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Whether the focus of your marketing efforts is lead generation or awareness, measurement is critical to justifying your continued existence. So why then, if it’s so important, does measurement get the short shrift all the time. Even today, in 2015, it seems an afterthought to so much of what we do.
The question that most people try to answer with their measurement efforts is “did it work?” In addition to this question being terribly vague, it is also extremely limiting. What do you mean by “work?” Did it reach the intended audience? Did they respond the way we wanted to? Did it help us sell more product?
More importantly, if it didn’t work–yes, believe it or not, sometimes marketing campaigns don’t work–then this question isn’t terribly helpful at answering the next logical question: “why didn’t it work?”
To help us get past the what's and whether's and into the whys, Katie Paine of Paine Publishing talks about the “Three Os” of measurement, which have been a staple of the PR and new media class I teach at Boston University since the get go. These three categories of metrics, to which I add two, give us a great framework for not only evaluating the effectiveness of our marketing activities, but also for prescribing changes to those activities. We’ll start with inputs and outputs, then roll up our sleeves and dive into the minds of our customers to discuss outtakes, then into their wallets (and ours) to talk about outcomes and impact.
Although I’m adding two measurement categories to the Three Os, the importance of the original three categories is still paramount, as they are the three measurement types that you can exert direct control over, whereas inputs and impact are for the most part outside of your measurement “zone of control.”
You can read and hear more about these five categories by downloading the measurement ebook on my company page or listening to the two-part webinar I conducted for Progress partners last fall that explored measurement in depth.
The inputs to any marketing program are a critical factor to its success. This is especially true when you’re looking at a client/agency relationship, but it’s no less relevant to an internal team and its dependencies on other teams inside the same company. Inputs measure the contributions (in terms of time and materials) to the program. These inputs come from the client marketing team, other supporting client-side teams and the agency management team.
Outputs capture the physical product of our work. They measure the direct and immediate results of our PR program. What did we create? These metrics can be visible to the general public, such as the number of Facebook posts published, or less publicly visible metrics, which might include content that never made it to the general public. Many agencies will differentiate between internal output metrics that aren’t shared with the client and shared metrics that they will also report to the client.
There is much to measure beyond inputs and outputs. Thanks to the insights we can glean from social networks, we can also peek into the minds of the communities we’re trying to influence. Outtakes measure how effective our communications efforts are in changing minds. While measuring outputs is the easiest measurement category, measuring outtakes is by far the most difficult, as we have to rely on external signals that might indicate a change in attitude toward a particular company, product or topic. These signals come in many forms, but in general we rely on studying what people say, who they interact with and how they behave around brands. Companies focused on raising brand awareness tend to rely on metrics in this category.
It’s one thing to change minds, but another thing entirely to change behaviors. Outcomes measure behavior changes. More specifically, they measure “conversions.” Conversions are typically thought of as transactions of some form or another. They are most often thought of in terms of transactions. But the transaction doesn’t have to be monetary in nature. It can be any event that drives a prospect one step closer to the ultimate conversion: the financial transaction that results from a sale. Outcome measurement is very popular in integrated PR programs that include a demand generation component–programs in which the PR team is (at least partially) responsible for supporting direct sales.
So where does our favorite metric, ROI, fit in any of the four categories we’ve discussed so far? Poorly understood and often misused as a metric–and the subject of innumerable other blog posts, whitepapers and ebooks–ROI is nevertheless a useful way to calculate value. However, it doesn’t fall neatly into any of the four categories we’ve identified. In fact, it spans a few of them. To be fair, ROI deserves a category of its own: a fifth category of integrated PR metrics. Let’s call that category impact (I’ve also referred to it as valuation). This category is nascent, but hopefully growing as we find ways to bridge not only the various metrics used by all the social media tools we use, but also our more traditional metrics.
Todd Van Hoosear is vice president of public relations for Eric Mower + Associates' Boston office, where he helps clients in the engineering, mobile, cloud, networking, consumer technology and consulting spaces bring new ideas – and new takes on old ideas – to the market. He also teaches new media and public relations at Boston University, and serves as a Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Find him on Twitter at @vanhoosear.
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