Melanie Sole, Public Relations Consultant
Jeff Guaracino, Chief Strategy and Communications Officer, Atlantic City Alliance
It’s hard to believe, but 68% of measuring PR pros still use AVEs. For every one of you out there who knows they should leave AVEs behind, but haven’t been able to do it yet, Jeff Guaracino, Melanie Sole, and their team at Atlantic City Alliance are your role models. Jeff and Melanie are our Measurement Mavens of the Month.
A year ago, Jeff, Melanie, and Co. decided that they needed a good solid measurement program for DO AC, a multi-faceted campaign to promote Atlantic City, New Jersey. From a measurement standpoint they were starting with nothing more than manual clippings from the agency and a latent familiarity with AVEs. On the plus side, they already had a robust survey measurement program in place to help gauge changes in sentiment toward Atlantic City.
Their first step was to convene a meeting and get everyone to agree on measures of success. As with any destination marketing program, there was the usual challenge of attribution. For any visitor that decides to travel to Atlantic City there could be any number of influences on their decision, from billboards, to hotel and airline specials, to a favorable restaurant review in a national magazine. The team quickly reached consensus that there were certain key drivers that were necessary if a mention was going to have any influence at all, including desirable visuals, key messages, some aspect of myth dispelling, etc. The team also agreed that unique visits and downloads of the visitor guide were acceptable proxies for visitor behavior.
They implemented a media monitoring and measurement program and started tracking mentions in key markets that included the key drivers they had agreed upon (messaging, positioning, visuals, etc.) The program is just now coming up on its first anniversary and has resulted in a number of very effective tweaks to its communications. Even the local media applauds the effort.
The real value, however, is that the data now regularly informs the team on how best to deploy its resources. For example, they learned that some of the very high profile events yielded fewer opportunities to get key messages across than did smaller more focused efforts, like ARTLANTIC Art Parks and DO AC Boardwalk Wine Promenade. The data also showed where PR dollars were yielding the biggest impact in terms of web traffic, in some cases significantly higher than the paid advertising. The program continues into 2014 with a few modifications but no lessening of the commitment.
(Full disclosure: The Atlantic City Alliance is a client of mine.) ◊