Communication ROI: How Do Organizations Measure Communication against Corporate Objectives?

Article excerpt

The tracking and measurement of any marketing program has always been difficult, time-consuming and limited at best. Metrics can be even more elusive for marketing communication, and, in many cases, measurement methods are even inadequate or misleading. It's no wonder that so few companies measure their external communication programs.

In the "Future Trends" study conducted by Towers Perrin in collaboration with the IABC Research Foundation, it was reported that fewer than 15 percent of survey respondents measure external communication or media relations efforts. But more than half of respondents are concerned about improving operating performance within their organizations. Other top priorities included rolling out new ways to communicate to the market and building the company and brand image by communicating messages internally and externally.

To achieve these objectives in today's demanding and dynamic marketing environment, measurement and accountability are imperative. Companies are moving away from the notion that marketing budgets should be a set percentage of revenue or based on the previous year's budget. Economic constraints of recent years and the trend toward corporate-wide accountability are forcing communication executives to define new ways to justify

their contributions to the bottom line.

The challenge for marketing professionals is to define measurable objectives and incorporate relevant measurement metrics into ongoing communication programs and PR campaigns. Measurement is especially difficult for marketing communication because a great deal of the Work and results is based on creativity and the development of relationships.

TAKING THE FIRST STEP

Fortunately, marketers have within their reach a number of techniques to define measurement parameters and gauge success throughout a campaign, whether it is internally or externally focused. The first step is to identify the strategic corporate goals that can benefit from the successful planning and execution of communication initiatives.

TOP 10 MEDIA MEASUREMENT BEST PRACTICES

* Tie communication goals to corporate objectives.

* Track a project that matters to the CEO.

* Measure before, during and after a campaign or initiative.

* Monitor internal and external messages to maintain consistency of brand and reputation.

* Measure company's influence across all media outlets and with specific writers.

* Measure top-tier media separately from all other media.

* Benchmark performance monthly, quarterly and annually.

* Combine quantitative assessment and qualitative analysis for a holistic view of measurement.

* Analyze competitors' communication strategies regularly.

* Track market activity to identify emerging trends.

These goals may include

* driving sales leads and revenue

* increasing customer retention or loyalty

* increasing employee satisfaction

* building brand reputation.

Although each goal is often achieved through the combined efforts of many departments, the communication team can define specific aspects of each goal that it can influence. Before launching a new product, for instance, the communication team can test several product messages with selected media targets and determine which gain the best traction in consumer publications. Once the launch campaign is in full swing, it's possible to measure pickup of the messages by the company's top-tier media list and to track adoption of the messages and variants created by reporters who picked up the story line as it was developing. By tying PR messages to web site messages and then monitoring web site and customer call center inquiries, it's possible to track which leads are driven by messages adopted by the media. The communication team can't take complete credit for resulting sales, but it can show a direct correlation between effective messaging and media relations with pipeline development. …