Measurement is a topic that consistently receives attention year after year in the communications industry. Although media metrics have progressed, the fact remains that very little has changed or evolved when it comes to providing real measurement programs for more comprehensive, integrated communications/marketing programs.
While technology has made it easier and more cost-effective to measure what we do, what we’re measuring has remained the same. The infamous return on investment or ROI has been the focus for years to analyze media. Typically, companies follow one of two methods. Most do little more than count impressions, i.e. equate editorial articles to advertising dollars or take a qualitative, best-guess approach of measuring media relations results. Another more scientific approach to gauge programs against ROI is to slice and dice the data a million ways creating subjective “formulas” by which a quantifiable score based on the quality and quantity of media obtained in a given period can be measured. Either way, it is still only about media.
The major problem with this “media-only” approach is that it does not measure the real value-add that most strategic communications programs actually provide. Instead, we should factor in other fundamental parts of our communications efforts like digital communications initiatives such as blogging, partnership development, trade show activities, speaking opportunities, sponsorships and much more.
In the end, whether it’s about generating target awareness, new business leads, product sales, website traffic or any combination of the above, the ability to measure entire communications programs to really understand and determine whether these success gauges have been met should be a key focus. While it’s not that surprising that the “holy grail” hasn’t been found yet, it is amazing that this isn’t the real focus of the measurement discussion.
To change the laws of measurement within the communications industry, we must focus on measuring fully integrated campaigns across an entire communications platform that can create one standard to quantify qualitative results. If done effectively, the measurement system can be leveraged to produce many of the same benefits as other tools today.
The following are six steps to create an effective measurement system:
- Identify what it is you want to measure; define the program — this could be as simple as using metrics your client already has in place. Metrics the client already uses to measure larger communications and marketing programs allows for consistency and the ability to measure new programs’ validity. The right mechanisms enable data collection surrounding the quality of non-traditional integrated communication platforms such as speaking opportunities, trade shows or events that can also be measured. Meaning, we need to create better systems at the onset of programs to collect data during these initiatives, which can be assessed and assigned a meaningful score.
- Outline the goals and define what success means — Establishing clients’ measurement priorities and weighing different components and variables within the entire integrated communications program is just as important. The goals should be outlined and the definition of success defined so both you and the client know the direction of the overall campaign and what the end result should look like.
- Decide on the variables that will create success and classify them by importance — The client should determine which parts of a program are weighted more important than others. Understanding a valid end score can be created based on what the client cares about, not what is considered important by a third party. This will allow for end outcomes that actually matter.
- Create a plan that will drive results — Nothing is worse than having the metrics in place and creating a plan that is doomed to fail from the beginning. Based on your defined goals and what success means, creating a campaign that is realistic and drives the bottom line is equally important.
- Plan how you will gather the data — A simple scoring system across an integrated program can be created that is based on the same measurement methodology, weighting system and scoring outcome. Once this is created, it will allow for real benchmarking and improvements, impacting ROI.
- Review the current program and make the necessary changes — As life is a learning opportunity, so is your integrated marketing communications program. It is always important to review your program, to identify what is working and what is not, and to adjust to create results and success.