Crucial PR measurement trends for 2020

Prep your team—and your budget—for an increased focus on social responsibility and greater integration across departments.

2020 comms trends

2020 will ring in new challenges—and opportunities—for PR measurement.

Emerging trends, shifting consumer sentiment and improving technologies will all affect how PR metrics are monitored and measured in the coming year. Here are some key PR measurement trends to watch.

Greater emphasis on measuring social responsibility

More corporations are realizing that genuine, well-publicized corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts can bolster their reputation, decrease chances of consumer boycotts and attract loyal customers (and employees). Research shows that strong CSR programs also tend to boost corporate stock values. Many investors analyze company records on environmental and social issues before buying a company’s stocks.

For some, “doing good” is just the right thing to do. Others contend that CSR should be measured like any other corporate investment. Either way, corporations will place more value on measuring CSR programs in 2020.

“The biggest trend is a more holistic view of the value of communications,” writes PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing. “It’s not just somehow ‘helping the bottom line’ or ‘bringing in more leads’ or even ‘getting impressions.’ Increasingly, CCOs and CEOs are emphasizing the measurement of how their organization impacts the planet, society, and the communities in which it lives.”

More integration of communications measurement

PR and marketing—as well as other communication functions—are becoming more integrated. Corporate leaders are realizing that merging these functions improves messaging coordination, cohesion and efficiency. Complementary teams can accomplish together what they cannot do separately, which enhances the organization’s bottom line.

The days of PR and marketing departments operating independently are ending. Silos are crumbling as social media marketing, advertising and digital marketing become increasingly intertwined.

Coordinated messaging requires an integrated communication dashboard that collects all earned, owned and paid metrics into a single view. A centralized hub that compiles multitudes of metrics can reveal the most effective strategies and prove how PR and marketing help the organization meet business goals. With greater cooperation and enhanced measurement, marketing and PR can better demonstrate to management how both functions have supported the organization.

Growing sophistication in PR analytics

Vanity metrics such as AVEs, earned media equivalencies and impressions will fall by the wayside. Instead, PR departments will pursue more sophisticated measurements such as brand sentiment, share of voice and message resonance.

“Tangible deliverables are what matters,” writes John Hall, co-founder of Calendar, in Inc. “Your clients are much more interested in receiving a published press mention than they are in hearing that you pitched 200 reporters with no results.”

PR pros face more pressure to prove how they contribute to concrete business objectives. According to the Communications Bellwether Survey from PR Week and Boston University, 79% of public relations professionals say top management and boards demand more accountability and measurement than ever.

PR pros can meet that challenge with the help of sophisticated media measurement services, though concrete objectives should be approved in advance by execs to ensure everyone’s on the same strategic page.

A hunger for human-based insights

Computer programs can analyze big data at an affordable price, but more companies are seeing the limits of automated analysis. In addition to measuring sentiment, media analysis requires evaluation of subject, positioning, messaging and issues—evaluations that only well-trained human analysts can perform with an acceptable level of precision.

More companies will appreciate the benefits of a hybrid approach that combines software for quantitative data analysis combined with experienced human analysts for qualitative assessment. Metrics tell you what happened, but data doesn’t explain why it happened. That’s (still) the domain of qualitative research performed by expert human researchers—for now, at least.

A version of this post first appeared on the blog.

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