September 2, 2011 Leave a comment
Lack of consensus on measurement methods has plagued the communications and public relations businesses for the past decade. Not only do measurement goals vary between practitioners, actual methods for a same goal also do, leading to sometimes unreliable and non-repeatable protocols and rendering accurate benchmarking very difficult. Excessive focus on ROI, rather than on understanding the effects of PR activities on their target relative to predefined goals, has notably led to the dangerous use of Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) as a proxy for financial outcomes.
Compounding this problem is the fact that, by allowing what used to be the ultimate target of communications programs – the public – to become a publisher in its own right and a mighty source of influence through peer-to-peer recommendations, new interactive and social media have rendered some traditional tools on content analysis all the more obsolete.
Standardization in Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation
The Valid Metrics Matrix, discussed in a previous post, is a useful attempt to provide a framework in which all items of measurement in a media analysis campaign are arranged in a logical order based on their contribution to the measurement goal and their place in the communications cycle.
A couple of weeks ago, David Michaelson, father of the Valid Metrics Matrix, sent me a report entitled Standardisation in Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation. The report goes further down the reliability/repeatability road by actually recommending specific measures for PR activities at every stage of the communications cycle, such as:
- Target audience measures (awareness, knowledge)
- Interest and Relevance
- and Advocacy
Specific direct research question sets are suggested for each and every stage of the process, each having been show to be valid and reliable by statistical analysis.
But for me, the most interesting part of the report is the chapter entitled Third party/intermediary measures that explains how to measure the relay effect of third-party publishing such as social media recommendations, peer reviews and online conversations.
Measuring the impact of word of mouth on your online reputation
While popular social media metrics such as facebook fans and twitter followers abound and can help to draw a complete picture of your online presence, they do little to measure the impact of online communities on your business or evaluate the efficiency of your activities on social media.
What the report suggests is not new, but a time-tested method of media coverage evaluation transposed to social media: analysis of message accuracy online. Whether a community is commenting on your products, your CSR engagement or any of your reputation drivers, your communications towards it will contain specific messages that need to be relayed accurately. Relayed messages that are incorrect will help raise awareness but will be detrimental to most of your goals. Three specific measures can be put in place for this:
- The presence of basic facts in community messages
- The presence of misstatements or erroneous information
- The absence or omission of facts
Measuring this is very straightforward: by defining two lists, one for messages that should appear and another for incomplete or erroneous messages that you anticipate, you can give your evaluation team a very precise brief or even automate the identification using advanced semantic analysis, for a very repeatable process.
Creating online communities and actively engaging with them is the best way to ensure conversations about your organization are happening in a controllable environment. And the method described ensures a very efficient ePR/eReputation evaluation process.
How are you measuring your social engagement?
Creative Commons image by cstmweb