Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Measuring social media PR

At a recent conference on social media, organised by ‘Don’t Panic’, the question that came up again and again was around evaluation. Edelman’s Marshall Manson, a very inspiring speaker at the event, was honest enough to say that there is no silver bullet on how to change our ancient evaluation methods to fit the brave new online world. Clearly AVEs have no place here (I for one will be glad to see the back of them - I'm amazed at how many clients demand them still), nor placement numbers.

I think we need to change how we see evaluation. Effective use of social media is all about creating dialogue with third-party influencers (ring any bells from the old world of pure media relations?), who then have an impact on the commercial success of a business. How you define that success is the key to measurement.

If you know that one particular blogger has a real influence on, for example, driving sales leads to a b2b site, then PR should be measured against how messages have been a. communicated to that blogger, and b. communicated by that blogger. The rest can be measured by an analytics tool to assess the business impact of the blog.

Going further back up the chain and our first job as PR practitioners is to identify who those social network groups, bloggers, forums etc are that have the greatest impact on business success. There are specific tools – Attentio is one – that use technology to do this, measuring bloggers for instance by prolificacy, message and impact (links, readers etc).

So, in summary, we need to:

1. agree on what it is we’re measuring. I would like to see this include a combination of:
a. output: conversations with influencers
b. out-take: messages conveyed to and communicated onwards by those groups (this is word of mouth in its purest sense)
c. outcome: lead generation targets – to fit in with overall marketing targets

2. identify who the influencers are. These might include a mix of third-party influencers such as journalists, social network 'activists', bloggers, forums and advocates, analysts etc)

3. put out money where our mouth is, and measure against the real impact PR has against the objectives outlined above.

So it is possible to measure the impact of PR in this new world. In fact, it's easier than it was before. If we get it right, PR will become on of the most important parts of the sales and marketing mix. Get it wrong, and we’ll watch social media being taken off us by our colleagues in online marketing and even SEO agencies.

Friday, 2 May 2008

The potential power of PR

A very interesting day last week at the Omniture Summit, where much of the focus was on measuring the impact of social and rich media. There is much talk in the PR world about the impact of all things online – how to target social networks, whether we should pitch using Twitter, the value of the social media release, use of vidcasts etc – but the really interesting thing to me is that finally, PR online has become measurable in a meaningful way.

The digital world is utterly transparent – you can track way beyond site hits these days. Imagine seeing not only which search term (key message), campaign or article drives a visitor to your site, but also what that visitor did once they arrived; where they engaged and where they didn’t; what they bought and what they ignored. By creating a dialogue with that visitor, you can track exactly what messages and themes resonate with target audience, and which networks / blogs / tweets have had the most impact. It’s incredibly powerful. Once we’re doing it properly across the industry, I’ll challenge any sales team to call PR ‘just an overhead’.