clean data for PR measurementWhile data from media monitoring and measurement allows public relations professionals to uncover valuable insights and demonstrate PR’s importance to their organization, inaccurate or corrupted data can lead to wildly incorrect conclusions.

Clean data is essential to obtain accurate and meaningful insights and recommendations. Corrupted, or “dirty data,” can cause dreadful results. A single clip with the really wrong data can lead to incorrect conclusions about an entire campaign. An entire presentation to a client or corporate management can be worthless due to invalid data.

Instead of using Lysol to clean your data, follow the recommendations of measurement experts on collecting and maintaining data. The recommendations are for D-I-Y data collection and measurement. Media monitoring and measurement services such as do most all of the data and analytics cleansing automatically.

Use Excel rather than Word. Excel allows you to divide categories of data into rows and columns that can be cross referenced and dissected later with pivot tables, says freelance media analyst Steph Bridgman. List each new media item in a new row, and divide coverage up into categories. Organizing data into rows and files makes it easier to produce valid analytics about media coverage.

Use Boolean search terms. A fast food chain once collected 4000 extraneous references to underground transportation systems that had no relevance to the business, producing a ridiculously large reach figure, recalls PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing. Most all media monitoring services including the free ones like Google Alerts allow Boolean search queries that can eliminate extraneous results. Simply enter “not” before a word to exclude the word from results. You can write “and” between search terms to require the search results to include both words in any order. If your company name or other search term is identical to an unrelated term, such as another company in an unrelated industry, such simple yet effective search techniques exclude undesired results.

Eliminate duplicates. Take advantage of Excel’s Remove Duplicates option. Go to the Data tab and click on “Remove Duplicates.” Select a column with a unique number, like “Clip ID,” or “Item ID.” If that doesn’t exist, then use the unique URL of the article and click OK.

Periodically prune metrics. An organization may accumulate an overabundance of metrics over time as differing team members add their opinions. Some metrics may be obsolete, irrelevant and even dangerous. In addition, a cumbersome number of metrics becomes time consuming to track, report and analyze. Once a year or after a change in leadership, review the metrics to determine if they remain to customers or stakeholders. Eliminate useless metrics; keep only ones linked to business objectives.

“It all comes down to one thing: Does the metric help you make decisions? When you see the metric, do you know what you need to do?” says Lars Lofgren, KISSmetrics marketing analyst.

Establish standard terminology. Different data providers and vendors often follow different definitions for the same metrics, which naturally causes confusion. List the terms and gather your team to agree on standard definitions, relying on industry standards like the Media Rating Council standards for social media or the Institute for Public Relations standards for PR, Paine advises. Then post the dictionary somewhere that everyone can access.

Audit data. Audits check data entries to make sure they belong in the data set and are accurate. They’re especially important if you combine multiple data sources. The most frequent error of combined data sets is misaligned dates. Make sure that all date formats are consistent.

Use an established media and monitoring service. It may be more effective and cost-efficient to retain the services of an established media monitoring and measurement service to do the collecting and analysis of media mentions in both news and social media. Some of the services like can customize their analytics to your specific needs.

Bottom Line:  Dirty data can produce embarrassingly useless findings and wreck PR measurement. Data can be irrelevant, misleading or plain wrong for a variety of reasons. Following these recommendations from PR measurement experts will help you collect and clean your data on media mentions.