Measurement of PR results is an important part of establishing a solid public relations program. Measuring what works (and what doesn’t work) helps you to plan better, reach business goals more quickly, and have a PR program that performs better all around.
The costs can begin to add up, however. From dedicating internal resources to purchasing monitoring platforms, good measurement does require a budget. Even if the return on those investments is positive, the initial outlays can seem daunting if they haven’t been well-planned. One of the challenges that PR pros face in getting to “yes” when proposing a measurement plan is likely costs—this is apparent simply by the number of requests for recommendations of free and low-cost tools during chats like the monthly #MeasurePR Twitter chat.
There are ways to address and manage the cost issue. What is important is that you are measuring the right things at the outset, so you can show results. Concrete, actionable results do more to convince the powers that be that good measurement is worth the investment than any amount of pitches or blog posts ever could.
Here are some suggestions for addressing the cost challenges of setting up a PR measurement program:
Don’t over-promise or reach for the moon – be realistic when setting up measurement
Setting up a measurement program for the first time can be daunting. A tool that can help in this regard is the recently released AMEC Interactive Framework. Clicking on the “information” button on each framework box can give you an idea of what you can measure, and how you should organize your efforts.
In addition to providing ideas on what can and should be measured, the framework is a good planning tool. Focus on what measurement goals are realistic if you’re just starting out, making sure they fit with business objectives.
There are some items that might be an issue if you’re measuring on a budget. For instance, the “out-takes” and “outcomes” boxes both include survey information to assess the effectiveness of PR program elements. Surveys can be expensive to conduct, so make sure you think this aspect through—how you will pay for surveys and what kind of surveys would be used—before finalizing your measurement program.
Set up measurement that can grow with you, so you can add more elements later if needed
One of the most effective ways to keep measurement costs down is to use free or low-cost measurement tools and programs, like Google Analytics and Excel for your calculations and analysis. Budget-smart decisions like this can work very well, and are a great interim solution as a measurement program grows.
Assessing tone and sentiment manually, rather than paying for automated sentiment if it is an add-on cost to your monitoring, is another way to reduce costs. Keep track of how you rate content, so that if and when you do add automated sentiment, the integrity of your data are maintained.
Budget (or at least plan) for worst-case scenarios
Hidden budget busters usually come in the form of unanticipated costs. In the case of measurement, that can mean large data spikes, especially if something good (front page of the New York Times!) or bad (crisis) happens. If something like that happens and you’re manually assessing each item for message content or rating, you’ll need to address it somehow. You don’t necessarily need to build it into the budget, but at least spend some time thinking about how you would address unexpected challenges in your measurement program.
Figuring out early what you need to measure to meet goals, and separating the “nice to haves” that are perhaps cool but not necessary will help you to keep your focus. Budget constraints might limit how much you can tackle early on, but as you build a program that shows results, you’ll be in a better position to advocate for budgeting for more down the road.