Are you monitoring what matters?
Communications program measurement has long revolved around audience reach. Call it audience, impressions, viewers or subscribers – a lot of marketers seem to believe that big numbers automatically correlate to big success. How wrong they are.
As the Institute for Public Relations describes, audience figures report only the potential number of people who might have seen your message. These raw numbers do little to nothing to qualify your results.
This challenge becomes magnified when you start measuring your earned media, or media relations, outreach to niche audiences, such as farmers.
Take, for example, the following hypothetical situation:
Your company is planning a new product launch. There’s nothing like it in the marketplace! You plan the marketing communications outreach. The plan includes distributing a multimedia press release via one of the PR wire services, followed up with pitching media.
Before you’ve done any pitching, the wire service sends you a report with glorious results! Your multimedia press release already has 5 million impressions!
You dig deeper and see that audience figure includes the wire service’s own website. Hmmm. But your spirits lift a bit when you see that a big-name site, such as Yahoo! Finance picked up your press release! No wonder it’s called Yahoo!
But digging a bit deeper, you realize the Yahoo coverage is actually a press release aggregator tool. A number of large sites do this – a section of their site picks up every press release distributed via certain channels. The site traffic reports provide the average number of visitors per month to that large, nationally-recognized site – not the number of people who saw your news.
Odds are, the wire service and press release aggregator websites aren’t reaching a lot of farmers. Some, perhaps, but it’s likely not their go-to source for farming information.
The Barcelona Principles are a set of international guidelines that help create consistency of PR measurement and reporting. Most notably, the original Principles specifically refuted the long-held practice of reporting advertising value equivalency or audience multipliers. The second version went further, clarifying that outputs and outcomes need to be measured and reported on together.
When it comes to farmers, The Barcelona Principles mean we need less laser focus on sheer volume of coverage, and more focus on outcomes. In short, is your work appearing in outlets whose audience is largely your target farmer?
Of course, don’t discount impressions or potential reach, as long as you report these with our second point – context. The context might be different, depending on your business goal or target audience.
When you have that context, make sure you report the results in a way your stakeholders can understand. If stakeholders have become accustomed to – and expect to see – stellar impression figures, you might need to develop a plan for educating those constituents in advance of sharing results.
Finally, context is important to more than how you report the numbers. It’s also important to how you use the information. Don’t limit this type of reporting to celebrating the success of a complete campaign. Done correctly, it should also help you better plan and refine your future media relations programs.