Home Archive March 2010 Do you measure up?
Do you measure up?
Friday, 19 March 2010 11:22

Measurement and evaluation agencies have become very adept at measuring the penetration of their clients’ communications in the media, but are they spending enough time on monitoring the impact on other stakeholders? Marino Donati reportsDo you measure up?

When Toyota was recently forced to recall 8 million cars around the world because of dangerous defects, the media and PR machine went into overdrive. No doubt countless agencies were monitoring where and how the story cropped up.

 Recently, media research company Commetric used a new tracking tool to analyse the impact of media coverage of Toyota on investors and shareholders. It tracked share price movements following developments in the story, including criticism of Toyota bosses’ belated reaction to the problem, as well as the US congressional hearings on the matter.

According to Commetric, between 4 January and 12 February 2010, Toyota’s share price movements were 1.4% worse on days when there was media coverage of the issue, than on days with no coverage.

Commetric was also able to relate the impact with similar instances with other car manufacturers in the past, and with product recalls in other industry sectors.

Being able to understand the ‘outcomes’ of a news story or PR campaign rather than just being able to monitor where and how it appears is becoming increasingly important. But do PR measurement operators pay enough attention to stakeholder groups such as investors, consumers and employees, for example? And where does social media fit into all this?

Spurred on by the need to be able to prove to bosses the real benefits from their departments, many PR functions and therefore PR monitoring agencies have begun to put more effort into tracking the wider ranging impact on non-media stakeholders.

Commetric feels that its share price analysis tool will be invaluable to some of its clients and last month [February] launched a partnership with PR firm Hill & Knowlton EMEA to market its Equity Prioritiser and Equity Optimiser tools.

Aimed at corporate communications and investor relations functions, the service aims to give them a more clout with senior management, according to Commetric chief executive Chris Shaw.

“We think these services will help them put their function up the corporate agenda,” says Shaw. “Clients have said, ‘This will sharpen my dialogue with my finance colleagues’. FDs and CEOs understand share price. And we’re providing information on share price with robust statistical analysis and a robust correlation. PR hasn’t been able to have this kind of dialogue with other directors before.”

Although the use of complex scientific analysis has been around in market research and in tracking advertising for a while, it is now being used more in tracking the outcomes of PR.

Reputation analysis firm Echo Research is adamant that gauging sentiment among non-media audiences is vital. “Not enough is done to understand where they are coming from, who they listen to among their peer groups, opinion formers, media channels and online sources and what kinds of content,” says Echo’s group CEO Sandra Macleod. Echo has developed I3, an approach that triangulates internal identity, external image and the range and credibility of influencers.

“For those still grappling with the ‘white noise’ of social media, focus on areas of risk and opportunity,” she counsels. “Think what are the things you would not want to find among the chatter and keep an ear out for those so that you build better resilience. And ensure you know the individual bloggers and for a that truly have influence so you can become a conversation architect yourself.”

Media analysis and evaluation company Metrica won an award at last year’s AMEC Communication Effectiveness awards for work with charity Cancer Research UK on its Race For Life. 

The brief was to measure how valuable PR was in the overall marketing mix for the event, and what part it played in driving online registrations for the race.

Cancer Research UK acknowledged the importance of PR in its strategy but felt that its impact was difficult to prove.

Metrica used an econometric model to do this. More commonly used in advertising, the model uses rigorous analysis to see what impact marketing exercises have on businesses in real terms. Metrica looked at national and regional PR, television, radio, advertising, direct marketing and viral emails, and filtered out the ‘noise’ – website traffic that was not a result of marketing – by looking at seasonal trends. Metrica also added a data feed of editorial coverage from its media analysis database.

Using this econometric model, Cancer Research UK knew exactly what proportion of the value of its registrations came from PR. It also showed the link between national coverage and direct marketing.

Metrica director Kristin Wadge says: “The focus has always been on measuring what happens in the media. It’s just as important to measure the outcomes as the outputs. Using this kind of model helps us to prove PR’s worth and the more we can do that the better. PR has been striving for years to do this and things like social media has forced it to the forefront of chief executives’ minds.”

In fact, social media has become fastest developing arena for PR companies to monitor communications and reactions to them.

Millward Brown Precis uses analytical software to help monitor the media for clients, and that now includes social media. Sales director Richard Ingles agrees that social media straddles both the monitoring of media penetration and its impact on stakeholder attitudes, but says that existing methods are used to track it.

“We view it as another form of output and we measure it in exactly the same way, looking at the amount of ‘noise’, the sentiment of a comment and the key topics,” he says.

But is it difficult to make sense of the ever increasing number of outlets for news and opinion in social media, or does it make life easier?

“I don’t think it’s a challenge: the principle is the same, to bring together all the information and turn it into insight,” says Ingles.

Increasingly, Precis is working with its sister company BPRI, a B2B research agency which talks to key stakeholders, opinion formers, industry gurus. NGOs and academics and potential clients, for international blue chip companies.

So, do these clients take monitoring social media seriously? “Increasingly companies want a 360-degree understanding and a holistic picture of their company and brand,” says managing director Cara Berry. “But it’s not happening as much as it could. The focus hasn’t been to put these things together. People have been very guarded about how they use social media but they do see it as another important piece of the jigsaw.

“The old way of doing things is gone. It’s no longer possible to control your communications. It’s about a longer-term way to build messages about your brand. I hope social media acts as a catalyst for change and makes companies experiment.”

Some media monitoring companies feel that social media is the next area where PRs should be working hard to develop metrics to measure its impact.

Vocus, which provides software for managing PR, has recently added a social media monitoring component to its product, which it says has generated substantial interest. Director of public relations Frank Strong says: “Last year, many companies experimented with social media. They are studying it and learning the best ways to incorporate it into an integrated communications programme.”

He says, this year, the company is starting to see customers looking at how to social media strategies. Strong says: “One example is Southwest Airlines, one of our customers. It has a person dedicated to Twitter, not only to listen, but to respond.”

Strong says that this is another opportunity for PR to show its impact more clearly. “Social media tends to reject commercialisation which means the PR ambassador’s job is to try, through social networks, to link customers up with other customers, or other customers’ thoughts. From a measurement perspective, PR professionals should seek to quantify those engagements and interactions, and report on them.”