We talk a lot on this blog about the challenges of accurate PR measurement. We built software to do it, so obviously, we think it is both difficult and important. We aren’t surprised when PR people turn to outdated, but simple measurement methods like AVE, but the NFL team in Washington took an even more interesting approach that’s been the butt of a few jokes on the web
Two years ago the Washington DC NFL team moved their summer training camp to the city of Richmond. In exchange, the city and state provided the team with significant financial incentives, including part of the costs for the new facility. In return, the city was supposed to benefit from an increase in jobs, additional economic activity and positive PR. The net impact on jobs and economic activity has been disappointing so far, so the team wanted to reassure the city that it was getting big value from PR.
That Escalated Quickly
A report was created by the team’s third party media monitoring services Meltwater and TVEyes. In their estimation, the value of PR to Richmond in 2014 was $76,146,720.61. How did they come up with that number? According to Meltwater, it was based on the number of impressions of related coverage.
An “impression” according to their method happens anytime a visitor to a particular site may have had the opportunity to see an article. In other words, if an article appeared on ESPN.com – for even 2 minutes – every visitor to ESPN.com for the month was counted as an impression. If two articles appeared, every visitor to the site over the course of the month was counted – twice. It is easy to see how by using this method, the number of impressions escalated to 7,845,460,401 unique visitors. That’s more than the 7.26 billion living human beings.
A Better Approach to PR Measurement
This type of “impression” measurement is not particularly helpful in determining the value of PR. A far better approach is to use advanced media monitoring to understand the actual reach of an article along with the user behavior it inspired. Measuring the social amplification of a mention, for example, sheds more light on how valuable the content was to readers and how many people it ultimately touched.
The team also looked at coverage of the training camp as a whole, not only those articles that talked about Richmond. A key message analysis would reveal how much of the coverage was related to Richmond specifically. Google analytics could even further clarify exactly what Richmond is getting for its investment. Finally, system generated sentiment analysis would be useful for determining if the coverage was actually favorable. (Not all press is good press, after all.)
Sometimes bad things happen to good PR professionals. This has to have been embarrassing. But it is a good lesson that accuracy, smart analytics and transparency matters. If you are interested in PR measurement that is truly meaningful, we’re here to help.