So you want to be a public relations or social media measurement maven? The first step on the way is to educate yourself. Whether you are now in school, or thinking of going back to pick up a few courses, here is a list of classes that will give you a good foundation.
Note: Many of these classes are not offered in the typical communications department. You might have to look around a bit, maybe take some psych or econ classes. Depending on your aptitude and inclination, you might want to be a business or math major. Our recommendation is to first get a very solid grounding in business, then go on to get your creative juices flowing.
• Advanced Excel
I assume that you can’t get into college these days without some basic knowledge of Excel. Of course it’s been 40 years since I first entered the doors to college, so who knows what gets you in, but the very first measurement course you must take is an advanced Excel course. Excel is the one measurement tool you will use no matter how big or small your organization. Ninety percent of the measurement I’ve done in my life has been done in Excel.
• Business 101 and 202
You can’t be a communications professional without a solid grasp of how business works, how your company makes money, how profit and loss (and, yes, ROI) are calculated. Don’t stop with an introductory course, keep going until you get a solid dose of accounting. It will make you so much more effective in talking to those bean counters.
Embrace statistics. You need to know what constitutes good data and bad data, bad conclusions and good, and the only way you’re going to do this is with a solid background in statistics. We recommend not one but two classes to make sure you don’t forget anything. Unless you’re a math major, you’ll want the classes called “Statistics for the Social Sciences” or similar.
• Experimental/research methods
It used to be that you’d only take Experimental Methods if you were a fairly advanced science major with several prerequisites under your belt. Today, with so much data available and analysis being done, experimental methods—or the study of how research is planned, conducted, communicated and critiqued—is becoming more of an intro class, sometimes combined with stats. It’s usually part of the psychology syllabus, but sometimes it’s economics, sociology, or political science. This class will help you understand your own data, as well as help you evaluate research findings reported by others.
• Strategic business planning
If you don’t know how to produce a solid, data-driven business plan, you will never succeed anywhere.
• Customer relationship management
Everything in business comes down to relationships, and today’s CRM tools are incredibly useful for tracking and building relationships.
• Measuring marketing campaigns
Before you get down into the weeds of PR measurement, you need to understand how the big money measures results. Marketing measurement today is heavily dependent on digital conversions, Google analytics, and the overwhelming amount of data that can be generated by Twitter and Facebook. You cannot succeed until you understand this part the business. Best source for this is the Continuing Studies page of the Digital Analytics Association website.