Guest post by Shonali Burke, ABC
There's no getting away from it: we've entered some dark times. Last week the Dow dropped below 10,000 for the first time in four years. The job market is tight and getting tighter, and we all know what that usually means for communicators. One hears whispered comparisons to the depression of the 1930s. In fact, Hell pretty much seems to be freezing over.
However, this chilly state of affairs does bring, it seems to me, some golden opportunities for communicators who are willing to put their money where their mouth is. The goose that’s going to lay your FDIC-insured egg is measurement.
Impressions Don't Cut It Anymore
Now, more than ever, clients and organizations are going to be looking for communicators who understand how to connect communications directly to business objectives, and use their PR savvy to impact the bottom line. Yes, we all say we do that – after all, it’s one of the cornerstones of strategic communication planning – but do we really? Aren’t a significant number of us still relying on impressions (and, even worse, multipliers) and clip books to make our case? No wonder, then, that PR is the first department to go when the going gets tough.
Need Help Getting Started?
Educate yourself. If you'd asked me eight years ago, I'd have tried to express PR measurement in terms of ad value equivalency. I knew instinctively there was more to it than that. Fortunately, my path crossed with that of Katie Delahaye Paine, justly called the measurement queen. (Disclosure: I am a former client of Katie's company, KD Paine & Partners, and received an award from them in 2006). Katie's forgotten more about measurement than I and 98% of us will ever know. There's no better way to get started than to educate yourself by using the often-free resources she, and several other measurement thought-leaders, provide.
What are your measurable objectives? I recently judged the final round of a significant regional awards program, and was alarmed at how few of the entries identified solid, quantifiable objectives as part of their communications plans. You do this in your day-to-day life, right? I want to lose 15 lbs. before the holidays; or I will go to the gym at least three times a week; for example and you judge your success or failure based on how you measure up. There's no excuse for not doing that on a business level.
What are your marketing team's key performance indicators; or KPIs? PR people are usually not directly responsible for sales (or, in the case of non-profits, donations). But you must still understand what kinds of ROI your marketing team is looking for, and correlate your communications outcomes (and therefore programs) to those. You need to show how you're adding value to your organization, be it through growing donations (a KPI for non-profits), retaining customers, increasing web traffic, increasing engagement, and so on. And make sure you get the data on KPIs from other departments to correlate your outcomes to. That's why the measurement program I implemented at the ASPCA is receiving a Certificate of Merit at IPR's Jack Felton Golden Ruler Awards program later this week.
Change is never easy, is it? But this is the one change we have to implement in our profession. Otherwise, when Hell freezes over, we might not be able to pickaxe our way out from down under.
Shonali Burke, ABC, was named one of the top “40 Under 40” PR professionals in the U.S. by PRWeek in 2007. A self-confessed measurement fiend, she is currently submerging herself in social media, web analytics and other extra-curricular activities while taking a sabbatical to ponder the next stage of her career. Owned by three former shelter dogs, Shonali lives with her husband in the Washington, D.C., metro area.