ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
April 20, 2012

Moving Toward Social Media Measurement Standards: Key Metrics to Determine Whether Social Media Initiatives Are Working


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I left Jessica, our account executive, at the office and boarded a plane for Hong Kong to attend the first ever Asia-Pacific Summit on PR Measurement. Delegates from Singapore, Greater China, India, Australia and other countries gathered on Feb. 29-March 1 to expound on the outcomes of previous measurements summits in Lisbon and Barcelona and, ultimately, advance the Business Case for Public Relations.

When I returned, Jessica was curious about what I learned. “I know that the Barcelona Principles set basic standards for PR measurement, and the Lisbon Summit produced a road map for measurement going forward,” she said. “But what happened in Hong Kong?”

Spelling out standards

Jessica is right: The agenda from Lisbon spelled out the need for social media measurement standards. The Hong Kong meeting was the start of a process that will continue through this year.

This initial set of standards stresses the importance of adhering to the fundamental Barcelona Principles. They also outline four key metrics to determine whether social media initiatives are working:

  • Influence: must be influential to relevant demographics and topics
  • Opportunity to reach: must use consistent counting and no multipliers
  • Engagement: can measure at multiple levels, related to specific business/organization goals
  • Sentiment: must specify technique, whether human, computer or hybrid

In Hong Kong, we identified 12 skills that would qualify someone as a PR measurement professional, loosely based on PRSA’s Accreditation. They include the ability to write goals; use research to drive PR programming, measure outputs, outcomes and business results; and communicate research and evaluation results in a manner that people can apply and understand.

The social media standards and the Accreditation ideas will now go out for extensive review from professionals around the world — like the Barcelona Principles did before they were finalized.

Tracking next steps

The summit brought our colleagues from Asia into the measurement conversation, which to date had mostly occurred in Europe and North America. If we are to truly create a “global gold standard” for measurement, then everyone has to be involved in the discussion.

At the European Summit in Dublin this June, the discussion will continue as attendees consider updated versions. We hope to reach some conclusions at the PRSA 2012 International Conference in San Francisco on Oct. 13-16. PRSA and the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) are planning a day-long seminar as part of the Conference.

We still have a lot to do. Less than 20 years ago, PR measurement meant using scissors and scotch tape to make clip books. Now, we are trying to bring professionalism to the profession and make sure that all practitioners know the basics — especially the next generation of young professionals like Jessica, who will guide public relations into the future. Hong Kong was a step on that journey.

Do you have any questions? Email Doc Rock.

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Public Relations Tactics.

David B. Rockland, Ph.D. is partner/CEO and managing director for the research and change communications businesses at Ketchum. He has held leadership positions in corporate communications and research throughout his career, with extensive global experience in both fields

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