Analyze this: The latest developments in PR measurement

This post originally appeared on and is part of the monthly Ask Doc Rock series.

While analytics is an old idea, it has a new significance in public relations. In the past 15 years, we’ve evolved from rudimentary clip books to building databases detailing media that we generate.  We now have the data to really play in the world of ROI measurement.

In the last 15 years, we have evolved from making clip books with scissors and tape to building datasets about the quality and quantity of tour media placements.  We now have the data to make an impact in the world of ROI measurement.

The PR Moment Analytics Conference, held at Ketchum Pleon’s London offices on March 22, was the first conference where the topic of analytics was the feature of an industry event. Jessica, our up-and-coming account executive, stopped by my office when I returned to learn about new developments in PR measurement.

“All of this information is interesting. But what can you do with analytics?” she asked.

The short answer: a lot. I gave her the following examples that we heard about at the conference:

  • The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society isolated the effects on volunteer fundraising from various channels (such as radio advertising, direct mail, point-of-sale promotions) and online earned media.  They found that they would raise more money for cancer research if they shifted more money toward online earned media and point-of-sale.
  • A manufacturer of a healthy frozen food entrée learned that  Twitter activity drove potential consumers to their website, and those visits, in turn, drive sales.
  • A global chemical company determined how different messages and communication channels affect their reputation.  They also identified the facts and information that are most important to encouraging influential citizens to speak more positively on their behalf.
  • The Anti-Defamation League is seeking the best way to effectively battle hate around the world as it reaches its centennial anniversary.For example, should it focus its communications on general civil liberties, cyber-bullying, religious freedoms or law enforcement training?  It is possible to answer these daunting and important questions using analytics — not to necessarily re-shape their message or mission, but to ensure its relevance to donors as well as to raise awareness of these important issues among the general public.

“These are substantial examples,” Jessica said. “What would it take for me to become a PR research and measurement practitioner?”

Good question. Next month, we’ll address the skills that measurement pros and PR practitioners need today as well as discuss an exciting event coming up at the PRSA 2012 International Conference this October in San Francisco that will help develop those abilities.

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We’ll close out this column with a reader question:

How do you improve the relationship between communications and marketing professionals?

A lot of times it seems like communications and marketing people are either in a bad marriage, or have just had the worst blind date ever.  PR professionals need to start using different language when describing what we do.

Marketing folks often talk about GRPs (percent of population reached) or TRPs (percent of target audience reached). We shouldn’t have any problems discontinuing the use of silly terms, like “impressions,” and starting to speak with more business acumen. Business leaders don’t use jargon like “buzz” and  “building emotional connections.”

Do you have any questions? Ask Doc Rock.