Visibility = Insight = PR Value

posted by Brendan Hodgson

I wrote a piece a while back about the Media Relations Rating Points System which, now that I consider it, may have missed a few points. So I figured I’d better talk to those now.

Like virtually every other PR firm, and for many of our own clients, we compile relevant media clippings for our clients, package ‘em up nicely, and then fire them off, either daily or weekly or whenever they appear. Sometimes, we include a bit of top-line analysis along with those clippings — essentially, a preamble that highlights the consolidated good, bad and ugly of what went on during that specific coverage period. And, if it makes sense, we’ll counsel the client to either respond to a specific article, or we’ll exploit opportunities to drive additional coverage around a key issue or trend introduced by a specific journalist or publication.

And while this analytic capacity is inherent – to a small degree – within tools such as MRP, it is not comprehensive. And to that point, I say that I think we need to do better – to expand how we demonstrate value to our clients.

I believe a key determinant of PR’s value - and a vital criteria for how we are measured – is not only tied to the outputs (ie. the reach and impressions) and outcomes (ie. the business impacts) of what we do, but also to the “visibility” we provide into the channels, relationships and issues that impact our clients’ business.

I’m not talking about post-campaign surveys or polls. ’Visibility’, in the context that I’m using it, is about making the ‘invisible visible’, to capture meaningful intelligence that has the capacity to shape or re-shape what we do and enhance the value of our service to clients. 

And while visibility does not translates directly into ”results”… it provides something else that, I believe, is equally valuable. It makes us and our clients smarter. And it therefore makes our campaigns that much more successful. To quote a classic Rumsfeldianism: “…there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”   

Capturing coverage is only the first step, and the easiest. More importantly, we need to be able to view that coverage within the context of our clients’ competitors, their issues or their brands and analyze it against a variety of key factors - region, publication, journalist, tone, share of voice or other categories as defined by the client.

Filters such as these I would classify as the known unknowns. We know the data exists, but  the ability to capture and visualize that data has largely been incumbent upon junior consultants spending gruelling hours sifting through masses of clippings. Either that, or many of the tools that exist today provide only a very basic top-line view of the metrics that our clients really need (which are typically tied to specific outputs), or offer limited flexibility in terms of customizing the metrics to specific client needs.   

Where the real value lies is when we can go deeper and pull even richer insights from that information – to discover the unknown unknowns – and share them, virtually in real time – be they the trends that we didn’t even know existed, or the relationships between reporters, issues or regions that we might not otherwise have captured.

With respect to blogs, we need to build on such tools as Technorati’s “Authority Filter” to be able to rank blogs (and specific posts) by such metrics as frequency, tone, relevance, and visibility or prominence, and to be able to view specific relationships between bloggers themselves, the media they rely on, and the issues or brands that they talk about.

The tools exist. We are using a number of them already, to analyze social and influencer networks (talk to Ted Graham over on the Networks blog) or to identify relevant ’sweet spots’ in media coverage that can influence ongoing campaigns. And for our clients, it is ensuring that we continue to meet their expectations in terms of delivering the insight they need to do their own jobs better without breaking the bank. 

5 Comments
30

May
2006

Ted Graham

Does this mean you read the Onalytica report?

01

Jun
2006

KDPaine

Well put. I couldn’t agree more. The only thing you left out was the role of PR in establishing, building and managing the relationships outside of the media. Blogs are a great way to analyze the health of your relationships.

01

Jun
2006

Brendan Hodgson

Katie, that’s a great point given the increased importance of direct communication to (and, more importantly, with) stakeholders. In fact, I would say that the ability to effectively gain visibility into the health of your stakeholder relationships is even a more important metric than the quality of the media coverage you use to reach them.

02

Jun
2006

Chris Johnson

Brendan – excellent piece. Technology will continue to advance and surprise us along the way. However, we cannot lose sight of the value of human perception and insight and the corresponding depth we can provide customers. There is a lot of “fuzzy logic” out there, but none can replace the human mind… yet.

02

Jun
2006

Brendan Hodgson

Thanks Chris… and I think that’s why we have to be careful when we rely too much on technology to try to provide that ‘value’. Attempts to automate article toning, for example, will continue to fall flat, in my opinion, because it lacks the uniquely human interpretation of what we (and our clients) perceive as positive, neutral and negative.

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