A simple way to create a measurement plan without pulling out your hair

It doesn’t have to be an arduous process. Follow this guide and you can have a plan in place today.

There was a time—not too long ago—that PR initiatives were measured largely by newspaper clippings.

PR agencies would concoct ratios of readers per clip, claiming that two-and-half or so people read the story. In reality, it was all just a guess. It was an expensive and highly misleading approach to whether a communications plan worked or failed.

Times have changed, and in today’s digital era, we have many accurate and effective ways to measure whether our communications work is making progress or needs a course correction.

By examining and balancing many data points, we can clearly see how things are going. But a measurement matrix, as I call it, starts in the initial planning stages.

What to do

Any communications or PR program must have identified objectives. Those goals are intended to favorably impact a company in order to justify the expenditure of funds and resources. So, draw up a grid.

The X axis on the left is a list of specifics that can be affected by the program. The Y axis along the bottom is a timeline for periodic measurement. Each X item is to be plotted at a particular time, such as every week, month or quarter on the Y axis, at the bottom.

X axis elements must include items that reach into every corner of an organization or company. Otherwise, how can you get a clear picture of how a communications program is working? Some examples for establishing an initial benchmark, right at the beginning:

1. Website ranking. What is the data on comparative ranking as measured by Alexa.com or Compete.com? What are the numbers of unique site visitors as measured by Google Analytics, Woopra or actual server data?

2. Social media shift. Note the level of engagement, stumbles at StumbleUpon and retweets.

3. Media calls. How many unprompted calls do you get from the media?

4. How many reporters are actually writing about your company? Chances are the number is not more than a handful which is OK. View them as important influencers.

For example, Apple Computer focuses on two reporters who pretty much drive what others write. By developing close relationships with David Pogue at The New York Times and Walt Mossberg at The Wall Street Journal, Apple is able to use two high profile influencers to shape other media coverage.

5. How often does the mainstream media write about your company?

6. How many and who are the bloggers who cover your company or organization?

7. Stock value. What is the stock price at the start of the communications program?

8. Sales or membership. Note the company’s sales, membership or other measures of influence and value.

9. C-suite enthusiasm. I know this is subjective, but if top executives begin getting calls of praise or invitations to speak, that’s important to know and measure.

You get the idea. All of this data is plotted. If it goes up, good. If anything goes down, you can fix it fairly quickly.

The main point is demonstrating that each and every communications program has an all-encompassing purpose that embraces, engages and benefits the whole. A measure matrix is part of how to create value-driven communications.

David Henderson is an author, journalist and communications strategist. He owns News Strategies LLC, online corporate brand journalism advisors in Washington, D.C.

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