When It Comes to Measurement, Context is King

For analytics professionals like me, there are few things more discouraging than the widespread addiction to quick, shallow metrics in the place of meaningful analysis. Whether it’s due to budget, limited understanding or limited space in a larger report, numbers like share of voice, impressions and percent increase in mentions have become the key performance indicators (KPIs) most in demand. Unfortunately, these stats aren’t actually KPIs—their value is a myth. Without context and meaning, they’re simply meaningless vanity metrics embedded in pretty charts.

So, how do you provide context and meaning when measuring the impact of a communications campaign? You need a combination of three things: audience, category and—now more than ever—culture.

First, your target audience—whether it is a consumer, stakeholder, policymaker, employee or B2B buyer—needs to be a key element of your planning, optimization and reporting. This is a key element of our recently launched Brand Reckoning 2020 study, which identified four distinct COVID-era consumer personas to help brands better understand who they’re targeting. By understanding your audience, their touchpoints with content, their pain points and how they view your brand/category, you will be able to set a strong benchmark as a basis for program planning.

For example, understanding what publications your target audience reads can allow you to graduate from tracking general impressions to more valuable in-target impressions, begin to showcase the user journey to your content and conversion, or demonstrate how exposure to your earned media and content changed the audience’s awareness, perception and advocacy. By connecting audiences who have seen your content and media to a specific action, you can now provide data that tells a story about how your storytelling directly relates to your business, providing meaningful context that senior leaders can understand.

Next, category refers to the industry and competitive landscape. It’s essential to understand which parts of the industry landscape a competitor owns, which are potential white space areas and which align to your company’s/brand’s value proposition. It not only helps your planning process by focusing your time on the best opportunity for your brand/product company, but also helps to align the white space with your audience’s key interest areas and bring your KPIs to life.

Questions to ask yourself include: What is your share of voice within a key issue topic? What is your share of engagement within a key issue topic? What is your share of keyword search within a topic area? If your company is focusing its business on three key areas for the year, you can provide context that business leaders understand and value by showing how you are doing in those specific areas, what publications are telling relevant stories with the most engagement, what is driving the messaging and how your competitors are doing.

Finally, culture allows you to tell a holistic story. If your basic metrics tell you what is happening, understanding the cultural elements that are driving content and engagement provides the why. This step is usually the most skipped, because it is not easy or automatic. But by understanding why particular keywords are searched more than others, why certain media topics are disproportionately engaged with or what cultural trends are predicted to drive future engagement, we can better see the big picture, which gives our reporting much more meaning.

So, what can you do to bring context to your planning, optimizing and reporting?

  • Learn as much as you can about your target audience(s) and how they intersect with your industry/brand.
  • Dive into your category. What key topics/issues exist, where do your competitors play, what is the white space and what intersects with your value proposition?
  • Understand the cultural elements that are driving engagement and how they impact your audience, category and brand.

Once you have evaluated your audience, category and culture, rethink your goals, metrics and KPIs so they answer key questions and lead to insightful findings that prevent your senior leaders from asking “so what?”

If you’d like to engage more with this topic, Ketchum Analytics has plenty of resources, including an ongoing speaker series with AMEC, the premiere international communications measurement organization. And of course, you can always reach out directly to start a conversation.