By Christopher Penn, Published November 12, 2014
One of the comments I saw recently on Twitter about public relations was that some folks consider PR and its impact to be immeasurable. This is patently false. Virtually everything in marketing, advertising, and PR is measurable. The statement, more accurately worded, is that not everything is worth measuring.
For example, if I get a small mention in the local newspaper about SHIFT Communications that doesn’t have attribution, a clickstream, or a call to action, it would take an extensive research project to find out the true impact of that article. You could, in theory, go door to door and ask of every known subscriber to the newspaper whether they read the article, and if so, what they thought of it.
Doing so would be a project that would take days or weeks and thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars to accomplish, but it is possible. However, the ROI of doing a $ 25,000 survey for what was effectively a minor mention is almost certainly negative, and deeply so. It’s not worth measuring – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be measured.
When people say that PR can’t be measured, what they’re really saying is that a measurement strategy wasn’t built into the plan. When you’re designing a marketing, advertising, or PR campaign, it’s absolutely vital to plan for both benchmarking on the front end and measurement on the back end to ensure that you’ve actually moved the needle. It doesn’t matter whether you’re working with an agency, using in-house professionals, or even doing it yourself – if you don’t plan to measure, don’t expect to measure the plan!.
Why don’t more companies and brands measure PR and marketing? Well, as illustrated by the example above, it’s expensive to measure things well. How much should you budget and plan for measurement? That depends entirely on the risk to your business for any given project or campaign. If you’ve doing something that’s low risk, it may not be worth measuring. On the other hand, if your entire Q4 revenue stream is on the line, ask yourself what the price of failure is. What’s the price of not being able to adapt and be agile if the campaign isn’t generating the results you want? What’s the price of not even knowing what condition the campaign is in until it’s over?
Think about what you spend on car insurance or homeowner’s insurance. For the average vehicle, you can spend up to a third of the vehicle’s purchase price on insurance while you own the car. Would you be willing to insure a mission-critical marketing campaign’s value with the same level of investment in measurement, in order to avoid “totaling” your company’s revenues? If so, then build measurement into your plan!
At the end of the day, not everything is worth measuring, so pick and choose carefully. What can’t you afford to have fail? Invest in measurement for that.