As discussed on this PRWeek vodcast.

The world of public relations is extremely fast paced. Those who spend their careers perfecting the craft will understand; we are often exceptionally creative, relationship-driven problem solvers that are highly adaptable to new and evolving circumstances.

Yet, when it comes to embracing data and analytics in our world, the industry at large has lagged. Luckily, there’s been a clear shift in recent years, and it’s one that we should all welcome with open arms!

Measurement – a term that used to be an aspirational buzzword for so many – has quickly taken center stage, making it more important than ever for public relations professionals to finally go all in.

It is no longer acceptable to simply check the box. Teams that don’t invest in and prioritize a fully integrated measurement culture will soon be left behind, but let’s be honest – diving headfirst into data can be intimidating even for the most seasoned PR pros. Analytical fluency, or lack thereof, poses a unique challenge when it comes to converting intuition to insight, and it can be hard to know where to start.

Here’s how to stay ahead of the curve, leverage data to refine your craft, and seamlessly implement a fully integrated measurement culture:

Get on board.
Cision and PRWeek’s sixth annual 2023 Global Comms Report found that analytics and reporting, or attribution and ROI, are top priorities for more than 38% of communications professionals. Yet, with 50% of communications leaders struggling to convert data into actionable insight, it is not surprising that more and more brands are turning to exceptional agency partners to help bridge the gap.

Gone are the days when teams can fly by using solely vanity metrics (I’m looking at you, impressions!) and old-fashioned research tactics. Instead, the demand is growing for teams to provide data-driven recommendations and earned media analytics that prove the value of work to marketing counterparts. That’s why, no matter where a brand is in its measurement journey, it’s essential that agencies come prepared with a measurement point of view and empower their teams to bring forth that change every day.

Shift your mindset and optimize your team’s dynamic.
Earned media measurement has much more to offer than just an eye-catching coverage recap at the end of a campaign. When used effectively, it can help your team make quick and efficient decisions in real time, streamline your media relations efforts, inspire long-term communications strategies and yield actionable insights. To accomplish this, it is essential to rethink the role earned media analytics plays in your team’s day-to-day work.

Far too many teams perceive earned media analysts to be “outsiders.” This siloed team model – where day-to-day account teams pull in analysts solely when they think they “need them” – is not conducive to achieving a measurement culture and ultimately results in a gap in analytical fluency. Rather than creating a barrier, a basic understanding of earned media analytics should be deemed essential for all team members. Those who are profoundly analytical and exceptionally creative should work hand in hand on a regular basis to help optimize day-to-day work. Invest in the proper training and tools and empower your teams to embrace a fully integrated measurement culture.

Don’t worry too much about a roadmap. Just hit the road.
I get it. Analytics can be intimidating at first. But are you going to let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game? Take a page out of Babe Ruth’s playbook and step up to the plate. When you do, keep in mind that there’s an array of solutions you could implement for clients of all sizes, regardless of their goals. Avoid paralysis by analysis and remember that there is no “one size fits all” approach.

This doesn’t necessarily mean teams should implement an immediate, mind-altering overhaul (especially for brands that may be new to it). Instead, start small. Begin by leveraging an earned media monitoring tool to streamline and strengthen media relationships and determine a baseline for your brand’s media performance. Once you have a solid understanding of your brand’s current position, you will begin to identify emerging trends and insights that will help you generate effective media strategies. For brands that are more comfortable in the measurement space, taking the time to understand larger business goals will enable you to provide effective counsel and embrace a more sophisticated approach over time.

Aim for value over volume.
Today’s earned media reporting tools give you the power to track more metrics than ever, but just because you can track certain metrics doesn’t mean you should. Once you get into the swing of measurement, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement of it all, but before you get carried away, think back to your overarching goals. It’s important to choose metrics that can directly speak to the desired outcome and whether that outcome was achieved. Seek to understand what coverage performs well, reaches your target audience, and amplifies your key messages – and do more of that.

For example, suppose you’re looking to communicate with a niche audience. In that case, it may be worth measuring success through KPIs like key media penetration and message pull-through as opposed to reach. (After all, do those one million impressions matter if they’re not reaching your target and driving business?). Similarly, if you’re measuring your brand’s media performance compared to competitors, consider whether coverage volume or coverage quality and prominence will be more impactful.

Remember, data and analytics are merely numbers unless they can be translated and applied by teams to yield great results, bring insights to light and quickly enact change. By embracing an integrated measurement culture – whether you’re a data newbie or an analytics advocate – you will be positioned to truly optimize our most powerful tool as PR practitioners today: data.

To hear more on this topic, please check out to this vodcast Sierra recently participated in with PRWeek’s Gideon Fidelzeid and Cision’s Chelsea Mirkin.

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