12 critical questions to ask before launching a measurement program

As you plan and develop your metrics, these essential factors must play an integral part for your data to be relevant and steered to the proper people.

Measurement is complicated.

Before you wade into the misty morass that is public relations and social media measurement, you need firm ground under your feet.

Get your ducks in a row by answering the 12 questions below, and you’ll be off to a good start to a successful and actionable measurement program.

These aren’t tricky questions, but the answers to some are not as obvious as you might think. Sometimes the hardest part is getting consensus from everyone involved.

Take some time to find the answers and write them down. Then set up a meeting with your senior leaders to make sure everyone is on the same page. If they’re not, you’ll have to reach consensus before you can begin.

1. What are your organization’s objectives?

Start with a thorough understanding of your organization’s business goals and strategy. If they aren’t written down somewhere, ask your boss. You might have a very interesting conversation.

For some organizations, this can be a difficult question. If it is for yours, you can also approach this is by shutting your eyes and imagining it’s the end of the year, and you and your boss are celebrating enormous success. Corks are popping, champagne is flowing, and bonus checks are being passed out. What are you celebrating? Whatever it is, that’s your objective.

Alternatively, define your mission by framing it from the opposite perspective: Suppose your department was wiped out tomorrow. How would the business suffer?

2. What other measurement programs are already underway?

What data can you access? What metrics has your organization already collected? Your organization may already have the data you need, or you might be able to tailor new measures to complement existing ones.

For instance, you could compare sales or lead-tracking data against marketing activities and measures.

3. How do senior leaders think your function or department contributes to the organization’s objectives?

Regardless of what type of organization you work for (B2B, B2C, nonprofit or government agency) you should know what role you play in the organization’s path to success. It may seem like an obvious question, but you ought to hear how senior leadership answers it. You have to be able to demonstrate your success in terms of how they understand your role.

4. Who are your program’s key stakeholders?

This is another question that may be pretty obvious for some companies, but it never hurts to get it in writing. The important thing is to identify the audience as specifically as you can.

No matter what your business or organization, the answer to this question is not, “Anyone with a pulse.” There is always, within any market, a set of customers who are the most valuable. These are the ones you want to target.

5. What keeps your stakeholders up at night?

Once you’ve defined your audience, you must determine what issues matter most to them. What inspires them? What scares them? What are they most passionate about? Where do they go for information?

The more you can specify an audience’s passions, the closer you are to understanding why they are loyal to your brand.

6. What motivates people to buy your products or otherwise change their behavior?

The answer to this question will drive your strategy and define what you measure. It also provides keys to the precise metrics you must track to measure success.

For example, if you sell a commodity product and price motivates purchase, then you ought to measure the extent to which this concept is being communicated to your marketplace.

However, if you are selling a service and the long-term relationship with the brand or salesperson motivates purchase, then you should measure relationships or brand engagement.

7. What are your key messages?

Write them down. If there are more than five, prioritize until you have five or fewer. No one will remember more than three, anyway.

If you haven’t crafted them yet or don’t know what they are, then research to determine what messages will resonate best with your target audience(s). Key messages should reflect what makes people buy your product or services, or what distinguishes you from your competition.

8. Who, or what, is a relevant benchmark?

Measurement is a comparative tool, so you have to define how or what you’ll compare your results against. If you’re measuring your share of voice, you’ll need an agreed-upon and consistent list of competitors. If you’re comparing your results against those from a different timeframe, make sure that timeframe is consistent and meaningful.

For instance, before the new CEO, PR agency or CMO arrived versus after. Think of your research as a pre-/post- or A/B test in which you test one variable (before the new agency/CEO/program) versus the other (after the new agency/CEO/program).

9. Who influences your audience(s)?

It’s crucial to identify who influences your target audience and how those influencers affect your business? A communicator’s job is frequently one of influencing the influencers, so you have to know who they are.

Enumerate all the traditional media, websites, online publications, politicians, nongovernmental organizations, peers, educators, discussion groups, industry gurus and so forth that your customers take into account when they decide to do business with you.

10. How do you distribute your product or service?

The answer to this question is vital to understanding the channels through which you will communicate. Are you talking directly to your customers, or is the most important target audience a broker or third party? How do they get information? What influences them?

The answers to those questions will inform your strategy, as well as your metrics.

11. How do your organization’s leaders expect to see your results reported?

Turns out that format and style of reporting have a huge influence on how people view your success. This is one instance when you do not want to get creative. If the vice president wants everything in an email, deliver it in an email (and attach a PowerPoint in case he/she has questions). If PowerPoint is the lingua franca of your organization, use it. If you’re reporting to a data geek, he or she may want it in Excel.

Think of the people to whom you are reporting and how they usually take in results. You do not want them frustrated as they try to figure out what you’re saying.

If your report is going to the CEO, you will have 20 seconds or less to get your message across, so your report must make an impact like a billboard. If the report is going to marketing, it should be short, but detailed enough to include brand data as well as corporate data. If the report is for market research, you’ll want to provide cross tabs, verbatims and other supporting data. If it’s for the vice president of communications, make sure your results provide a corporate overview as well as details about why certain results are what they are.

One more thing about reports: Make sure you can act on all the information you report. Don’t waste anyone’s time with irrelevant data.

12. What other departments will be affected?

Who will be involved in implementing changes as a result of your measurement program? This is one of the most important questions, because if you don’t have buy-in from all departments, your hard-won recommendations will probably meet strong resistance, and your measurement program may be a waste of effort.

Whoever might have to change as a result of your measurement should be involved in designing the measurement program. Without their buy-in, change won’t happen.

Katie Paine is CEO, publisher, consultant and founder of Paine Publishing. Find her on Twitter @queenofmetrics. A version of this article originally appeared on The Measurement Advisor.

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