A Step-by-Step Approach for Communicators to Measure in 2020

March 11, 2020 Mark Weiner

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on PRNews.com and has been republished with permission. 

Communicators share three desires: to broadcast PR’s value, improve its performance and quantify its unique business contribution. While it’s too late to shape last year’s results, we can still study 2019 and apply lessons learned to improve our business operations in 2020.

To get started, here are steps you can take now:

Evaluate 2019 Performance

Though we're now a few months in, the New Year still beckons with fresh budgets and opportunity.  Assess what worked in 2019 and what failed. To validate the wisdom of your decision-making and communicate in terms non-PR execs understand, you need to show that you beat your objectives, topped your competitors, and improved year over year.

Wherever possible, evaluate performance in the language of business. Use revenue generation, efficiency and risk mitigation. Avoid PR speak, for example: clips, AVEs, buzz, etc.

Consider an efficiency equation to show how you lowered the cost of performance. For example, if your 2018 budget was $1,000 and you generated 1,000 positive placements, the cost-per-positive placement was one dollar. Let’s assume your budget remained flat in 2019, but you generated 2,000 positive placements. In that case, the reduced cost-per-positive placement shows efficiency and improved return-on-investment.

Research and evaluation work best when conducted continually to refine throughout the year. If you chose not to measure in 2019, assess PR performance now to set a baseline for 2020; then manage your programs toward an even better New Year.

Assess The Business Landscape

Consider your environment and plan accordingly. Evaluate journalistic reporting to understand both sides of issues. Apply social media analytics to capture the public's voice. Use surveys to weigh public opinion and improve your structured listening.

To reflect the organization's direction, conduct an internal audit with key executives. Consider major product introductions, leadership transitions, changes among competitors and potential regulatory actions. 2020 may require updated plans based on what you learn.

Setting Objectives

To inform your 2020 objectives, weigh 2019 evaluation and landscape analyses. In setting objectives, consider the need for goals to be measurable, reasonable and meaningful.

Measurable objectives ensure clarity and alignment. When objectives are quantifiable, you eliminate risk as to whether or not you met (or exceeded) them. Simultaneously, hard objectives focus attention, avoid wasted resources and drive peak performance.

Reasonable objectives come from reconciling inclinations of executives, objectives of the business and PR’s ability to answer realistically and within available resource boundaries.

Meaningful objectives support an organization’s priorities and the preferences of executives who lead it. Interview key internal stakeholders and aggregate their preferences to create a PR manifesto, gain agreement…then begin. Research provides dimensionality for better objectives setting, planning and execution.

Revisit/Update Positioning and Targeting 

While strategies may remain viable for years, changes in your organization, marketplace or among competitors may require you to reconsider positioning and targeting strategy in 2020. Unlike paid and owned media, PR is semi-controllable only. As such, our approaches to targeting and messaging are inexact.

But attribution analysis tracks click-through from digital content through the rest of the customer journey. Consider:

Revisit Positioning: Positioning refers to the perception of your company, brand or product with consumers. If disharmony exists between popular opinion and your current standing or your 2020 objectives, you may need to reestablish the brand in new and different ways.

Positioning research using media analysis, surveys and attribution analysis reflect the priorities of your target market. How do you perform on what’s important? How do your competitors compare? Is your message compelling to the target audience?

Revisit Targeting: Since it’s bought or owned, marketing targets with greater precision than PR. Attribution analysis repurposes marketing technology to aid earned media. It enables communicators to quantify media that generates click-through, engagement and behavior.

Through positioning and targeting analysis, attribution research reveals the demographics, psychographics and behaviors of your audience. It also details the degree to which the media you pursue represents your message credibly, thoroughly and in compelling, digestible form.

Commit to Continuous Improvement

Research and evaluation provide a report card that validates the wisdom of investment in PR. They also act as a tutor to assess performance (what’s working; what’s not). Such tutoring can guide you to higher levels of achievement.

To succeed, PR pros must remain open to the direction and guidance research reveals. A report card answers, How did we do? A tutor tells you why, and what should be done about it now.

In this way, research goes beyond data, charts and graphs. It provides evaluation, uncovering insights that you can act on immediately. In addition, it delivers a data-informed foundation for strategic guidance. Research, combined with openness, responsiveness and agility, supports creativity and experience to reinforce growth and accomplishment.

This is how we elevate PR as an essential business asset and uplift the role of the communicator to that of a trusted and strategic business advisor.

About the Author

Mark Weiner

Mark Weiner is the Chief Insights Officer for Cision, a member of the Arthur Page Society, an advisor for The University of Florida Public Relations Advisory Council, and a trustee for the Institute for Public Relations for which he also chairs the Commission on Measurement and Evaluation. Mark is the 2018 recipient of the Institute for Public Relations Jack Felton Medal for Lifetime Achievement.

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