We recently attended the PR News Measurement conference in Washington D.C. Here are five of our key takeaways.
Media measurement can be a tricky prospect for PR professionals. What do you measure, when do you measure it, what do some of these numbers even mean?

Fortunately, we have conferences such as the one organized by PR News last week to help guide us through some of these travails. The event brought together experts in PR, crisis management, and media measurement, to highlight some best practices in the area, and how best to measure your efforts.

Crisis is more than the moment a crisis occurs

It’s easy to get caught up in a crisis when it occurs, but it’s more important what you do before and after the crisis that matters.

Katie Paine, of Paine Publishing, spoke about how you can prepare in advance of a crisis in her seminar that covered not just crisis management, but risk management before the crisis hits. While the goals of crisis management are to make bad news go away as quickly as possible, ideally the crisis needs to go away within 36 hours. To minimize damage to brand and to minimize damage to stock value, the goals of risk management are quite different.

When approaching risk management, it’s important to look at three related but quite different things:

  • to disclose information about hazards to those potentially impacted
  • to modify people’s attitudes and improve acceptance of a specific risk source
  • to enhance the trust in your organization

This highlights the steps you can take in preparation for a crisis, before it happens, to make sure your organization is as prepared as it can be, and has the right team in place when it inevitably comes.

Know what a crisis looks like for your company

On a related point, it’s important to know what a crisis actually looks like for your company, and thus how you combat it. This was emphasized by Pauline Draper Watts of Edelman during her panel with Chris Kim of Hitachi and Leslie Stefanik of PublicRelay.

It might be local, national, or international, and along any number of business lines. There will always be crises for which you can’t prepare, that you never saw coming, but you should be making sure you and your organization are as prepared as possible for the crises that you know are coming.

In these instances, it’s often possible to turn a crisis on its head. Brett Bruen of Global Situation Room made this precise point during his practical crisis workshop the previous day, noting that crisis can be the perfect combination of danger and opportunity, and offering numerous examples of brands who had turned a potential crisis into an opportunity for growth and to define the values of their brand as a counterpoint to the moment of crisis.

How PR measurement helps reputation and relevance

In the panel ‘How to measure relevance, influence, and media coverage’, there was a lively discussion on how important relevance is to a brand in the current market.

Alan Chumley of W2O group introduced the concept that reputation can be a key factor on your bottom line, but it is not the only thing that matters. He argued that reputation is a component part of relevance, which is an increasingly crucial factor in doing business.

Meanwhile, Chad Parizman of Pfizer had a six point plan for improving the reputation of a company that has a difficult time when it comes to public perception of its brand.
These were the following:

  • Ambassadors – Executive leadership, internal thought leaders, employee advocacy, friendly voices
  • Tell your unique story – What makes your company stand out, what makes you unique
  • Leverage – Optimize your channels, customize, extended network, partner up
  • Be fearless – Live video, hosted podcast, pilot social channel, find sacred cows
  • Diagnose and measure – Industry benchmark, social listening, surveys and polls, report both the good and the bad
  • Spend some money – prove value with small budgets, find new opportunities, help others spend theirs, be prepared for more

This list of six actions to take, when combined are a great starting point on the road to a better reputation.

Marketing and communications are colliding

One big theme of the conference that was raised by a number of different panelists was the fact that marketing and comms teams are becoming increasingly symbiotic, especially in the data they are using, and also in the methods of communications.

For example, where social media has traditionally been seen as the domain of the marketing team, in a crisis it may make sense for the comms team to take over, and thus it’s necessary for both teams to be aware of the best practices involved.

The same is true of the technologies marketing uses, with much of the measurement and social listening becoming indispensable for comms teams trying to measure the impact of their messaging and the share of voice that the brand is receiving in terms of earned media.

Comms and marketing teams have often been seen as at odds with each other in the past, but that is increasingly less the case as we move into a new era of combined martech and commtech.

Don’t just use data for data’s sake

The availability of data, especially on a mass scale, is one of the great advances in comms in recent times.

This has brought with it a problem though, that not all data was created equal, and there is no point using data in your workflow if you don’t know what it actually means.

Examples of this include impressions and ad value equivalency. Although these are being used increasingly less in the industry, there are still a number of companies that use them to some extent, simply because of tradition and how their reports have been for years.

As a simple rule of thumb, if you don’t have a precise understanding of what the data means, or explain the impact on a tangible part of the company, it may be better not to use it.

The same goes when presenting to the C-suite. They want data on how what you are doing impacts the bottom line, and if you can’t do that, or at least explain why the data you’re showing is equally valuable, then it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

These were just some of the takeaways from the PR Measurement conference, with many more learnings besides.

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Benedict Nicholson

Benedict Nicholson is the Managing Editor at NewsWhip. An Englishman in New York, he is interested in the intersection of PR, brands, and journalism, and the trends and innovation around that.

Email Benedict via benedict.nicholson@newswhip.com.