If we’re going to re-imagine what we are honored and rewarded for, we should also rethink the tools we need to show our results. Technology and new measurement tools have come a very long way in the last few years. So, it’s time that communicators got out of their traditional tracking bubbles and looked around for solutions to more accurately measure their real contributions.
In our new measurement era you will not be honored nor rewarded for showing off your bucketloads of clicks, hits, and impressions. If you can’t demonstrate how all those bazillions of whatever are contributing to the organization’s objectives, you won’t be rewarded for generating them.
And don’t make the false assumption that impressions generate awareness. These days there are just too many clickbait headlines and cat videos vying for everyone’s attention. You can’t guarantee that your impressions are generating the kind of awareness that will help you reach your goals. You need new metrics and new tools to generate them.
New measurement tools for your toolkit
Traditional tools no longer cut it. You need to re-imagine your communications toolkit to make sure you have ways to show exactly how you are moving your audiences down the path toward either desired behavior or belief. The good news is that there’s a whole suite of new measurement tools on the market today. You may have not have heard of them—yet—but you’ll find them incredibly useful in delivering your value to the C-suite. Let’s get started...
- Tools to measure attribution
The “Holy Grail” of measurement has always been attribution: the ability to show that your event/press release or piece of content generated a desired action. Whether you want people to make a vaccine appointment, buy your product, sign a petition, or express your support for a cause, you need a way to track those actions and correlate them with your communications efforts. For years it wasn’t really possible, and if it was—via marketing mix modeling—the cost was way more than most PR budgets could afford. But today, with more integration between earned and paid media, the costs are spread over more budgets and the tools are better, faster, and cheaper.
The cheapest and easiest is Google’s Tag Manager. It’s free, and it lets you tag individual pieces of content so you can actually see what actions people take as a result of seeing that content: whether they go to your website, ask for more information, or request a demo.
For more sophisticated applications, there is Proof AI, which automates all the complicated correlations that we have to do in order to show a connection between a PR program and its desired results. It can then time shift the data to show when exactly your efforts will pay off.
- Tools to measure consideration
Many communications pros these days are expected to increase consideration and preference for either their products or their ideas or causes. The first step in measuring consideration and preference is to get consensus on an acceptable proxy for your equivalent of “a sale.” Typically these might be an action on a website, like downloading a white paper or asking for more information, that would imply consideration or preference. Whatever that action is can be tracked as a goal conversion in Google Analytics to show your contribution.
You would use Google Tag Manager to make sure that Google Analytics tracks any traffic that lands on your website, coming back from that press release or piece of content. Especially the visitors that are looking around for a specific location or to make an appointment.
- Tools that show you have improved the likelihood that people find your information
Over the past few years two trends have radically altered the communications measurement space. First, the media has become far less credible, so communicators have learned to reach people in many other ways beyond just media relations. Secondly, the way people find information is overwhelming through Google Search. So increasing your likelihood to be found—your Google SEO rank—has become a key measure of success.
The most common tools to measure SEO are MOZ and SEM Rush. The first thing you want to do is find out where your ranking is today, before you start making improvements in your content. Then you can turn to a bunch of other cool new tools that can help you make sure that you are doing SEO right.
Suppose, for example, you are in public health and your organization’s goal is to get more people vaccinated. Well, all those impressions about “vaccine” or even “vaccine location” don’t prove that you’ve actually gotten anyone any closer to their shot.
Instead, you might want to show the value you’ve created by making it easier to find a vaccine location. First you might go to Answer the Public to find out exactly how people are looking for vaccine appointments:
In this example above, you’d see 51 questions that the public is asking about vaccine appointments, as opposed to vaccination sites or other combinations of words. Voila! In order to improve your ranking, you would rewrite your content to reference “vaccine appointments” in the exact words that people are looking for.
Next you would show, via SEM Rush or MOZ, that your ranking has improved over the benchmark you took earlier. The percent increase could serve as an acceptable proxy for the increase in percent of people able to find a vaccination destination.
- Tools to show you reach the right people with your messages
Next you might want to show that you are reaching the right audiences with your messages. So go over to SparkToro and type in the words “vaccine appointments” to find out what people who are looking for vaccine appointments are most likely to watch and listen to:
Now you know, for the audience you are interested in, which outlets matter and which don’t!
You might also go to FollowerWonk to analyze the people who follow you on Twitter to see if their bios match the types of people you are trying to reach.
- Tools to show that people take the actions you want them to take
Now you want to go back to your Google Analytics to test the assumption that your improved, SEO-optimized content is in fact driving more vaccine appointments.
Since you tagged your optimized content you can go to the Conversions section and look at how many of the conversions came from the content you tagged.
You can even take it to the next step. If your state is tracking the actual number of appointments made and actual shots given, you can apply that ratio to your Google Analytics data.
So, let’s say that 90% of people in your area who make an appointment actually show up and get vaccinated. You could show how many people click through from your press release to your “find my shot” map and location finder. And you could correlate your activities with the number of shots actually given in your area.
Let’s do some hypothetical math for this example. Suppose you have 1,000 new unique visitors driven by your SEO optimized content. Let’s also say that 500 of them looked for a location and landed on your map, and then 200 made an appointment. Then, using your state averages, you could assume that your communications efforts resulted in 90% of 200 = 180 people actually getting vaccinated because of your work. (And, to keep it simple, we’re assuming a one-shot vaccine, not a two-dose shot.)
- Tools to show change in beliefs or perceptions
It used to be that the only way to show that you changed perceptions or beliefs was to conduct a baseline survey of the target audience before your campaign, and then repeat the same survey after the campaign. This is still the best way.
And before anyone raises the issue of cost, consider: If you’re spending $100,000 on a campaign, doesn’t it make since to spend 10% of that to find out whether the $100K was well spent? And yes, you can definitely conduct a survey these days for $10K or less.
But let’s say that a survey just isn’t feasible. AI-driven machine intelligence can likely discover any changes in the language people are using when talking about your brand. It used to be you’d track trends in messaging and positioning in the media using human analysts to read through your coverage and identify the messages and themes that were appearing. Not any more.
To continue with the vaccine example. You might go back to some of the words that Answer the Public identified, particularly around vaccine hesitancy. You might make sure that not only were the questions answered on your website, but that all the information was in the hands of local media as well as local influencers like pastors, social workers, and primary physicians.
You would set up one of the AI-driven tools like Signal AI or Talkwalker or Fullintel to track appearance of those words in social and traditional media (really anywhere online) of your key messages. Once the AI tool has identified the mentions, you probably want to have some form of human curation to make sure it is accurate. And you’d also want to show a steadily declining trend in words that express fear or hesitancy around vaccines. ∞
Illustration based on a photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash.