Benchmarking Benefits Crucial to Success

Measuring your public relations efforts means more than just monitoring your brand. It means using media intelligence to set up metrics, which can include any combination of: mentions, message penetration, sentiments or other attributes, and compare them against your industry, competitors or your own past performance. 

A program that gathers intelligence about your company, competitors, audience, influencers and leaders is key to PR success today. 

Shonali Burke of Shonali Burke Consulting, says “The biggest benefit is that benchmarking is your road map to understanding what’s working and what’s not.” For example, she says, “if one of your goals is leadership within your industry, you won’t know whether you’ve increased share of voice in targeted news and social media unless you can compare the data at the beginning against where you end up.” 

“It helps to set the foundation for your entire measurement program,” Burke says. “And by doing that, it informs your strategy. ... By setting that foundation and informing that strategy, it really helps you make better business decisions.” 



 Key benefits to benchmarking: 

1. Benchmarking helps make metrics meaningful. What exactly do you wish to do with your PR? Comparing yourself against objective standards gives you a yardstick to measure success. 

Strong, who views his work through a B2B technology lens, measures products with long sales cycles. He tracks the following: 

  • Volume of mentions, including client versus competitor versus industry leader. 
  • Tone of coverage among the same subsets.
  • Quality of coverage (see benefi No. 3 below). 
  • Anecdotal evidence from clients, sales reps and industry leaders, such as when customers say they purchased a product after reading an article, or an analyst uses your research in a presentation slide at an industry conference. 
  • Market research and customer surveys when possible. 

2. Measuring in real time provides actionable intel. 

Benchmark and measure frequently can correct over the course of your campaign. 

Several years ago, Burke worked with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to raise online awareness about refugees. One tactic was an effort to get people to buy a $5 symbolic pin or pendant to raise awareness of the plight of refugees. To gauge the campaign’s effectiveness, Burke tracked metrics from before it started, including key purchases, website traffic, and inquiries about the campaign. During the campaign, these figures skyrocketed. Burke tracked what worked, and she adjusted throughout the campaign to optimize results. “That gave us real data to go back to the client and say this really worked well,” Burke says.” 

3. Determining quality of voice improves coverage. 

Quality of voice is a subjective, five-point scale, Strong says. Every outlet gets a number from one (say, The Wall Street Journal) to five (an off-topic trade publication), providing comparisons and relative worth. Not all media exposure drives business. Not all press is good press. 

 A TV network client of Katie Paine, owner of Paine Publishing, has a list of 25 top reporters who can influence the company’s success in major ways. These are entertainment and industry writers, reviewers, and consumer and trade press journalists. The company uses such data when reaching out to reporters, Paine says.

 4. Benchmarking quality of coverage sparks business conversations. 

Smart clients, says Paine, have conversations with their sales, research and marketing teams, among others. “There are certain things that are going to make people more likely to consider or prefer your product or services, or at least be aware of your messages,” she says. 

 5. Benchmarking share of voiceanswers this: ‘Am I killing it, or getting killed?” 

It’s commonplace to measure the bread and butter of performance. What gives you an extra edge is tracking how you stack up against competitors. 

 At the outset, measure the volume, type and quality of the coverage you and your competitors are getting. Doing so provides a benchmark for comparison later and helps you set realistic goals for your market. To come up with a tangible, defensible goal, assess yourself against your top three competitors, and get a sense of the cadences of the market as well.

 6. Benchmarking shows executives why they should do interviews. You can prove your business value. When you benchmark share of voice, or better yet, desirable voice, you can have an impact on your organization’s earnings. 

This is illustrated in the competition among aviation companies for a massive Air Force contract, Paine says. The company that had the most leaders and experts quoted was most likely to win the contract, she says.

 7. Benchmarking social media engagement helps you understand your audience. The era of shrugging off social media engagement as distinct from PR is over. Social media is a real-time research laboratory providing an authentic view of your audience. For example, look at what they are talking about now, versus what they talked about last year, so you can see how their views have shifted.  

 8. Benchmarking reveals message penetration. When you tie PR to outcomes and map behavior to it, benchmarking shows not only whether your messages havehad an impact, but which ones. You can then evaluate whether you’re emphasizing the right points, or need to nurture key messages that don’t seem to be making it through. 

Concluding, from message penetration to share of voice, from defining good coverage to social media engagement, you’ll improve only if you benchmark. You’ll spark business conversations and prove your business value. Otherwise, you’ll never know if you’re killing it, or getting killed, in the competitive world of PR. 



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