Analytics & Big Data
May 15, 2015

Media measurement best practices for Fortune 500 communications team

Most global public relations and communication functions for Fortune 500 firms, which often operate from corporate headquarters, face the same challenges today.

The challenges are:

  • Varying objectives and goals across business divisions
  • Expectations to measure every earned media opportunity
  • Inconsistent approaches to track and monitor traditional and social coverage
  • Need to measure global performance while retaining a local market focus
  • Proliferation of media sources resulting in high levels of measurable data
  • Need to engage local agencies while managing conflicts of interest in their performance
  • A finite budget that is often the first to be downsized in tough times
  • Return on investment

The good news is that all these challenges can be managed through a structured measurement program.

The four tenets of this program are:

  • Quality over quantity: By defining a finite and right mix of outlets, languages, and competition to design the program across all regions of the firm
  • Metrics that matter: By choosing only value-driven metrics that are related to core objectives of the PR program
  • Impact currency: By quantifying impact created by earned media using a universal metric that measures ROI for events, campaigns, thought leadership, and C-suite in a seamless manner
  • Collaborate & learn: By creating a knowledge sharing ecosystem that clearly lays out roles and responsibilities for all stakeholders: The central PR team, the PR agency, the regional PR function, and the vendor partner driving the measurement program

Let's now understand what the four tenets look like, in greater detail.

Quality over quantity: In simple terms, don't boil the ocean.

  • Media outlets: There are two types of media outlets – news makers and news carriers. Use a judicious mix of both for the program, period.

    News makers are influential outlets whose journalists write original stories, exclusives, and features. They drive opinion, messaging, and perception about the Fortune 500 firm, and hence form the backbone of the program. Care should be taken to ensure that outlets chosen are also those that shorten and share news on social media. In addition, they should be read by the target audience the firm is trying to get across to. Across key growth markets, where the firm invests marketing dollars, the ideal program should include ~300–350 such outlets, with a threshold of 20–25 outlets per market.

    News carriers are often tier-2 and tier-3 outlets that only magnify news and often do not hold enough influence to invest journalist time for exclusives or feature stories. However, some of them disseminate news far and wide due to their reach. Only such large outlets should be considered. Again, the ideal program should include ~100–150 such outlets across markets, with a threshold of 5–10 outlets per market.

  • Competition: While there is a temptation to monitor all competition, the program should only look at the top two players by business to maintain focus and balance effort. The players chosen should be the ones that are the closest competitors to the firm in a chosen business segment.

  • Languages: The program should also consider the most prolific language in terms of media outlets across markets.

Metrics that matter: The first task in any tracking program is to define goals and threshold values against which to measure the firm's performance. These goals keep everyone on the program focused and clear on what they need to achieve; viz. what success looks like. The threshold value chosen should also be commensurate to the PR effort across regions. There are many metrics out there that can fill many pages of a report. It is imperative to choose only those metrics that matter, to achieve pre-defined goals. Many metrics, like impressions and ad value equivalent (AVE), are outdated and do not serve the true purpose of helping the program. For example, the share of voice metrics also includes negative coverage and can convey a wrong signal about the actual goodwill achieved by the PR team for their firm. A better approach is to consider the share of positive coverage with a threshold value, e.g., 10 articles per quarter, as a metric. It is very imperative to track metrics that measure messaging perception of product/service portfolio, as that in effect determines the positioning status of the firm. Genpact's ASPIRE framework has been designed with this very purpose in mind and meets this criteria.

Impact currency: The effect of coverage across a few chosen publications cannot be understood unless there is a quantitative view of the impact created by the coverage for the firm. This quantitative impact can be calculated using a score like the Genpact Media Impact Score, which uses parameters like media quality, depth of coverage, number of brand mentions, sentiment, and authentication via spokesperson placement in an article. This MIS is hence a de facto common currency that measures the impact created by every article and helps understand the efficacy of that piece of coverage at any given point in time. It can be measured for a campaign, for the competition, for executives like the C-suite, for a business division, for a region, and so on.

Collaborate & learn: The success of the program is entirely dependent on collaboration and alignment with key stakeholders in the communications team and across regions on what this program is set to achieve and how it varies with the effort by the PR agencies on the ground. It is therefore crucial that all parties involved are in constant touch with each other in a collaborative knowledge-sharing environment to make this program succeed. Some best practices that are recommended are:

  • Readouts of findings with regional teams that are responsible for the PR of a region
  • Awareness building to PR agencies, hired by the Fortune 500 firm, on the difference of this program from their tactics in terms of local actions and outcomes
  • Quarterly business briefings on how the metrics track towards C-suite PR goals
  • The sharing of campaign calendars and communications plans by the firm's PR teams with the vendor partner to help design special supplements for each campaign
  • Working on actions to quell negativity via engagement with the journalist community
  • A trending view from time to time on how the firm is tracking with respect to goals and honest introspection on whether the goals or threshold values need to be modified in light of incoming performance data
  • A technology interface that allows the PR teams across locations to view data and metrics driving the program, on a cloud-based platform, thus enabling access to this information at all times

Genpact's experience in this offering space validates the power of these best practices. Programs designed in this manner tend to very effective and allow PR executives to concentrate on core functions of awareness-building and education on their firm's positioning and offerings to their target audience, while leaving the measurement activity in reliable hands. 

Author: Arun Swamy - Vice President, Service Line Leader, Research, Content and Presentation Services