Sometimes experimenting without measuring is okay. But there's a school of thought that as comms is science you need to measure. Here's one thought on what we should be measuring: profile.
by Gavin Loader
I’m a measurement addict; there I said it, phew. I’m addicted to the iPhone/web app called Strava that turned me from a friendly runner and cyclist into a distance and speed enthusiast. I can recite every PB at every distance I’ve ever achieved, and the challenges and goals that left me a lactic acid induced mess.
I’m also the guy that gets excited by the progress of the Barclays Premier League football table each year – not the games themselves, oh no, I like those, but I love seeing the BBC’s updated table each Monday morning. And, as Villa’s goal difference keeps it afloat, just, my excitement near boils over.
Our company business plan is a stronghold of targets – client satisfaction, staff satisfaction, innovation, new business development, sales; it’s all there in black and white for me to gleefully pour over week by week. I absolutely love tracking our progress.
Funny then I should find myself working in the industry so often hit with the: ‘it can’t be measured stick’. I feel like snapping that stick across my knee sometimes! For those of us on the inside, the PRs, we know that’s not true, PR can be measured and, in fact, it can be measured in so many different ways its almost over-whelming sometimes. Where to start?
- Content creation volume – check,
- Content message inclusion – check,
- Media and influencers met – check,
- Coverage volume – check,
- Press coverage sentiment – check,
- Social media interaction and engagement – check,
I’m ignoring that advertising thing.
What’s the important measure?
The list of measures is all good, I use those too, but for me, and needless to say for our agency Mantis, one of the most important measures, pertinent to both public and private sector, is profile or ‘awareness’ and perception, but it is often completely ignored. Maybe you’re reading this and you work for a local authority so your profile locally or regionally is sky-high, but what if you’re a supplier to local government, with two-dozen competitors, how do you rank alongside them? Are you losing business simply because only 10 out of a 100 potential buyers can identify your business name? How does your profile fluctuate month-by-month, year-by-year?
Let’s say your profile is good, that you’re widely known, but that’s only half the battle. What’s your perception? Every resident in the country has ‘something to say’ about their local authority or healthcare trust. Do they hold a positive perception? What do your local residents and other stakeholders think you do for their tax pounds? What are you known for? What’s your role? What do they blame you for that’s not even in your remit? Do they think you’re good at what you do?
Perception is a challenge for suppliers too – suppliers that evolve product and service offerings frequently to match shifts in the market often generate their own mis-perceptions in doing so. Different groups of stakeholders will associate a supplier with different activities as they interact with them at different points in time. Two years ago supplier X sold widgets but now supplier X sells widgets, provides a widget consultancy service, widget deployment services and widget aftercare, but who knew?
Profile and awareness measurement takes research, but it’s a powerful measure when used correctly - equal to and in excess of any outputs or campaign outcome measures. It’s the sort of measure that is going to get your MD and management team listening and I’d like to see the PR industry start to prioritise its adoption.
Gavin Loader is managing director at Mantis PR.