This blog is provided by the IPR Measurement Commission in celebration of Measurement Month.

People who know me well can confirm that I’m always talking about media measurement.

When I’m on this topic, I often return to these five essential keys to media measurement that anyone and any organization can implement even if you don’t have much budget or are just starting your measurement journey.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are five easy-to-implement keys to media measurement that I mention the most often – just in time for AMEC Measurement Month.

Always Look at Quantity + Quality
It’s easy to focus exclusively on quantity when examining media coverage: Lots of coverage translates into big numbers in a report. But those numbers can be deceiving without examining quality.

For example, I’ve known PR pros who thought they were underperforming against competitors after looking at their share of voice (SOV) numbers. What they didn’t realize was that those larger competitor volumes were driven by crisis.

Indeed, SOV can be a deceptive metric and should be viewed through a quality lens. That’s why you can’t look at quantity or quality in isolation.

The caliber of your coverage can be measured in a few ways:
1.) Simple quality metrics such as sentiment or priority outlet tiering 
2.) More complex approaches, including weighting sentiment combined with other perception and recall factors to create an overall Media Impact Score

Context is Crucial
A number is just a number until it has context. So your brand received 10,000 mentions in Q4 – what does that mean?

The best way to get context is to compare numbers with previous data and with that of your competitors.

Comparisons Over Time
I prefer month-over-month media analysis benchmarking combined with annual reports to gauge year-on-year performance. This kind of benchmarking helps put numbers in context.

For example, a company like Jergens or Kleenex – which tend to have higher usage in the winter – should examine the year-over-year performance of the company’s winter quarter.

Competitive Comparisons
Comparing your numbers to competitors can also provide context, as a brand examining its coverage in isolation may get the mistaken impression it’s performing poorly when it might not be.

One important note about benchmarking: Always use a repeatable methodology and the same approach for each analysis for consistent comparison.

Ensure Key Messages That Align With Goals
It’s also important to ensure your coverage aligns with your goals. Incorporating a measurement framework, like AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation Framework, into your communications workflow can help determine these goals in advance.

That’s important because you can then track the presence of key messages that align with these goals.

Key topics can include reputation factors such as sustainability or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). If the goal is sustainability, look for messages around sustainability. You can track all coverage for your brand and competitors to demonstrate your position in this area.

You can then say that your coverage contains messages likely to create the perception that you’re a sustainable organization. While we can’t say that the message’s existence equates to perception, we can say that we’ve created content likely to influence our audience’s perception of our brand if combined with recall factors.

Calibration Over Celebration
Comms leaders and PR agencies must demonstrate their efforts are worth the investment. That’s how teams get budget, and bigger budgets allow us to do better and more impactful work.

But in this drive to show value, sometimes celebrating wins starts to overshadow implementing key learnings. That’s a mistake, because re-calibrating your program based on media data is just as (if not more) important than celebrating successes.

Along with the good, we must also look at the bad – and, hopefully, learn and adjust. Media analysis can help a brand identify gaps where competitors are excelling and they are not.

Don’t fear areas of poor performance. Rather, use them for what they are: Excellent opportunities to learn and improve.

Incorporate Data Around Business Outcomes
Media measurement can measure outputs (such as brand prominence) but hits a wall when measuring outcomes (such as online purchases).

That’s because most business outcomes aren’t based on PR data at all – even though we know that PR is more effective than advertising at driving outcomes such as purchase intent.

That said, we can use PR measurements (such as recall factors) as proxies for outcomes. Extensive research shows that branded visuals are extremely important when trying to get consumers to remember your brand.

But these are still not outcomes: While the existence of branded visuals shows that an audience likely remembered your brand, they don’t say that for sure that the audience remembered your brand or took any action. Media measurement is crucial to demonstrate such outputs but on its own can only take you so far.

This is when you must integrate outcome-based data in your analysis. Website traffic, sales, stock price, survey, and product user data are excellent to help show connections between PR outputs and business outcomes.

Survey data, in particular, is excellent for gathering reputational data such as how likely someone would be to purchase from a brand. You don’t need to work with an expensive custom survey company to get this data, either – affordable options exist.

Trackable links are another data source that can show clicks or purchases stemming from content.

These are five of the easiest ways PR pros can improve their measurement programs. If you haven’t already, I hope you incorporate some of these research-based best practices into your daily workflows. 

Angela Dwyer is Head of Insights at Fullintel, IPR Measurement Commission member, and IPRRC board member. She is an award-winning, media measurement expert who helps brands improve business results through data-driven, actionable insights.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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