—The Measurement Standard: Thank you so much Sally Falkow for joining us in this Measurement Life interview. First, let’s learn a little about you: How did you become interested in measurement and evaluation?
Sally Falkow: I’ve been interested in this aspect of PR since I did the Accreditation study program many years ago. Around that same time, I had done training as a management consultant and learned about management by statistics. So, it’s a been a big part of my thinking for 25 years now.
—TMS: You have been training and advising communications professionals on using digital and social media for more than 15 years. What paths or programs of study would you recommend for today’s students and practitioners?
SF: For students who are now in college I’d recommend that they add analytics and statistics to their curriculum. Another important skill today is visual literacy and the ability to create visual content that tells a story.
For those over 45 who are not digital natives there are courses online that can help get them up to speed. Unfortunately, most of them are not PR focused. This free email course is an easy introduction to the skills PR pros need.
—TMS: What’s so special about measurement and evaluation? Why does it have a place in your business?
SF: Management guru Peter Drucker said: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
To discover what’s working and what’s not, you need analytics. To show progress you have to measure what you’re doing.
The Content Marketing Institute reports that measuring content effectiveness is a challenge for more than half of the companies surveyed (57 percent), and only 30 percent think their content is effective.
In a recent content analysis project done for a large financial institution the discrepancy between what they write about and what their visitors read and share is quite shocking – only 21 percent of their content is resonating with their audience. If they had been using analytics they’d know when a topic is getting traction and use that knowledge to drive their strategy and get better results. And that’s the end goal for any company, big or small.
-TMS: You are a founding Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR). How does SNCR advance the art and craft of measurement and evaluation?
SF: SNCR is a global network dedicated to the advanced study of the latest developments in new and emerging communications tools and technologies. Analytics and measurement is of course a big part of that. The Fellows all do research projects, many of which are based on measurement. SNCR Fellows also write articles and papers about the latest digital topics based on our research and collaboration.
—TMS: In your training programs, are you finding that PR practitioners are becoming better at understanding the role of measurement, or are they still struggling to adopt it effectively?
SF: They are definitely more open to the idea, but many do still struggle with the concepts.
—TMS: What do you see as the biggest barrier (or barriers) to PR firms as they build measurement programs? Are these internal problems of adoption and training, or are they external ones, like moving clients beyond AVEs?
SF: I think it’s both. I still see companies using AVEs and not wanting to let go of that. But until we fully understand and master how to measure PR campaigns and programs, it will be tough to get the client to see the value.
—TMS: What are your favorite measurement tools or projects?
SF: Google Analytics. It can be daunting if you’ve never used it before. That why I created the Custom PR Dashboard for PR folk who want to get started using a simple dashboard. It’s a free download from the Google Analytics Gallery. You do need to have Google Analytics installed on your blog or newsroom.
The other tool I love is Sendible. They can import all your social account analytics and your Google Analytics and present it all in one place. I love simple and easy.
—TMS: Where are measurement and evaluation going? What does the future look like for communications measurement?
SF: For the past 100 years PR has focused on measuring outputs. The Barcelona Principles clearly stated where we should be going and the more digital and connected the world becomes, the easier it is to measure outcomes.
—TMS: If you could invent one magical measurement or evaluation tool to accomplish anything, what would it be?
SF: I think we already have these tools. We just need to learn to use them. We should want to know where our content or messages are seen, by whom, and what happens as a result:
- What is the impact?
- Do they leave?
- Do they share?
- Do they visit more pages?
- Do they watch a video?
- Do they ask for information?
- Do they call?
- And ultimately – do they convert?
—TMS: Thank you so much for joining us Sally—it has been a real pleasure to learn more about you and the work you are doing to advance measurement in the fields of communications and public relations work.