Gini Dietrich

How to Measure PR and Social Media Results

By: Gini Dietrich | July 12, 2012 | 

I was in a meeting a few weeks ago when a junior member of the client’s marketing team was asked to tell us the company’s goals, as they relate to the things we’re trying to accomplish.

Her response?

“I have to look at my notes. I’m not good with numbers.”

When I spoke at an event a couple of weeks ago, I asked the audience of PR pros to raise their hands if they’re not good with numbers. All but two did so.

This is something I hear a lot: “I went into PR/communications because I don’t like numbers.”

Can PR Do Numbers?

And it’s no wonder. We’ve always gotten away with “measuring” our results in terms of media impressions, reach, and advertising equivalencies. After all, it’s hard to quantify brand awareness and credibility and reputation and thought leadership. You know whether or not you have it, but you can’t really put it in terms of numbers.

And those great big impression numbers? They feel good to a CEO who is looking for some way to show a return on your efforts.

But when the web disrupted our industry we slowly began to see new and interesting ways to measure our efforts. Early on we looked at using unique URLs in our news releases and different 800 numbers at our events, but that wasn’t enough.

The web has provided us a huge opportunity to mesure our results directly to business goals, yet most of us still shy away.

But the Industry Hates Numbers

Why? Because we don’t like numbers.

Think about it differently. Call it data or information or goodies or, heck, call it chocolate. Just don’t call it numbers.

It’s fun to see results from your efforts…and now you have the opportunity to see them every day.

Start Small

Start small. One of the things Geoff Livingston and I discuss in Marketing in the Round is using a benchmark of zero as your first step. Find something – one campaign, one event, one project – and create the benchmarks, the dashboard, and the data points you’ll measure. Think beyond traffic and pageviews and bounce rate. Really think about what the goals are of the business and how you can affect change in those areas.

For instance, in a for-profit business, you’ll want to look for ways to increase revenues, shorten the sales cycle, or improve margins. If you don’t know what all three of those things mean, go make friends with someone in the accounting department and learn it. Quickly.

An Example

Let’s use Pinterest as an example. It’s really easy to set up some boards and direct people back to your website or blog that way. Arment Dietrich has a client – Frank and Eileen – that makes high-end men’s and women’s shirts. The team created a Pinterest board for them, just to test and see what kinds of results could be achieved by pinning images of some of their shirts.

After only one month, Pinterest is the number eight referral source of traffic to the Frank and Eileen site. But remember we said to worry less about traffic and more on business results. So dig further. Pinterest sent three percent new visitors in April. Of that three percent, 83 percent bought a shirt. That represents $2,670 in new revenue for the business.

Other than the 83 percent who bought the shirt, all of the data for that particular test came from Google analytics (which are free!). The client also provides access to the ecommerce site, which provides the information needed to find out how many of the visitors from Pinterest bought a shirt.

This is a very simple way to look at measurement, but it gives you a starting point. Once you get this down, you can begin to advance and become more sophisticated in your measurement.

Companies that fully understand how they are being talked about and what levers work online can use this data to inform future marketing decisions.  As well, strategic intelligence gleaned from measurement can help uncover new opportunities for products and services.

Your clients or executive team will be ecstatic to finally have a real ROI on your efforts.

A version of this first appeared on PR Daily.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • StorchMurphy

    Great article Gini. Measurement has always been a challenge in PR as Marketing folks have searched for the Holy Grail “Metric.” Social media does indeed provide more precise and varied ways to provide that information to clients.
    Having spent my career in the pharma and medical device industries, it always seemed like we had fewer tools (due to FDA regulation) at our disposal versus a product like a toothpaste or clothing, etc. 
    It becomes an interesting proposition when you start looking at medical devices and other healthcare products where consumer (patient) experience is directly driven by what the physician elects to use as a treatment.
    However, it seems to me that this is when patient and physician awareness and education become the client’s primary currency  We quantify educational asset usage versus product sales.

    • StorchMurphy

      Oh and PS: I HATE NUMBERS!!!

    •  @StorchMurphy The regulations are always hard…so is non-profit because the ROI conversation is moot, but instead you’re measured on donations or grants. But no matter what we’re doing, we can measure our efforts. I think the biggest issue is most of us don’t know what we’re measuring.

  • magriebler

    I was told a while back by a consultant that the work of my PR team did not and could not have a measurable impact on the fundraising efforts of the organization for which I worked at the time. This made no sense to me, but what did I know? I wasn’t a high-priced consultant. I actually hopped up and down in my chair reading this (and may have done a wimpy fist pump too). PR does more than just create brand awareness; we make the sale or the donation possible. Thanks for the encouragement to make measuring our work a priority —  and encourage our colleagues to take our assessments seriously too.

    •  @magriebler Freaking consultants. What do they know? You know that I was kicked out of a PR LinkedIn group because I advocate this stuff? The admin told me I’m a snake oil salesman for telling PR pros they’re responsible for business results. People amaze me.

  • You miss a big point here Miss @ginidietrich  not knowing numbers benefits PR and Ad/Marketing Agencies. The 50% of your spend is wasted but we don’t know which 50% means having to spend that extra 50%. I get into arguments about this all the time with marketers who love fuzzy numbers vs real numbers.
    Oh wow in the US people spend 53bil minutes a month on Facebook. And you go OH FREAKING WOW THAT IS UNBELIEVABLE I MUST MARKET ON FACEBOOK!.
    Then I say yeah it’s 11mins a day per user. And they say ‘Shhhhhh if you tell our client that they won’t pay us  to do their Facebook marketing!’
    I have to believe PR is the same in many ways. You can scare a client into paying for some immense plan to handle bad events….and bill them for time spent including small events that they should worry about. Like BP for a spill but also bill them 1hr for ‘How to respond to an angry tweet’ in the same plan.
    I guess my issue is why are the folks on the brand side such suckers. It isn’t often I find someone like cbaccus on the brand side who can see through this stuff. But now that he works of an Ad Agency curious to see what he tells his clients 😉

    •  @HowieSPM  It’s because it’s the way it’s always been done. Executives think getting their name in the NY Times or their brand on Oprah is going to bring them riches. And then, when you do that, and they don’t get rich, it’s your fault. They’re measuring ego, not business results.

  • Ever since I heard @webby2001 speak at Social Slam, I have stopped saying “I’m bad with numbers.”  He equated it to saying, “I’m bad with words.”  His talk really stayed with me, and I’ve caught myself several times since.  I like the way this post simplifies the concept of PR analysis.

    •  @rosemaryoneill  That Tom is one smart guy!

  • Man oh man, this post hits home. My eyes glaze over with any mention of numbers… 🙁
    Thanks for simplifying the process a bit, Gini. I’ll give it a whirl. Pinterest has been on fire for us lately!

    •  @Jill Tooley And now you know who’s coming from Pinterest and what they’re doing! It’s so much fun…once you figure out what the heck it is you’re looking at.

  • I have an ongoing discussion with my 11.5 year old about why understanding numbers and their significance will give him an advantage in the workplace. There are tons of people out there in every industry who are mathematically challenged.
    It is not being able to use math to solve “simple” problems but understanding how to use the data. Analysis can be tough when you don’t know what you are looking at. Can’t count the number of times I have seen spreadsheets filled with gibberish that is supposed to be meaningful but is really just crap that was placed on the page because it looks like it is important.

    •  @TheJackB I remember when I first started to figure out analytics and looking at data. A client sent me a big, impressive spreadsheet full of formulas and dropdown boxes. I had NO idea what it was I looking at. Turns out he didn’t either.

      •  @ginidietrich  @TheJackB I have a finance degree and I failed College Algebra had to do it over then failed calculus and had to take it over. Oh now I get I had twice as many math classes as everyone else LOL. I did well is statistics though.

  • I was speaking on a Digital Marketing panel at my undergrad alma mater (University of New Hampshire) last year. I was an economics major, so the audience was students (and some alum) of my business school. In the audience were plenty of undergrads, so when when we were asked by the moderator to dispense one piece of advice, my response was “take your stats class very seriously.” Data scientists are going to be set for life, as are PR people and marketers that learn to love data.

    •  @TedWeismann Or take a stats class, period. PLEASE!

  •  @ginidietrich you’ve highlighted one of the many ways people in our industry are moving slowly to change. Good for you for providing concrete examples of what numbers and measurement can look like– an effective tactic for converting people who have always thought of themselves as “not numbers people”. You make it seem less threatening and more doable. That this is required is unfortunate, but human nature being what it is, many of us still think of ourselves in the terms we thought of ourselves in high school (I’m not good with numbers, for example).As time goes on we will see more and more PR professionals learning to use (and understand) numbers and measurement tools. It’s inevitable and clients will come to demand it as they learn that it’s not only possible but to be expected.

    •  @allenmireles You know what I love about this stuff? It’s FUN! Once you start to see how your efforts are tied to actual business results, you’ll be hooked. It’s not about numbers…it’s about reading data that drives growth. And that’s some fun, fun stuff.

  • Thanks for speaking straight to my heart, Gini. I’m not a huge numbers fan, and I’ve never taken a class on business (hi there, liberal arts education). I know I should, but I may not be able to fit it in before I graduate. I’m learning all of this “business numbers” stuff as I go along — and finding it not to be as daunting as I thought.

    •  @annedreshfield If I have only one piece of advice for you, it’s to head over to the business school and take a couple of classes that teach you how companies make money. I promise you, it will benefit your career.

      •  @ginidietrich I don’t doubt it! I’ve been eyeing graduate programs with business included, too.

  • I always tell folks, it’s not about numbers – it is about answers.
    You start with a solid objective … an outcome and not the output of some tactic.  Something along the lines of “we want to change X from being ‘A’ to being ‘B’.”
    When you think about it in terms of what you are actually trying to do, a lot of the math anxiety falls aside because it really comes down to simple arithmetic …  do we have more or less of the thing we were after?

  • andreacook

    I love this Gini! As a professional who is always expected to show value and results for my services, AND a Pinterest fan, I like how you think!

    •  @andreacook I LOVE PINTEREST! 🙂 Why not have fun and measure your efforts? It can be done!

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  • ThePaulSutton

    You and your freaking Pinterest! 🙂 Seriously though, good to see a grounded, common sense and BIG PRINT case study of simple use of analytics to demonstrate ROI. Nice one.

    •  @ThePaulSutton I know! But it’s such a good example. I can’t even take credit it for it. It was all my team.

  • BuggT

    This is a fine example of how to make those ‘not good with numbers’ sit up and take notice.
    Without numbers digital marketing is just guess work. I’m always exasperated when statistical breakdowns are met with glazed expressions. 

  • DavidGamage

    @I_Sullivan @moqazalbash That seems an odd way to look at it to me. Surely the point of soc med is make the networking more personalised.

    • I_Sullivan

      @davidgamage @MoQazalbash You’re right. I think they perhaps are pointing out how bad PR people are with social media measuring analytics.

  • martinwaxman

    Thanks @SouthsideAdguy. BTW, @ginidietrich is speaking at the next #3tyyz: (cc @DebWeinstein)

    • DebWeinstein

      #FF Holas @martinwaxman @SouthsideAdguy will sadly have to miss the awesome @ginidietrich at #3tyyz #Toronto since will be at Mt Tremblant.

      • martinwaxman

        Thanks @DebWeinstein – Hope you enjoy the mountains!! @SouthsideAdguy @ginidietrich

      • ginidietrich

        @DebWeinstein I know! I”m bummed you can’t go!

  • ginidietrich

    @BinbinXpat LOL

  • geoffreiner

    @KarenMajerly thanks for the RT!!

  • gunshotdigital

    @tonia_ries @ginidietrich nice, marketing 101, know how to measure 🙂

  • hiphopchess

    RT @tonia_ries How to Measure PR and Social Media Results via @ginidietrich

  • KirkHazlett

    I hammer home for my PR students that math skills (not Einstein-level, but reasonably good) are vital in quantifying results of PR programs and activities. You can’t say “increased awareness ‘a lot.'” There HAS to be a numerical accounting in your measurement.
    LOVE the looks of dismay I usually get!

    •  @KirkHazlett Kirk! I missed this when you posted. You’re right – they don’t need to know trigonometry, calculus, or geometry (my nemesis). But they have to, at the very least, understand how a business makes money (or a non-profit gets grants) and how to analyze data in order to show what’s working and what’s not working.

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  • Oceana_XPastor

    @jeancase @Enric_Sala @geoffliving @SpinSucks @Oceana_Europe

  • Hi Gini. Nice piece. Firstly a disclaimer – I’m a chartered accountant, so I love numbers! But having worked with PRs for the last 2 years I completely understand that PRs are not like me! So to your point: part of it is about education; and part of it is about making it easy, simple and user-friendly – and that sums up the Forth Metrics approach: simple reach (how many people might have read your story), simple engagement (how many people have interacted with your story), and simple traffic/goals from a Google Analytics plugin. SIMPLE (even for a non-accountant!)

    •  @HughAnderson Hi Hugh! I am going to send all of my PR friends to you when they have questions. You should have a new revenue stream pretty quickly!

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  • Fantabulous post…. All of my Sales Reps worth their salt were not ‘numbers people’ either, but find me one good Sales Person who isn’t acutely aware of a) their goals, b) where they are in relation to their goals, and c) what the bonus is if they surpass those goals.  I am of the mindset that everyone in your organization is part of Sales; no one is allowed to not have goals or ignore where they’re at in relation to them.  Not even the charismatic PR folks. 

    •  @AmyMccTobin EXACTLY! This is why I love you. 

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