I recently got caught up in a string of emails between Professor Samra Bufkins at the University of North Texas and one of her students, Stephanie Chan.
Stephanie was working out in the real world, doing public relations for Moody Gardens theme park of Galveston, Texas. She was trying to be an accountable communicator and do measurement the right way, but her company was insisting she use the discredited measurement technique Advertising Value Equivalency.
Stephanie wrote to Professor Bufkins:
As I've mentioned to you, Moody Gardens still uses AVE!!! What's worse is that I have to generate the reports. The reports are for our CEO to bring to the Board members to prove the Marketing department's worth in the company.
My only solution is to revamp their entire PR campaign to make it measurable. And by measurable I mean track tickets sold.
How'd Katie convince her clients? I know this must have taken a lot of time and persuasion. And as a non-profit, they'd like to know they're not spending money on the wrong things.
What do you guys think?
Here is our six-step solution for Stephanie to wean her company off of AVEs and develop a proper public relations and social media measurement system.
Step 1: Learn what accounting data is available.
First of all, wander over to Accounting around 11:30 a.m. with a scrumptious-looking platter of food. Offer it to anyone who will spend half an hour with you explaining what mechanisms are in place to track ticket sales and/or revenue.
Step 2: Learn what online traffic and revenue data is available.
Repeat the process with your digital, web, or online team – whoever keeps track of online revenue and activity.
Step 3: Get specific numbers on desired outcomes.
Come back the following week with a plate of delicious cookies around 3 p.m. and offer them to whoever will provide you with an Excel spreadsheet showing weekly data for the following:
- Overall ticket sales
- Online ticket sales
- Membership growth
- Traffic by URL destination, especially to these pages on the Moody Gardens' website: Pyramid Kids Camps, Membership Information, Plan a Special Event, and Plan Your Visit.
- Twitter followers
- Trip Advisor traffic
- Moody Gardens' blog traffic and sign-ups on the e-news form there
- Traffic to the Corpse Watch Cam that watches Morticia the Corpse Flower (which by the way is one of the coolest cams around.)
Step 4: Orgainze your activity and mentions data by week.
Now, go back to your own records -- yes, even the ones with AVEs. Create an Excel spreadsheet showing PR activity on a weekly basis. In otherwords, what you actually did: Press releases, blog posts, Tweets, events, etc.
Now create another spreadsheet showing external mentions of Moody Gardens. This includes all your week-by-week media results that mention individual exhibits, events, people, or anything else important. To get started, any non-paid mention counts.
If you are running paid advertisements, make up a third spreadsheet with your media plan mapped out, also weekly.
Step 5: Look for connections between your PR activities and desired outcomes.
Now, channel Sam and your Stats class: Go into Excel and click on the fx button and select "statistical" as the category. There you will find correlations along with a host of other statistical tools (it depends which version you are using).
For starters, run a correlation between your weekly overall PR exposure and weekly web traffic. This will probably show that your external media activity is associated with increased traffic to your website. From there, you can look at specific on-line activities, including ticket sales, comments, and signups. Next use Facebook Insights and your Twitter statistics. What you want to do is to show that your increased PR efforts are associated with desired business outcomes, including web traffic, signups, ticket sales, comments, and requests for information.
Extra Credit: If you are running advertisements, do correlations for that activity against week-by-week outcomes as well. Now examine your results carefully to see if there is a way to separate the outcome impact of PR from that of advertising. Hopefully there will be instances where PR and advertising are targeted differently, or where one was not used at all, that will allow you to infer the relative effectiveness of each on its own. Your goal is to understand and measure the influence of your PR, separate from the influence of advertising.
Step 6: Show the board that your PR efforts drive measurable business results.
Next board meeting, go in armed with your data and knock their socks off. We'll bet you they’ll never go back to AVEs.
Katie Delahaye Paine is CEO of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine is a dynamic and experienced speaker on public relations and social media measurement. Click here for the schedule of Katie’s upcoming speaking engagements. Katie and Beth Kanter are authors of the book “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit,” to be published this year by Wiley.
The Measurement Standard is a publication of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners, will be glad to talk with you about measurement for your organization.