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The Journey of a Thousand Miles…

Starts with a single step.

This quote appears more than 16 million times on a Google search. The meaning is clear, but there is a hidden piece of wisdom that many people overlook:
You won’t know it is a journey of a thousand miles, unless you measure it.

And it sure helps if you measure from the beginning, rather than after things are done. (Just ask any NFL referee).

PR pros (and their executives) want to understand the effectiveness of their PR campaigns, yet too often PR pros don’t look to measure until the end of the campaign. This is a recipe for disaster. There is no silver bullet for PR measurement. But the following are two things every marketer, PR pro and corporate executive needs to remember.

  1. If you don’t test your message and set a benchmark in the beginning, you will:
      A) Likely conduct a campaign that doesn’t get the full results you could hope for, and…
      B) Scramble at the end to show how much you have grown. Particularly if it comes to social media where many tracking tools are time limited.

    The Barcelona Principles gives a great framework for measuring PR activities. They look at outcomes rather than outputs. But even they miss a few things. We have to challenge conventional wisdom, and invest in benchmarking prior to starting PR campaigns. More companies are doing it, but there is still room for improvement. Allocating 5-10% of the overall budget for measurement and benchmarking will do wonders for designing a measurable, effective program.

    We need to know where we started from in order to know where we are going. It’s why Google Maps needs both a starting point and a destination. Without our current address, it’s really tough to navigate the right route, let alone go 1,000 miles.
    Just like Google Maps gives us multiple routes, there is no one true metric. Use the budget for testing your assumptions, making sure it tracks to business results and avoids the "thud factor".

  2. Don’t be seduced by shiny measurement reports. There are dozens of vendors out there selling PR measurement dashboards. They present things as bubbles, waves, spokes, wheels and clouds. Dashboards are useful and essential tools, but never forget Insight matters more than dashboards.

    Quantitative measurement without insight frequently misses the boat. Site visits may go down, but did it occur when your customers had lost power? Your competitor increased their followers more than you, but who were they? Research shows Message A had the most resonance, but did it resonate with your top target audience? "Why" is the most important question in PR measurement.

And please, please stop using Ad Value Equivalency and Multiples. In 40 years of PR research, neither has been proven accurate. Let’s measure what matters and what helps.


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Mark McClennan

Mark McClennan

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

For the past 20 years, Mark has led teams working with innovative technology and healthcare clients for MSLGROUP. He is also the national chair-elect for PRSA.

Mark McClennan

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