I’m sure it was around before then, but the earliest reference I can find to the phrase, “Too much of a good thing,” is in Shakespeare’s, “As You Like It.” Rosalind asks, “Can one desire too much of a good thing?" The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Cheesecake is better than good and I frequently desire, way, way too much of it.
A good thing that PR professionals can find themselves with too much of is data. In the days before the internet, gathering data on the effectiveness of PR was extremely difficult. The digital age has changed that and it seems that we are swimming, drowning perhaps, in a sea of data. The trick, with both data and cheesecake is moderation. Taking just the right bites to satisfy your needs without putting yourself in an analytic coma. Here are a few tips for focusing on just the right PR data points.
1 – Think Outcome, Not Output
Instead of focusing solely on data about PR activities, such as the number of press releases, or pitches sent, look for data that gives you insight on whether these activities are resulting in the achievement of PR goals. The outcomes you want from PR are likely increased website traffic, more leads, faster sales cycles and improved close ratios, so zero in on these results.
2 – Forget AVE
Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) is a wrong data point that you can simply ignore. This outdated measurement that equates the value of an earned media mention with the same space in advertising dollars, was the result of a lack of better options in the pre-digital era. Because advertising and earned media are not the same, AVE has the potential to either over, or under, estimate the value of PR, making it utterly unhelpful.
3 – Set Benchmarks
Single data points can be misleading. Saying that you had 5 earned media mentions this month, isn’t very interesting without context. How does it compare to how many you had last month or last year? How does it compare to your competitors? What was the impact of each mention in terms of reach or results? Benchmarks are necessary to give meaning to individual data points and to demonstrate forward progress.
4 – Track Key Messages
Sometimes we get too caught up in how many people are talking about or reading about a product or brand, that we forget to focus on what they are saying or hearing. Tracking key messages can be difficult and time consuming for humans, but modern PR software applies complex, real language algorithms to media monitoring and can reveal the themes and messages that are making their way to the audience. This is a powerful aid for PR pros who need to make sure that the intended ideas are getting through.
5- Measure ROI
The bottom line is, well … the bottom line. Effective PR measurement means understanding how your efforts and investments are contributing to revenue and resulting in a return on the company’s investment. This can be a little scary if you are used to thinking of PR in term of less tangible benefits, but today’s business leaders are more committed than ever to making data-driven decisions. Brand PR professionals and agencies that are able to demonstrate ROI are more likely to receive the continued support of executive teams.
The increasing availability of useful data will put those who embrace it in the best position to improve and communicate PR results. Data can drive strategy, identify tactical successes and failures, and justify continued investment in public relations. Don’t let the sheer amount of it become overwhelming. Simply focus on the specific metrics that matter and enjoy your cheesecake a few bites at a time.