Carefully Crafted on August 13

PR Pro’s Guide to Metrics and Measurement: Q&A with Shonali Burke

Yesterday, I moderated a panel on PR and big data at FPRA’s Annual Conference. While I was listening to the panelists – Adam Singer, Deirdre Breakenridge and Shonali Burke – share their insights and advice, I realized something: I could listen to Shonali talk about measurement all day, every day. Shonali and I have actually participated on a few panels and projects together, and I learn something new every time. So, I asked her to answer a few questions to share her smarts with you, too. Happy reading!

What metrics are most important to you when measuring client campaigns?

Every campaign has (or should have) goals and objectives that are singular to them that ultimately tie back to business objectives – that’s Measurement 101. So way before deciding what metrics one will use to measure the campaign, one has to first decide what “success” actually looks like. PR metrics often don’t mirror campaign metrics, but what we can do is try to connect the dots between the two.

You talk a lot about measuring what’s important. Can you share a tip or two to help brands determine that (or which metrics they should stop caring about!)?

It’s very interesting how people keep saying they really “don’t” care about follower numbers … but really, they do! And to the extent that there may be an element of social proof in large numbers of fans or followers, they can be impressive … to start with. But then what – where do we take those “big numbers” and what do we do with them? That’s the trap that most of us still fall into, just as much of PR measurement still puts excessive emphasis on “hits” and “impressions.” So while impressions are not unimportant, they are far from the be-all and end-all, so that’s #1.

#2, when it comes to engagement – because that’s what almost everyone wants – set your own parameters for what “engagement” is. Just the other day I was talking with someone about what “digital engagement” constitutes … and honestly, who knows any more? With the social sphere becoming so crowded, how people engage with others, and content online, has changed. Time was, I would @ reply to people on Twitter all day. I don’t any more, because of the two big issues almost everyone has with social media: time and volume. But I do share, curate & RT … is that not engagement, albeit at a different level? (BTW, SBC client Cision’s new Digital Reach metric is a really great take on that.) So while “engagement” is still a very important aspect of social media, it’s even more important to define what engagement looks like to you, and how it ultimately ties back to business objectives.

How can PR pros be smarter about measuring their results – not just in terms of likes and clicks, but actual business outcomes?

It’s really important for PR pros to ask the question: how does this contribute to the business’ revenue? That was a lesson I learned early on; we can ask what “goals” and “objectives” we’re working towards, but I think we need to hit it harder and simply say: “How can I help you make money?” It was literally phrasing the question as bluntly as that, that informed my work at a large nonprofit some years ago, and that ended up in our building a really robust program that showed definitively how PR was irrevocably tied to revenue.

We’re not always going to get those answers quickly, and sometimes the answers we get have more to do with tactics others think we should be employing as opposed to how the business actually generates revenue. But we need to stick it out, until we get the right answer, and one that is given to us in understandable context. Only then can we start to understand – and this may take even more research – how PR links to revenue, and devise the appropriate PR metrics.

Lastly, what measurement/reporting tools do you prefer? Any recommendations?

Someone – I forget who – said, “The best tool is the one you actually use,” and I heartily concur! It’s so easy to sign up for a nifty dashboard and then never actually do anything with it … and then we wonder why our campaigns are not “working.” Well … no duh!

There are several great tools out there, and I don’t want to play favorites. We’re often curtailed by our clients’ budgets when it comes to selecting tools, but some I’ve used recently and like are Traackr for influencer identification and ongoing listening (disclosure: I’ve been a beta user for a long time, and have done some work with them in the past, nothing right now); for more general social media tracking; the Simply Measured suite of products; and always, always, Microsoft Excel!


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