Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Measurable Metrics that Matter Most

Try saying that five times fast.

Whenever we get ready for a pitch meeting, we debate the issue of metrics. Potential clients always ask, “so how can you tell if it’s working?” Some folks in our industry will tell you it’s about impressions or “eyeballs” if they like to metric around online stats. Some will compare the prices of advertising vs. the editorial space devoted to your company. Some will even try to claim that the number of press release pickups is what’s really important.

Well, I think they are wrong. Dead wrong, wrong as wrong can be. The measurements listed above are tactics, not metrics. A PR firm should have an internal goal that they will help generate up to XXX press release pickups for each release. To accomplish this, they can leverage Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques, post the release to various news aggregation sites, and Tweet about it.

The ad comparison I don’t really get as meaningful simply because it’s not an apple to apples comparison, or at least not a Granny Smith to a Golden Delicious comparison. Both advertising and PR have a role to play and sometimes they overlap when the marketing objective is brand or market pull. But an ad’s content is controlled and orchestrated while a news article is objective and unbiased. Both can move markets but the measurement seems false and simply a way to protect PR as it relates to a bigger advertising spend.

PR metrics should be about how the program or programs help a company achieve its business and marketing objectives. If your company’s marketing objective is to be considered a “thought leader” in your market, then the metrics should measure the program’s success in making that a reality. For example, if thought leadership is the objective, you might want metrics like:

1. Have three industry analysts willing to support company announcements with supporting quotes about the company’s leadership in ABC market.

2. Have the company’s Point of View (POV) included in part of four industry trend stories where it can articulate its opinion about a market issue or trend.

To make the first metric achievable, the PR firm might have to set up briefings with ten analysts over the course of six months to find people that believe in the company, understand the market and whose opinion can help shape the public debate.

To make the second metric achievable, the PR firm will have to know what reporters are writing about, and not writing about, certain subjects and how your company can help the reader better understand the issue. Then the PR firm has to set up an internal system that keeps them in regular contact with reporters and industry issues come up (think Broadband Stimulus, Net Neutrality or Hacker Days) so that your company is top of mind.

There are dozens of ways a PR agency will want to metric the programs they create for you, just make sure those metrics measure how the program helps your company achieve its market and business objectives, not theirs.