Gideon Fidelzeid: How do you tell stories through numbers and metrics in a manner that increases PR’s effectiveness and bottom-line impact?
Heidi Mock: Company goals are the roadmap. That’s essentially where we started. Those priorities should be the guide of where you take your measurement program. And if you look at those priorities, you will be more impactful in how you translate that message to whatever audience because those things should be inherent to each employee.
I understand the difficulties in showing a direct financial impact of communications. But it can be done. If you peel back the layers, look hard enough, and really do your due diligence in reaching out to all of the folks both within and outside your own department, you’ll identify an impact that you can at least speak to that shows savings, that shows investment, that shows how you are truly trying to help on the financial side. Financial success is not just making money, it’s saving money. Those are obvious goals for any company and it’s something to which communications can link.
Fidelzeid: You’ve held distinct communications roles in your career, including two at Time Warner, where you have been since 2000. How has that background informed your current role and increased your appreciation for measurement?
Mock: Back in 2006, when I was the sole media relations person, things really came into focus for me because we had more than 1,000 media contacts for the area I oversaw. It was an impossible task for one person to cover that ground. Out of necessity, I had to focus on using tools and figuring out how to narrow my contact lists and work more efficiently.
When you’re messaging, you must be able to tell who’s opening and reading releases. By doing so, you can quickly eliminate a whole group of people and focus on a very specific group that are interested – or at least showing some level of interest – and start from there.
With further investigation, you can narrow that list down even more.
So I started using these tools to measure the impact of the reports I worked with. What publications they worked for. The circulation – both print and online. And, of course, the impact I was able to make by focusing my efforts on a much narrower group of contacts.
Lo and behold, it was working. I actually started to build a foundation for how Time Warner would map out in Northeast Ohio and how we wanted to work with contacts. We then rolled it out into the rest of Ohio and then throughout the Midwest.
Fidelzeid: Please offer one example where your measurement efforts truly changed the company’s perspective on a key topic.
Mock: Measurement has definitely helped the company evaluate its prominence within news coverage differently. A common tack is looking at direct mentions in headlines, the first 100 words of a story, etc. That’s narrow. You have to look at it from many angles to get a more complete story.
We’ve come full circle in the news space to give a true evaluation of what Time Warner’s news impact is and how we are contributing to that. Some of it is marketing, ads, campaigns, and sweepstakes, but we can break it down further and truly show how we’re making a targeted impact. But you have to look at the whole news process, not just headlines and the like.
Fidelzeid: How important are media impressions?
Mock: It’s one piece of a whole picture. It gives you a baseline of the size and scope of a particular outlet and its impact. But the danger is it takes your focus off of some very undervalued blogs that you really should focus on.
From an evaluation standpoint, impressions are a guide to tell you whom you should work with, but there are key factors to consider. Impressions are often the same number for an entire month. They don't factor in any changes over the course of that month. Then next month, it’s a new number. Impressions might be more valuable if they better reflected real time.
Fidelzeid: A key problem with many measurement programs is people still focus on outputs more than outcomes. How do you get people to shift their thinking on this and implement strategies that fully measure the impact of their PR programs?
Mock: Goal setting cannot be emphasized enough. Your goal could be something broad, but the metrics underneath it are what you will use to show where you made an impact.
In truth, I’ve found you need at least three goals. No single goal would be enough. Even if some of the goals are small or very output-driven, the fact you have multiple goals ensures you are looking at a much fuller picture.
The other part of that is benchmarking. Obviously, it’s harder to do that when you’re just starting a measurement program, but in such cases you can even begin with something you found on a website or some set of industry standards you’ve seen. You need some numbers to compare to so that you can set worthwhile goals based on previous years. They also tell you how you’re doing compared to competitors.
And remember: this doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in six weeks. It will probably take a few years for you to really be using this information in an insightful and forward-thinking manner.
Fidelzeid: Please talk about the integrated dashboard you created at Time Warner and how others might be able to implement this with their own brands and clients.
Mock: The whole foundation of an integrated dashboard is creating something you can easily share with company leadership – and that they will understand just as clearly.
It starts with benchmarks, which I mentioned before. Executives must clearly see these benchmarks, so our dashboard includes them clearly.
What really makes our integrated dashboard work, though, is the incorporation of overall company goals. Armed with those, we can highlight on our dashboard the way communications is directly impacting them. In many ways, this dashboard works like a map and it can show how comms efforts impact the company budget, anything to do with products, and even how it impacts internal and external news.
And you can break it down further. We have an intranet where employees can watch videos and view stories. With our integrated dashboard, we can easily show what content appeals to them the most. Is it videos about M&As? Employee recognition programs? Products?
And we can look at all this intelligence side by side in a very graphic way. This helps highlight where our internal and external audiences are seeing things, while underscoring the differences in how they look at information.
We’ve found some really valuable insights that highlight how news coverage of the same story can be viewed so differently depending on the audience. There might be a news story that has really become a hot topic externally, but it is not seen that way by our employee base. This kind of insight will help you focus on matters of utmost importance to the particular audience.
Fidelzeid: Everyone talks about social listening, but can you offer an example of where it truly had an impact?
Mock: This story always makes me laugh, but it truly illustrates a key point. For some reason, a lot of people on social media forget the second D when chatting about the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s a team we’re closely linked to because SportsNet LA is our sports channel there. Since so many people spell it incorrectly, we created a search term similarly spelled incorrectly.
We actually discovered a lot of social conversations we were missing. And once we discovered those, we uncovered an interesting insight that revealed the tone of coverage for SportsNet LA was more positive on the social side than on the traditional media side. Such insight is very helpful when determining where your time and money is best spent.
Fidelzeid: What are the most important aspects to effective media monitoring?
Mock: The conversation has to go to the next level beyond monitoring, which is tracking. You need to be studying the media in real time – or as close to real time as you can – to get the information you need. That said, if you’re just beginning and have limited resources, monthly is the bare minimum.
If you’re tracking information, especially on hot topics for news, the tracking will tell you how this looks as a picture, where there were spikes, and where there were lost opportunities. But where this information really comes in handy is in planning events or product launches for a particularly opportune time. And once you have a tracking mechanism set up, it simply becomes a matter of refreshing your widgets and grabbing the numbers you need.
And the result is that you’ll often see things happen that you never expected. Or executives might wonder why a certain thing happened and they’ll have the information to answer their own questions. And everyone can really gauge successes, take that momentum, and reapply it to different times of the year with new events and programs.
Fidelzeid: How would you advise PR pros to most effectively share their data with senior leadership?
Mock: They expect the whole picture, so tell them a story from one vantage point with one singular message. That was the whole point of the integrated dashboard – to capture our work in a way that would enable our C-suite to see in a quick snapshot how communications was impacting the company goals, the priorities that were pre-established, how we were continuing to move forward in that direction, and finding new ways in which to evaluate that information with different audiences in mind.
As an added bonus, our integrated dashboard created a truly integrated team. We now collaborate across the company more than ever. When we all look to present the numbers in an integrated manner, everyone is more empowered to make suggestions about what can be added, what can be made better, and new things to try. Measurement has made us a stronger team on numerous fronts.