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In political campaigns, setting goals is a straightforward matter, says Murali, global digital chief of staff at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
Winning an election is all that matters, and you measure communications strategies according to whether they drive that goal, says Murali, who worked on political digital analytics for a decade. (Yes, he goes by only one name.)
But PR goals—and therefore measurement—can be murkier. They shouldn’t be, Murali says in “How to prove the value of PR to your company: It’s all about measurement.”
Murali lays out tips for identifying communications goals, proving the value of your work, digging out insights from benchmark data, and measuring success. Here are some tips:
1. Measurement must speak to the top dog.
Digging deep into ancient lore, Murali unearths a riddle for the ages: “If a brand talks to its stakeholders, but doesn’t drive business goals, does it make a difference?”
The answer, found in the scrolls of a lost priestly caste, is: Not really. Impressions and “likes” mean little if you can’t relate them to your business goals.
“When you go to the CEO and tell him, ‘We got this many impressions off our last buy,’ they’re like, ‘Great, I have no idea what that means to me,'” Murali says.
Measure numbers that relate to the business goals of your organization and its chief executive.
2. Set clear, specific goals.
Often goals are “super vague,” Murali says. Such as: “‘I want to increase exposure,’ ‘we want to get our name out there,’ or really, the most dreaded of all of them: ‘We want to be on social.'”
How does any of that help your organization?
Digital PR is a means, not an end, Murali says. The measurable goals of a successful campaign could be financial (boost online sales or lead generation) or reputation (favorability that leads to increased conversions).
These goals could even be policy related, such as legislative outreach. Are you driving supporters to reach out to their local elected officials to approve that new store? Are you drumming up interest in a petition?
3. Custom-build metrics that work.
Once you identify your business goals, develop metrics to measure your progress, Murali says. Set milestones that tell you how you’re doing along the way.
For example, you can say, “Based on this metric, we want to reach $1 million driven through this campaign.”
“That’s a number that your bosses can get behind,” says Murali.
4. Integrate data.
When you incorporate data, don’t use “likes” and retweets in isolation, Murali says. Combine all the data on your organization and customers into actionable resources. This includes retail, social, email, online, and research numbers, he says. See how people visit your website, then match that up with consumer information tracking visitors and their behavior as they come to the site.
The more you can pull in all these different channels together, Murali says, “the more substantive any of these metrics are going to be.”
Targeting is becoming more and more precise in social media, he adds. Twitter now allows organizations to run promoted tweets that directly target, say, the audience that is watching the television shows on which you’re advertising.
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5. Test, retest, then test again.
Many PR people talk about hunches and feelings. Not good enough, Murali says. “You want to be testing every component of this.”
SimCity, an open-ended, city-building computer and console video game series, experimented with two landing pages. One, with “PRE-ORDER” across the top, offered a 20 percent discount on the next purchase; the other didn’t.
Surprisingly, the simpler page, without the discount, did better. Knowing this could save “save your company the hassle of having to offer a discount on software,” Murali says.
“Sometimes your hunch isn’t always the right one.”
6. Set up a point system.
One client of Murali’s was trying to improve its reputation. This client had some cash to throw at the problem and was willing to buy ads in high-profile outlets such as The New York Times or Politico.
Although the bigwigs favor major media outlets, were those the best places to reach an audience that mattered to them? Murali’s team set up a point system to measure outcomes:
- Clicking on the ad: one point
- Starting a video: another two points
- Completing a video: five more
- Sharing the video: chalk up another five
- Reading a blog post: three points
“When you aggregate all that data, you can see which advertising platforms drove you the most engaged customers, who are able to raise your favorability specifically,” Murali says. “But you can also see, looking at customer by customer, who are those most engaged customers, and how can we message them directly?”
Viewing the data, Murali recommended putting a large portion the ad budget into one tiny magazine, “which may not have a high reach, but you know that everyone who sees that ad is going to have a positive favorability,” he says.