Marketwired Blog

Measurement that Makes (Dollars and) Sense

By Shonali Burke

I’m going to ask you to close your eyes for a moment (after you’re done reading the first two paragraphs, otherwise you won’t know what I’m asking you to do).

Try to recall anyone who’s told you excitedly of their hopes and dreams for a new venture they’re embarking on. Maybe they’re planning to build the best new SoLoMo app around. Maybe they’ve come up with an idea that, one day, will be acquired by Google. Maybe it’s something that’s more personal, like doing a specific number of things by the time they’re 30 (or 40, or 50…).

Now go ahead and close your eyes, and try to think of at least one person who’s told you such a story. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were several, but there has to be at least one.

When you next meet that person, say it’s after a while, what’s the first thing you think to ask them? Almost always, it’s some version of the question, “Did you succeed?”

Did they build the best SoLoMo app around?

Did Google acquire their company?

And did they, indeed, achieve what they wanted to by 30, or 40, or 50…?

Sometimes the answer is, “Yes,” sometimes it’s, “No.” Sometimes it’s, “It’s complicated” (but we won’t go there). My point is, all these people have goals in mind right from the start. They don’t necessarily know how they’re going to get there, but they do know that that is where they want to end up.

It’s exactly the same for brands. You should not be embarking on any communication campaigns or initiatives unless you know exactly where you want them to end. How you’ll get there is where your strategy and tactics come in, but you can’t develop a smart strategy if you don’t know what you’re working towards.

This is one of the fundamentals of public relations. Know what you’re working towards, and have measurable objectives. Why, then, is it a facet of “PR Rewired?” If you’re asking that question as you read this post, I don’t blame you!

The reason I bring up this fundamental of PR is that, with all the “shiny new” toys we have to “measure” public relations these days, the fundamentals sometimes get lost. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people asking me how they should measure Facebook, or Twitter, or <insert social network of choice>. How many companies have we seen come and go who purport to measure the “value” of a Facebook fan, or a Twitter follower, or…?

Here’s the thing: if you are only going to look at your fans/followers in terms of dollars and cents, you’re making a couple of big mistakes:

  1. You’re forgetting that the foremost value that your fans and followers bring to your brand is that of a human community. It will take time to nurture that community, but as you do it, you will see that their value far exceeds dollars and cents per fan or follower.
  2. There is no generic formula that will tell you what the “value” of your fans and followers is. You must create your own measurement framework, which is specific to the goals and objectives you hope to achieve. Work backwards from there to identify the most effective strategy and tactics for your program.
  3. Instead of tracking just clicks, retweets, likes, etc., for the sake of it, track actual actions that tie back to your business objectives. For example, are you trying to get people to download a white paper (which move you closer to your goal of lead generation)? And so on.

No matter what your campaign entails, it’s one that should be pinned to specific goals and objectives. Those should be determined from the outset, and based on those, you can set specific metrics in place.

That’s how you should set up your measurement program, not the other way around… and that’s how you can evaluate the usefulness of your communication – including social media – plans.

Shonali Burke is president and CEO of a micro PR agency that successfully helps businesses take their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool. She founded and curates the popular #measurePR Twitter chat, is an adjunct faculty member at The Johns Hopkins University’s M.A./Communication program, and blogs at Waxing UnLyrical.

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