those strategies will help a CCO gain a seat at the top management table. From there, they can use research and measurement to engage in management issues and help an organization proactively plan and problem solve. By using information gained to help the organization engage in the public policy process, the PR unit can help create policy that shapes the company's future. Doing so can save the cost of law- suits and a host of other problems encounter-ed by less forward-thinking organizations.

By using data to inform the issues management process, the PR practitioner wins a seat and credibility within the company's leadership. The firm wins a more nimble strategy focused on maintaining relationships with stakeholders, saving money that would have been lost to problems, and protecting the reputation it has worked hard to earn.

Johna Burke, SVP, BurrellesLuce
The economic climate of the past few years has affected the overall planning and operations requirements of businesses, nonprofit groups, and government agencies. These entities must now manage their affairs with financial restraint, a challenge that requires executives to achieve better results with often-scarcer resources.

PR practitioners can use the following to persuade the C-suite of the valuable contribution measurement has to a company:

  • Collaboration. Collaboration among departments such as customer service, human resources, sales, marketing, R&D, finance, and alignment of PR efforts to other key initiatives of the organization are essential. Only with a strategic approach can professionals provide insights into how PR impacts the market - reputation, retention and buyers' understanding - and adds value to the organization.

  • Metrics. Broadly speaking, metrics that should drive a measurement program are the ones that can demonstrate results. Data that is actionable, both in terms of guiding effective follow-up and in establishing individual and departmental accountability allows a primary and secondary use of data collection. Actionable metrics allow PR pros to show a correlation of their efforts to both top-line and bottom-line business results.

  • Insight. Predictive analysis is still out of reach for many companies. However, sustainability of business is often tied to demonstrating expertise. Measurement enables PR professionals to provide data that serves as the basis of an effective thought-leadership program.

In short, today's business environment is custom made for insightful media measurement. A program such as this offers clear evidence of a PR practitioner's keen understanding and ability to support the organization's mission, values, culture, and strategic objectives.

Allyson Hugley, EVP, measurement, analytics, and insights, Weber Shandwick
Let's start with the definition of investment: A thing worth buying because it may be profitable or useful in the future.

C-suite resistance to allocating resources to measurement is because the function is a backward-looking exercise that provides little value to the business going forward.

The first step in convincing the C-suite that measurement is worth investing in is to approach and present it as a forward-looking exercise. Make the measurement activities dual purpose - to demonstrate results and to glean new insights that help chart the best course for future success.

Get beyond demonstrating the program delivered against the target goal and show how investments in PR measurement in-form business and communications strategy, leading to future programs that are smarter, more efficient, and more impactful.

Define and demonstrate impact in ways that align with business objectives and outcomes. Recap reports with coverage high-lights and impression counts will resonate less with the C-suite than metrics that show how PR activities drove awareness, consideration, and purchase intent. Capturing these types of metric requires investment in primary survey research and planning to establish benchmarks and track results over time. Attempt to leverage any existing re- search first before asking for additional budget requirements specifically to measure PR outcomes.

Presentation also matters to the C-suite. Dashboards and infographics are changing expectations around how data should be presented. Avoid overwhelming senior management with a ton of data points and performance factoids. Identify a core set of key-performance indicators and focus on presenting that information in a way that is compelling and easily understandable. Showing data in context is also critical.

Use performance trends over time or comparisons to competitors to bring successes, as well as areas for improvement, to the surface and to create a richer data narrative.

David Kellis, director of PR and social media, Clorox
Clorox's management wants to know the value of every dollar we spend and whether it is driving the business.

A few years ago we worked with our analytics team to determine how we could measure the short-term ROI of PR. As a multi-brand CPG company, we spend millions of dollars on PR and stressed to management that we should know its value in the marketing mix. As a highly analytical company, management agreed.

Through the work of our analytics team, we were able to measure PR's output impressions through the market mix model, a tool companies use to attribute volume to advertising and other marketing variables such as pricing and free standing inserts.

This model showed that PR drove volume and had better ROI and efficiency than almost all other vehicles in the marketing mix for all seven different campaigns we measured. We were ecstatic. But PR has changed dramatically over the past few years, with social media becoming an essential way to engage directly with consumers. It's been an awakening for PR, but social content is relatively unproven.

We are now working with our analytics team to answer the question, "does engagement sell soap literally and figuratively?" Our argument is that social media content is the currency of marketing in the digital age. And content, more than ever, is king. If we can't measure the new reality of how we connect with consumers, we're lost. Just measuring TV advertising and even traditional PR in this era is like measuring how many square miles the flat Earth is.

The Takeaway

  • Portray the positive impacts of measurement when trying to persuade the C-suite to invest in measurement, and always include digital in reports.

  • Using measurement strategies proactively to help the company plan ahead and solve problems is a way to win further investment.

  • Investment must yield a return. Ensure management knows measurement is worth investing in by charting achievable target.

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