Shonali Burke

You Can Measure Content or You Can Set Money on Fire

By: Shonali Burke | November 16, 2016 | 

You Can Measure Content or You Can Set Money on FireThe thing with content is that it’s So. Much. Fun.

Even if you’re not actually in a communications-related discipline, content is FUN!

I mean, who doesn’t want to know their TV sitcom personality?

And why would you NOT want to know all about Prince Harry’s American girlfriend?

Thank you to whomever set me up with a People magazine subscription. Christmas came early this year!

But fun can only last so long.

Especially if you’re focused on growing your business, and using content to help with that.

And, to REALLY put it to work, you have to actually measure content.

Why Measure Your Content?

There are two very good reasons to measure content: Time and money.


Strategizing, creating, and disseminating good—the operative word here—content takes So. Much. Time.

Show me a content strategist or Social PR pro who hasn’t had at least one content-related meltdown in their career.

And I’ll show you a purple unicorn doing backflips while chanting the chorus to “Rhythm Nation.”


That leads us to the second—and perhaps the most important—reason: Money.

When we know what it is we’re trying to achieve and how it helps our business, we work more efficiently.

We focus on doing what will bring the most value to our business, ultimately translating into revenue.

We cannot run our businesses without content.

Even companies that don’t understand content marketing are doing content—they just don’t know it.

By factoring measurement into planning we can focus on the content that will work, add value to the business and, ultimately, revenue.

Otherwise you might as well take a pile of money and set it on fire.

How to Measure Content

How do you start to get to grips with measurement?

First of all, you need to know what you’re trying to achieve from a business point-of-view.

That means really understanding what drives the business, and how its progress is tracked.

Second, you need to be very clear on what types of actions you ultimately want to see your target audience take.

Once you know those two things, you can back into how content can support those goals.

You can create content that is designed to provide value and educate, and move your audiences towards taking those actions.

One of the things that’s super important to remember is that metrics are driven by context.

That is, they must be defined based on what it is you’re trying to achieve.

An Example

Say one of your objectives is to increase your share of voice in your space by X percent during Y time period.

Remember, measurable objectives are always time-bound and quantifiable.

Then your goals are going to include getting noticed by the “who’s who” of the space, such as influencers and, perhaps, media.

Next your metrics might include number of influencers who mention or share your content (“influencers” as predefined by you), where you stand in search engine results, and so on.

As you know, content can take so many shapes and forms.

If you’re creating it for media use, you’ll want to come up with a specific set of metrics that show whether or not it worked for you.

In our work for Oxfam America’s 2012 International Women’s Day campaign, which was all blogger relations, we didn’t just measure “hits” and “impressions.”

We really looked to see whether or not our content was generating the kinds of actions the client needed to have happen.

Regardless of what form your content takes, your metrics should be identified based on what you need it to do for you.

Content Should Have a Purpose

I love fun as much as anyone else.

In fact, one of the reasons I love my work so much is that I have a lot of fun doing it.

And that includes putting together really great content such as this monster post on the ultimate guide to Social PR strategy and the related 7C Social PR Framework™ Blueprint for Success (even though it nearly killed me).

But I have zero desire to simply churn out content for the sake of it, much less spend hours and days and weeks (and months and YEARS!) doing so, if it’s not ultimately working to support the growth of my little business.

And neither should you.

About Shonali Burke

Shonali Burke, ABC, is president & CEO of a social PR consultancy that takes your business communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She also teaches at Johns Hopkins, and is the creator of the #measurePR hashtag and Twitter chats, which celebrates seven years in 2017.

  • paulakiger

    Side Note: I was a part of that OXFAM campaign in 2012 (wow we’ve known each other a WHILE, Shonali (but not yet IRL, which is saddening) and it was great. // You make really important points here. As a personal blogger, I’m struggling to get beyond “wow I just love to write so let me keep throwing me writing out there” to make decisions about how/if my blog needs its own business plan. Loving to write is one thing; loving to eat and have a roof over my head matters too. But with Lead Change, there are SO many ways I could create goals and measurement metrics that connect back to those goals. Thanks for a fantastic refresher.

    • I know, it’s crazy we haven’t met IRL yet, Paula! Also, I had to laugh at the “loving to eat and have a roof over my head matters too”… !!!

      I think this is something we ALL struggle with (anyone who says they aren’t is lying). I really admire folk who have their formula down pat, but it takes a while. So the very fact that you’re working on it is huge.

      Thank you for stopping by today! xo

    • I think it just comes down to goals Paula. What do you want the purpose of your personal blog to be? After you determine that, then the strategy falls into place.

      For example, recently I’ve been thinking about starting to write consistently on Medium or create a Tumblr that’s just me waxing lyrically about life, observations, adventures, and mishaps…..and the lessons I learn from each. There would be no business purpose, no real visitor or reader goal, only my need to get these thoughts out of my head and small hope they resonate with someone else. That’s VERY different than my goals when I sit down to write a Spin Sucks blog.

      • paulakiger

        Yes, you should do that Medium/Tumblr. It’ll be a hit! And yes you are right about the goals. For my “work” blogging, it’s clear that I can establish specific goals and a certain direction. // Personally, for my own blog, I could just say “screw it with all this measurement I got into this because I like writing” BUT I have a tiny toe-hold now in using my blog as income and given my circumstances, I think I need to keep trying to figure out how to position it to be adaptable to sponsored posts/other monetizing efforts. One of the common questions when applying for a sponsored campaign is “do you have a [insert topic like lifestyle or fitness here] tab on your blog or is your blog about [insert topic like lifestyle or fitness here]?” and I’ve deduced that “my blog is about whatever strikes my fancy that day” is not as definitive as they would prefer LOL.

        • Well, I think you just made the decision then. I’ll send you my bill 🙂 And you might have convinced me to do the Medium content. I’ve been debating for quite some time, but flattery is persuasive 🙂

  • Best reasons on why measure: Time and money. In other words, speak the language of your CEO, CFO. You need to show business results, but you need to know what to measure.

    Thank you, Shonali!