Yes, You Can Measure Communications Against Specific Objectives. Here’s How

On Tuesday, I wrote about communications measurement and how influence, attitude and behavior change should be measured in addition to eyeballs, butts in seats, clicks and follows. Number of followers, re-tweets, event attendance and web site spikes are all well and good. But, to sustain any real impact from a communications effort, you need to know how much your communications are influencing an audience’s way of thinking and acting. Below are just a few ways to measure against the top 6 communications objectives.

Objective 1: Visibility (positioning and awareness)
Ways to measure:
• Before and after surveys
• Focus groups
• Social media conversations, particularly changes in message, penetration and sharing
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), including competitors’ placements and messages, message penetration, tone, and coverage compared to competitors
• Blog and article comments
• Web site statistics

Objective 2: Influence and persuasion (issues management, attitude and behavior changes)
Ways to measure:
• Before and after surveys
• Focus groups
• Social media conversations, particularly changes in message, penetration and sharing
• Blog and article comments
• Comparisons of competitor services and products to yours
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), including competitors’ placements and messages, message penetration, tone, and coverage compared to competitors
• Opinion polls
• Rulings, policies and legislation on issues
• Sales of services and products in your industry, overall

Objective 3: Volume attention (sales, attendance, web and social media traffic)
Ways to measure:
• Sales volume (spikes or dips before, during and after campaigns)
• Incoming calls and e-mails
• Event attendance
• Web and blog traffic
• Sudden increases of fans, followers and subscribers of social channels
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), particularly in trade niches
• Google statistics

Objective 4: Recognition & Appreciation (kudos, awards, sales support)
Ways to measure:
• Number of new, warm leads
• Sales force feedback
• Unsolicited RFPs earned
• Number of referrals
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), particularly in trade niches
• Media coverage analysis (against competitor media coverage)
• Key message delivery through media and social channels
• Number of “shares” of presentations, PowerPoints and slide shows via online channels

Objective 5: Employee recruiting and retention/employee communication
Ways to measure:
• Number of unsolicited resumes and outreach received from potential employees
• Number of resumes and outreach received from job postings
• Employee surveys
• Comparison of media and social channel coverage of organization (particularly employee sentiment)
• Awards for “best places to work” and the like
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), particularly in trade niches
• Overall retention rates

Objective 6: Investor perception (stock value, investor and analyst attention)
Ways to measure:
• Stock trading volume and activity in relation to communications campaign
• Analyst and adviser recommendations
• Analyst surveys
• P/E multiple in relation to peer group and competitors
• Stock price volatility relative to peer group and competitors
• Media coverage analysis (before and after campaigns), particularly in business and financial press
• Media coverage analysis of analyst commentary

How do you measure the effectiveness of your communications?

Suzanne Henry Lends Her Creative Writing Expertise to Blogville 2012

April 25, 2012 – Charlottesville, VA – Suzanne E. Henry, an award-winning communications consultant, today shared her tips, tricks and secrets to overcoming writer’s block and fatigue to a gathering of local bloggers at the 2012 Blogville annual event, hosted by Cville Sheblogs, a Charlottesville-based blogging community group.

“As someone who needs to produce content daily, I have had my share of ‘hitting the wall’ when writing,” said Suzanne Henry, who has been a professional communicator and writer for 27 years. “But, any writer can find themselves with a case of writer’s block, whether they are someone who has to write for business or pleasure.”  She added, “blog writing is special, too. It’s relentless.”

Suzanne shared many of her favorite exercises collected from her many years of studying with writing masters, from her university days as an English and mass communications student to Grammy-award winning Rosanne Cash and screenwriting master Robert McKee.

Communications Measurement Is About Showing Progress, Not Just Number Of Followers

Measuring the value and promise of communications and PR, in particular, has been an ongoing conversation in organizations, in board rooms and in the industry itself. Everybody wants it, not many know how to do it.

Getting crystal clear on your objectives is job number one. There are many reasons to have a communications effort:
• Visibility (positioning and awareness)
• Influence and persuasion (issues management, attitude and behavior changes)
• Volume attention (sales, attendance, web and social media traffic)
• Recognition & appreciation (kudos, awards, sales support)
• Employee recruiting and retention/employee communication
• Investor perception (stock value, investor and analyst attention)

From there, more exact goals and objectives should be identified. It’s not enough to just say you want to generate buzz. (Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries did that just fine, but was that kind of visibility a goal? Well, maybe.) You need to be more specific. This will help you focus on the impact that is made over just volume attention.

Next, identify what would directly and what would indirectly identify the impact a communications outcome will have.

For instance, if one of your goals is to develop a stronger pipeline of sales leads, you may engage in a speaking engagement program where you speak at many seminars and conferences where potential customers attend. Attendance at those events, number of after-presentation conversations, and web site statistics spiking (or not) are typical measurements. But those measurements don’t really identify the impact your speech had on the potential clients’ way of thinking, their conversations with peers after the event and what they tweeted, posted or commented upon online after your presentation was different than what they believed before, and how that unidentified reporter sitting way in the back changed his story because of what you said.

Numbers are good. But, numbers with the additional layer of attitude and behavior changes are better. How do you do that?

Furthering our measurement program for developing a more robust sales pipeline, other measurements to include would be:
• Before and after surveys (of conference attendees) (What piqued their interest?)
• Focus groups (Have beliefs and behaviors changed?)
• Feedback from the sales force before the year of conference hopping and after (Did they notice any changes?)
• Conference media coverage (Did it include you or rather instead include the competition?)
• Google analytics summaries (Did traffic come from the conferences?)
• Media, blog and social channel “audits” before and after a year of conference appearances (Did the conversation change?)

In the end, communication efforts take time to influence. Measurement takes time, too. But, the investment of resources, including your time and energy, is well worth the labor.

On Thursday, I’ll take each macro objective and provide a list of potential measurements to consider.

More than A Pretty Face: Using Pinterest to Tell a Story

Pinterest is the (not so) little online bulletin board social channel that has everyone talking, er, pinning. As of January 2012, 11.7 million users were using Pinterest, making it the third most used social network (mostly by women). Suddenly Pinterest is the new “It” girl in town.

It is going to be fun to watch Pinterest grow, work its way through some sticky wickets (copyright, anyone?) and keep itself relevant as mobile devices continue their takeover of all communication devices. In the meantime, not only is Pinterest literally fun, but it has vast potential for telling organizational stories.

How so, you ask? How could “pinning” images found online to personal bulletin boards for everyone to see help an organization share its vision and engage and influence customers?

Well, for one, Pinterest is more than just a pretty face. First, companies and non-profits can create boards that anyone can pin to. And, the quick and easy “repin” function makes images go viral very easily. Pinterest automatically grabs source links from images that you pin from a website so the original creator is credited. Therefore, clicking on that image allows web sites to be easily found. And, with our ever increasing visual world, the ability to give graphic representation to your image, opinions and viewpoints, and products and services can move you into a whole new level of storytelling.

If I were to counsel a non-profit in the environmental arena I would tell them to create a board of the places or wildlife they are seeking to protect. Get people engaged in the story by letting people pin images that are indicative of why they think the place or wildlife should be protected. Ask them to comment under their photos as to why they support the protection and what makes that place, bird, animal or whatever, special to them. Let the users tell the story of how important the work is.

If I were to advise a company that provides training programs to sales people, I would tell them to create a board of images of people who are great salesmen of both products and ideas, such as great speakers, book authors and political leaders. Who is selected to post on that board says a lot about the organization’s influences. Then, ask people to pin their favorite “sales leaders” to a public board. Oh, and while they are at it, be sure to post videos and infographics on topics relevant to what the company does. Become a curator of the best sales advice ever.

If I were to give advice to a book author, I would tell them to host a board of favorite books or writing mentors. Or, start the teasing process early for their new book, by having a board that contains images that were inspiration during the writing process.

Or, if I were to guide a restaurant in using Pinterest I might suggest they post pictures of their dishes and people enjoying them. Post “in the kitchen” pictures, showing people how the dishes are made (barring giving away any secrets, of course). Show off the wine list on a “favorite” wine list. Ask people to “like” their favorite dishes or wines.

And, while they are doing all these things, they should note who is re-pinning and liking pins. Consider it one piece of the market research function.

Most people talk about weddings, interior designers and landscapers making great use of Pinterest, enticing people to make “wish” boards where people can post pictures of their dream wedding, dream home or dream landscape, or women’s clothing and shoe stores showing off their latest offerings. But, there are many more creative ways to use Pinterest.

Now ask yourself, what story are you trying to tell? And, how can Pinterest help you and engage your customers and clients?

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How To Know It Is Time For Public Relations

I often hear from colleagues that they believe public relations (though they don’t always call it that) is as important as managing a business’ finances. Yet, when it comes time to actually launch a formal communications effort, suddenly PR is a “nice to have, but not necessary” activity. I have been a professional communicator for more than 25 years. To save you lost time, if you have any of the symptoms below you need to run, not walk, to the nearest PR firm. You are missing or losing business every day.

  • You can’t remember or seem to focus your message. Or worse, it changes every few weeks.
  • You see or read about your competition more often than you read or see your own company’s news.
  • You repeatedly hear surprise from potential customers that you exist or that you offer what you offer.
  • You hear things out of your employees mouths on the phone, in trade show booths, in the media, and in sales calls that make you wonder who they work for (because it can’t be your company).
  • Your Web site hasn’t gone uder a message and content refresh in more than 5 years.
  • People are talking about you, publicly, and you feel it isn’t too bad so why get into it?
  • You think social media is for the birds and just a fad.
  • You have no communications staff, haven’t hired any communications help, and trust that everyone is just “doing their best at telling our story” and that “good enough is enough.”

But, this wouldn’t apply to you, would it?