I have done a lot of traveling recently. Those adventures, combined with a careful eye on the press, provided the research for the following survey of measurement in various countries.
Having just spent three days talking about measurement with some of the most senior communications people in Italy, I can confidently report that they are just as motivated as their counterparts anywhere to establish sound metrics for both PR and social media. Some of them have already leap-frogged their U.S. counterparts, rejected “vanity metrics,” and refuse to report on likes and number of followers. Others, however, understand that big numbers are what the boss wants to see, therefore they have no choice but to report on them.
In general, Italian communications professionals see the real value of both social and traditional media relations in building relationships. For social media, they are particularly intrigued with using social as a means to improve customer relationships. The biggest hurdles they face are the multitudinous regulations and reporting requirements of the EU.
Canadians have always taken measurement seriously, and, in fact, were the first country in the world to officially reject AVE and focus on an alternative, known as MRP (Media Relations Rating Points). Unfortunately it has taken longer than many would like for major organizations to comply with that standard. However, major progress was made in September when the Canadian Tourism Commission announced its intent to do away with Earned Media Value (their equivalent of AVE) and replace it with a system based on those elements of earned media that in fact move people along the path to visit Canada. While just announced, this ground-breaking approach has a stated goal of full implementation in 2014.
Judging from the reaction to my speech at the annual PR Forum in Warsaw, measurement standards are a very hot topic. Like their counterparts around the world, senior leadership in Poland, especially on the agency side, very much want to move away from AVEs and vanity metrics. The problem is getting senior management to give up those “big numbers” and move to a more sophisticated way of thinking about the value of PR.
Perhaps the most discouraging news was from the global agency representatives that I met with in Warsaw. They universally acknowledged their hatred of AVEs and the need for more meaningful measures of PR value, yet were frequently asked to report on local AVE for their U.S.-based clients.
The best news we’ve heard in a long time was this statement in Biz Community, a leading business publication in South Africa: “The standard industry measure of Advert Value Equivalent (AVE) is not regarded as an accurate or reliable method of online measurement. The industry finds that results are often inflated and there is no consistency or standardization… Trying to retrofit a classical value model into the new era of online marketing is extremely subjective and vague.”
And despite that hearwarming rhetoric, this story makes it sound as if South African industry may be headed off in a pointless search for a universal holy grail — that “one number” that we all know can’t exist due to the varying nature of PR and social media goals. We can only hope that whatever they do, they will follow the standards set forth in smmeasure.org and instituteforpr.org/industrystandards.
We found both encouraging and discouraging news in an unbylined story on social media ROI in The Guardian:
“Honda has created a social media teaser campaign as it ratchets up the tension ahead of the launch of the new Honda Civic Type R hot hatch in 2015. …. Calculating the value of this social media investment falls to Honda Europe social media manager Simon Nicholson. Working out the return on investment – “ROI” – of social media activity is one of the big challenges for those promoting social channels. One of the main ways of doing it is through assessing the “opportunity cost” of the campaign – comparing how much it costs to achieve a given result compared to other forms of marketing.
[Right on, says the Measurement Queen!]
“One of the big uses of social media for Honda is responding to customer service requests. By comparing the cost of a request via a call centre with the lower cost of handling it via social media, the social ROI can be measured by the saving created.
“Yet another measure could be the positive brand sentiment from simplifying the customer service process through social media, though it is hard to put an exact figure on an emotion.
[A cop out]
As the Honda Civic Type R will not be launched for another two years, it is impossible to tie the social media campaign directly to sales. But a social media campaign’s ROI can be analysed in a variety of ways. From a PR perspective, it could be measured by awareness – the “type r” film got over 300,000 views online while hundreds of fans tweeted pictures and there have been thousands of Twitter comments using the hashtag #typer.
Then again, from a marketing point of view, the measure could be based on conversion and targeting, for instance through the number of people who watched the YouTube film and were then re-targeted with ads, perhaps then signing up for more information.
“The metrics you use change depending on the department the social media is working for,” says Nicholson.
“Social media has great return on investment. There are some aspects that are difficult to measure, though others you can measure. My advice is to look at all the individual social media activities and measure their specific value rather than trying to judge the ROI of a whole channel of communications,” he says. ◊