Along with not having sufficient time to measure, another big barrier is a lack of budget. It’s a Catch-22 for PR pros: adding measurement tied to business goals would validate PR spend, but clients don’t want to pay for something that isn’t proven or viewed as unnecessary. Some might even view new line items for time for measurement as an attempt to pad a proposed budget. After all, how long can it really take?
The simple fact of the matter is that real measurement can take significant time, and time means having the budget. From the up-front planning stages to data collection and review, up through the analysis and insights work, implementing a communications measurement program will take time.
So does this mean that organizations on tight budgets, or PR pros interested in starting measurement programs are out of luck? No, there are still ways you can include measurement that matters.
Start with what you’ve got
One of the best ways to reduce the cost of measurement is to take a look at the information you are already collecting and see if there’s a way to look at that data through a measurement lens. Almost every organization is tracking and monitoring media mentions. If you aren’t already layering additional intelligence on that information, there’s a good place to start. Look at the business goals that your PR efforts are supposed to be affecting, and then start to examine your media coverage with those goals in mind.
For example, if your media efforts are supporting a new product launch which was mentioned in an article, take a look at your website traffic during the week that the media mention hit—was there a spike in activity and purchases after the article ran? Think of all of the data already being collected across your organization, and see if a new way of looking at those numbers could potentially meet PR measurement needs. Companies collect a lot of data—but don’t always review it through the eyes of different departments.
Free tools exist—make good use of them
Yes, there will be setup time involved, but what you gain on the other side of your effort will be worth the time investment on the front end. Excel spreadsheets and Google Analytics are two free tools that anyone starting out in measurement should become acclimated to using regularly. Excel can generate the charts and graphs you’ll need to illustrate results—you’ll still need to pull insights from the data, but visual representations are a great way to quickly convey data in a report. Google Analytics can provide a lot of data on who is visiting your site and when, and with a bit of planning, you can task it to track URLs specific to your campaign, giving you detailed data.
For social media programs, the platforms provide analytics tools that you can use. Although the information provided isn’t terribly deep, it is a start—and, these tools are free.
Essentially, if you are going to rely on free tools because there is no budget for a more robust solution, it’s important to take a few minutes to examine what information is provided and then see how it can be used to augment or support your goal tracking, rather than the other way around. That way you’ll be more likely to look at engagement rather than things like impressions, which are of limited use.
See if internal resources are available
When we hear that there isn’t the budget to measure properly, typically this concern isn’t restricted to the dollars available to purchase tools—it means there isn’t the budget to allocate the staff time. In this way, “no budget” as a barrier is the same as the “no time” barrier covered in an earlier post.
So, similar to the suggestion of delegation in that piece, if the budgetary issue holding you back from measurement is the inability to dedicate sufficient full-time resources to measurement, see if there are any internal resources—from interns to entry level PR pros—who could tackle some portions of measurement. Data collection, content review, spreadsheet entries, and other similar tasks could potentially be divvied up, making the entire measurement effort less resource-intensive than finding budget for staff dedicated to measurement. Although this isn’t “free” it is cost effective and does carry additional benefits. First and foremost, by engaging others in the measurement effort, you’re on your way to building a stronger measurement “bench.” Those assisting in the more routine aspects of data collection and maintenance will be primed to do the higher-level analysis in the future. Additionally, good measurement results from collaborative efforts might increase support—and demonstrate the need for dedicated measurement resources.
If you can’t measure all that you want to, pick one
When budgets are tight, sometimes it will be considered a win to simply get started. If you are limited on budget, take a look at your business goals and narrow down your options: pick one aspect of the campaign/PR program to measure and focus efforts on that. Ideally, you’d select a measurement that most clearly reflects the most important business goal, but sometimes that might mean a complicated or multi-faceted measurement plan. If that’s the case then select a smaller, but still meaningful, aspect of the program to measure.
The most important thing to consider in this situation is the ability to do the measurement right, while not creating an insurmountable task to tackle. The objective is to begin to measure and demonstrate its effectiveness so that during the next round of budget approvals, you can advocate for more—by demonstrating tangible results.