When we turn the tables and go to a corporate from an agency, we realize that the glasses from which we see the job or infact the entire business slowly and gradually shifts. It becomes more broad and more stakeholders driven. For a PR agency, the deliverables are measured conveniently with a formula that involves number of articles, the ad values, the circulation, etc. But when we approach a senior executive in the organization, the first question that comes back to us is that how do we measure those results on lines of our strategy for the region? How does this activity align to our overall objective that has been set for the company and not only for PR. Confused? Let’s take it up and clarify for better understanding.
Your biggest bottleneck, as a communication authority in any company is not ideas, execution or even results. The biggest challenge remains as to how you must showcase to your stakeholders and prove to them internally that your efforts are generating results that are helping the company achieve its desired strategy or ultimate goals. As I see it, It has been rather a numbers driven performance measurement that you adopted when you were in a PR agency back then. But this only one of the very small part of what will convince the internal stakeholders to fall back on communication for their important projects and strategies development and implementation. But once you have shifted seats, you struggle to convince on the strategic relevance of your role, and the most bang on measurement tools to take to the business review meetings and show to your internal stakeholders to eventually get a pat on your back!
Generally, when a PR project is complete and you get a rather heavy dossier from your PR agency showcasing the number of clips and the ad values, etc., from a PR perspective, the job is complete and if you get good numbers, you consider the project as well done. I personally performed a two month long media advocacy program and when I received the coverage report from my agency, I was thrilled to show it to my boss (the country head) as I was not able to wait to get a pat on my back this time for the good work. However, when I eventually showcased the report, I was asked a simple question from my boss. How do you think does this activity fit into the overall strategy of our company in India? How will you measure it? Most importantly, what impact do you think has this resulted on our sales, marketing or any other function of the organization? I was not prepared. And eventually I learned that two month long campaign was of no relevance until we tie it along to our overall business objectives and develop a framework for measurement that is mutually acceptable with the internal stakeholders.
B2B or B2C?
Well, the development of such success measures could be a rather daunting task especially for those companies that are B2B and media shy. Let’s take an example. Pharmaceutical companies function much differently than any regular ecommerce or more direct company. Pharma companies are the ones that are doing a lot of advocacy but remains under the curtains owing to the regulatory and the compliance issues. Communication and PR for such companies could be a rather tricky business. You do not come into the limelight and your success measures will not be direct. Additionally, when you perform communication strategies and campaigns, you are doing it more for the cause and not for the corporate. So in such a scenario, how would you possibly measure the performance when it’s all about the industry? Let’s try to decode an answer to solve the problem.
There are two parts of measuring success of your endeavors. One is quantitative and the other is qualitative. Quantitative is nothing more than sticking to deliverables and successfully completing these on time. Also, the numbers that you receive from your agency are also signifiers of the success of a particular campaign.
The Qualitative measure will be more intricate and essential for your stakeholders. You will have to develop an industry analysis that will track the buzz around the cause and how you have managed to move the needle for the industry. The measure will be the difference between what is being said now and what was being said back then in the industry about that cause. When you successfully perform all your target activities, I am sure there will be ripple effects in the industry where people will start paying attention to the cause and will start paying interest to the idea that you have sown in their heads through repeated efforts intended to direct in one targeted direction. This could be measured through different ways. Hiring a professional media tracking agency will be the simplest way to do so. Then, a rigorous tracking of the opinion shifts from the key opinion leaders of the industry will also be key to measure the buzz that is being generated. However, this cannot be easy. Combining the two measures (quantitative and qualitative) will be the most accurate result of the communication endeavors that you are undertaking.
There is no fixed formula for calculating communication success of the organization. But as custodians of comms, we as professionals will have to work upon different permutations and combinations to make sure that we make sense to the organization leaders and they have confidence in our endeavors too. Unless we speak their language, there is no way that they will be able to find communications as a strategic partner to their business. It is about continuously improving a finding better ways of doing our jobs, daily.