If you want to measure the business impact of your public relations, Shonali Burke should be your first call. A public relations and social media expert, Shonali owns Shonali Burke Consulting, a firm focusing on providing measurable PR results. Though many businesses continue to look only at vanity metrics such as "Likes," shares, reach, or "ad value equivalent," she encourages businesses to dig deeper. She is also a professor, trainer, and sought-after speaker.
I invited Shonali to Marketing Smarts to discuss PR measurement as well as her tips for effective influencer marketing. PR is, according to Shonali, "the original influencer marketing," so the topics naturally go hand-in-hand.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Forget ad value equivalency as a PR metric; you can do better (12:30): "There are still a lot of organizations touting and espousing 'ad value equivalency' (or 'AVE'), which is a terrible idea and a terrible way to measure PR. It's essentially the practice of equating anything paid (for example, an advertisement that you place in a major daily) and estimating the cost of that space, then extrapolating that to earned media of a similar size.
"It's bad because it's two completely different things. With ads, there's message control. You're not often paying the actual ad rate. Oftentimes there are discounts that you're getting. [AVE also] has nothing to do with actual message delivery—perception, retention, awareness, thought leadership, and all of that kind of stuff, which anything earned does work to put in place. That's why AVE is not an accurate measure of the value of public relations."
To effectively measure your PR results, look at outputs, outtakes, and outcomes (14:15): "In general, there are three buckets that we've historically talked about.... There's your 'outputs' bucket—that's all of the stuff you're generating, your press releases and the work that you're doing. They're a good measure of activity and efficiency.
"Then you have your 'in-between' metrics, which I like to call 'outtakes.' That's what people are taking away from it. That's where you look at engagement and perception, that kind of thing, which you can measure through surveys, through focus groups, and in the online social space you can look at clicks and downloads and likes and retweets.
"But the ultimate bucket, which has to be in place regardless of what your personal niche or vertical is, is outcomes. That's where we're actually looking for changes in behavior. We're looking for actions. That's where people start to look at sales or leads generated or actions somebody took, advocacy and so on.
"Those are how you can start to bucket your metrics, then depending on which stage of both your business and your communications you're at, your metrics will fall along a spectrum of these three buckets."
PR is the original influencer marketing (20:29): "PR is the original influencer marketing because that's what we had to do. We had to get to a very influential segment of our publics, i.e. the media, and convince them to tell our story, and hopefully convince them well enough that they would tell the story the way that the organization needed the story to be told. It's kind of the same with influencers, but it's important to keep in mind the concept that you're doing it for them. What is the value in it for them? Because they get pitched all the time. We see story after story of influencers and how much they charge and what they will and won't do.
"It's remarkable to actually watch this evolution, but one of the areas where brands can fall down without even realizing it is if they go into it...focused on them[selves]. The influencers are in it for themselves and their audience, and relevant and good influencers really understand that they have to keep providing their audience value. It's this domino effect of being of service and being of value that is very important in the influencer space. If you go into it with a transactional approach, your efforts will be short-lived and the cost of activation will climb, because you are going to have to invest over and over again in your influencers and, over time, that's going to get really expensive."
Shonali and I talked about much more, including how to work with influencers for optimal results, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.