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PR measurement, social media analytics,PR needs to infuse data analytics into the entire process to gain the full benefit of PR measurement, said speakers at a webinar. PR teams typically analyze data when campaigns conclude to determine their effectiveness or when they issue quarterly reports to clients or management.

An “always-on” approach — incorporating data into campaigns from start to finish — produces greater benefits from data analysis and enables PR to improve campaigns in progress, speakers said during the webinar presented by Business Wire and CommPro.

“We need to have measurement infused in the entire process and not just analyze after campaigns are done,” said webinar speaker Allyson Hugley, president, measurement & analytics practice at Weber Shandwick.

“It’s living and breathing data,” agreed Chris Albert, senior vice president, digital/social research and analytics at Ketchum.

Social Media Listening Benefits PR Measurement

Social media listening is a major part of the always-on mentality, Albert said. Social media listening provides results quickly, almost immediately. It’s cost effective. Because people usually share their opinions honestly, social media listening usually provides accurate information. Social media measurement can provide a proxy for brand awareness, and changes in sentiment can indicate how well PR campaigns are succeeding.

“If you’re looking for quick results, social listening is probably something you should activate immediately,” Albert said.

A Change in Attitude

As much as social media and analytics tools, a change in attitude helps provide more data-supported insights that gain greater influence for PR. Data scientists aren’t necessary to measure PR results or determine if a PR campaign was successful, Albert said. PR pros can analyze the data themselves.

Placing the onus on analysts is a mistake, Hugley agreed. “Everyone must think in a more data-centric way,” she said.

PR teams typically examine data when they send quarterly reports to clients or management.  However, a strong focus on such episodic reports can hinder PR from incorporating data into its culture, the speakers said.

The Problem with Impressions

PR measurement experts increasingly criticize impressions as uninformative and inflated. They seem to vilify impressions almost as much as AVEs. Yet PR continues to promote the use of impressions.

Weening PR measurement off impressions calls for understanding on both the agency side and client side, speakers said. PR agency teams need to educate clients about the disadvantages of impressions and to slowly ween them off the metric, Hugley said.

Alternative metrics may not always produce large, impressive numbers to report to clients. “That can be scary,” Albert said.

As much as we’d to like replace impressions with a single metric, that’s not realistic, writes Tim Marklein, founder and CEO of Big Valley Marketing, for the Institute for Public Relations. Instead, he recommends a combination of reach, engagement and relevance.

Marklein also recommends terminating the use of multipliers. “Multipliers are the scourge of media measurement, taking an already inflated notion like ‘impressions’ to a laughable extreme where PR people proudly claim that their campaign ‘reached’ billions of people,” he says. Reach is the number of people who see a piece of content. Impressions count the number of times a piece of content is displayed, whether or not people click on it. Viewers can see multiple impressions of a single post.

Bottom Line: PR teams gain greater benefits from measurement if data analytics permeates the entire process from start to finish. PR generally analyzes its effectiveness when campaigns conclude or when issuing periodic reports to clients. That strategy does not take advantage of the full potential of PR measurement or allow PR professionals to adjust and improve campaigns in progress.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.