Nonprofits now understand that media measurement is indispensable. A survey by the Non-Profit Group of AMEC last year revealed that 91 percent of nonprofit executives understand that measurement is important but feel they lack expertise or time to focus on it. A survey this year found that three-quarters of respondents believe that measurement and evaluation of their communications program is non-negotiable and more important than five years ago.
“Given the ever-changing media environment, PR measurement can no longer be optional,” writes Eileen Sheil, executive director of corporate communication at Cleveland Clinic, for the Institute for Public Relations. “Non-profit organizations especially need to embrace measurement and incorporate it into their planning and strategy for effective communications.”
PR is critical for managing communications crises, fundraising, recruiting and educating the public about the organization’s mission. Measurement proves PR is meeting those objectives and earns budget support. In Cleveland Clinic’s case, Sheil notes, measurement shows a strong correlation between patient volume (revenue) and news coverage.
Obstacles to Effective Media Measurement
Despite the recognition of the importance of media measurement, nonprofits face obstacles:
Lack of consistency. Consistent standards can address the variations in how nonprofits measure their communications efforts. The Barcelona Principles provide excellent PR measurement guidelines. AMEC’s integrated measurement framework can help not-for-profit PR professionals get started.
Inappropriate objectives. Experts recommend selecting objectives that are SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-based. Select metrics that are quantifiable, with a number such as an amount of money or percentage that can be compared to another number such as past performance.
Poor metrics. Common metrics, such as social media followers and likes, are easy to report and boost the ego. Measurement experts view them as vanity metrics that don’t connect to valid objectives. Preferable metrics track progress to the organization’s ultimate goals, such as fundraising, volunteers or public education.
Neglecting the organization’s ultimate goal. A nonprofit’s goal is not simply to collect donations. Their mission statements frequently state vague and lofty goals that are difficult to measure, note experts at McKinsey & Company. Nonprofits can define their missions more narrowly, invest in (possibly expensive) research, or develop specific goals that imply success on a larger scale.
Costs. Nonprofits typically feel pressured to keep expenses down even more than most business. Nonprofits can control costs by working with a monitoring service that offers month-to-month agreements rather than one that binds them into long-term contracts. In addition, selecting vendors that can customize their services to the nonprofit’s needs can help the organization avoid paying for unneeded services.
Bottom Line: Most nonprofit executives now consider media monitoring and measurement a must-have. Executives have become willing to allocate funds for media measurement. The next step for the nonprofit sector is to adopt measurement best practices that deliver accurate and meaningful assessments of their communications efforts.
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, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.