I’ve been lucky enough to have worked both agency and client-side during my career in PR and marketing. I like the way I can see things from both sides and understand the challenges faced by each, especially when it comes to something as fundamental as campaign measurement.
Regardless of the sector you work in, or whether you’re in-house or working on behalf of clients, you will have come across KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). In a nutshell, it’s a measurable value that shows how effectively the objective is being met.
Considering how important they are to keeping your goal firmly front of mind, you’d be as surprised as I’ve been to know that not all companies have KPIs in place or even see the value in them. Even some companies that have taken the trouble to come up with measurement criteria either don’t know what it takes makes a ‘good KPI’, or collect huge amounts of information that’s of minimal real benefit to the business, or that they don’t have the time or resource to analyse meaningfully.
In my first job as a PR account executive, I can remember being hunched over a desk with a pile of press cuttings and a ruler, painfully working out the ‘Advertising Value Equivalency’. Understand that this was before we had the all-singing, all-dancing press monitoring and measurement services that we have today.
I’d sweat over a spreadsheet, generate a number and hand it to my line manager. It was crudely used as the one and only benchmark KPI at the monthly client meeting to justify PR activity undertaken, our PR fees and any expenses incurred. Basically, the bigger the number, the better.
I can remember handling the delicate national newspaper clipping and thinking that in terms of outlet and circulation, we’d hit the jackpot. Having been tasked with building the profile of the CEO and getting as much coverage as we could in the national press, this, according to our KPIs was a major ‘win’.
I could have just marked it up accordingly in my report but, on closer inspection, it contained a mere mention of the client and painted them in a rather lacklustre light. So, was that what success would look like to the client? I didn’t think so.
Just then my phone started ringing. It was the PA to my client’s managing director, urging us: “Can you put another piece in the magazine next week, just like this one? Our phone has been ringing off the hook and we’ve already had 50 orders this morning!”
Setting aside the naivety of thinking that achieving coverage is this easy, it was an object lesson in real value.
In this instance, coverage in a key trade publication had given our client the boost in sales they’d been longing for. The CEO was delighted and off the back of this, we convinced him that the campaign KPIs should be revised and aligned more closely to the company’s sales and marketing objectives, steering us away from ego-driven profile-building and enabling us to focus the budget on the media outlets most likely to influence and drive actual product demand.
I’m all for working with people who have clear goals, but it should always be about business results and not outputs. I appreciate the open dialogue we have with clients about what success looks like. This transparency builds a sense of united pride and responsibility for the outcome of a campaign, and boosts morale as we work towards a common goal.
Alongside monitoring media mentions and competitive share of voice, setting targets for sales leads generated, increases in web traffic, registrations to events, downloads of in-depth content or any other meaningful metric means you can shape your ongoing campaign activity and correct your course if necessary, based on evidence, and not just gut feel.
Find out more about the advantages of establishing and leveraging strong relationships with key media influencers – download our Earned Media Guide here.