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In the first of these two interview posts with internationally renowned public relations exponent and a passionate advocate for the setting of objectives, Angela Sinickas, the areas of behavioral change being of uppermost importance and how to evolve objectives were included in the conversation.  

“Relationships are a means to getting more of the behaviors companies want,” said Angela. “I think most PR people don’t realize this and therefore don’t build the right relationships or build them in ways that will directly benefit the organization tangibly, not just intangibly.”

Angela spoke with me prior to presenting a half-day workshop on Measuring ROI on communications for IABC NSW (sponsored by Ogilvy Public Relations Australia and St George Bank).

She agrees that the lack of consistently applied, and business-relevant, KPI development and utilisation is a key factor in holding back PR from sitting at the executive leadership table.

“We’re not speaking their language,” Angela said.

Marketing and PR: KPI setting comparison

CP: Is there a parallel between the way marketing sets KPIs and the way PR does, or should, set KPIs? What should PR be doing that marketing is already doing and, conversely, what are the mistakes marketing is making in KPI setting that PR should not do? What can the disciplines learn from each other?

Marketing has been doing audience research forever—they take the time to figure out in advance what would motivate people to take the desired behaviors, and they use a variety of measurement techniques afterward to validate what works best.

PR rarely does research before developing campaigns and measures mostly useless stuff like clips and hits and AVE—if they measure anything at all. What marketing can learn from PR is the art of the soft sell, the long sell.

Measuring PR-driven relationships

CP: Much of public relations is about just that: relations, or relationships (a notion emphasised by the relational dimension of social media). By extension, this means it is about brand awareness and reputation, rather than specifically making a sale. Does this introduce a dynamic to PR KPI setting that is unique? How do you go about setting KPIs for reputation/credibility etc and, for that matter, evaluating reputation/credibility?

I completely disagree with a lot of recent writings that relationships are the ultimate outcome for organizations, and most CEOs would too. I have written about this before.

Business relationships are not pursued just for their own sake. As individuals, we don’t pursue relationships just for their own sake either, but to gain friendship and love, which can increase security and decrease loneliness.

Businesses value relationships, reputation and branding as means to various ends as well—yes, more sales overall, but also to:

  • keep shareholders loyal
  • keep their share prices high
  • attract better qualified job candidates and keep them productively delivering results longer before leaving for a competitor
  • be able to charge higher prices for what are essentially commodities
  • get happy customers to convince non-customers to try the company’s products, etc.

Measuring advocacy

CP: One of the dimensions I have had incorporated into market research for an organisation I worked for (based on excellent advice from leading market researcher Adrian Goldsmith)  was stakeholder ‘advocacy’ (i.e. the chief behaviour measured was how willing a stakeholder would, without prompting, speak positively of an organisation). What are your thoughts on this sort of behaviour providing a meaningful KPI for an organisation?

On customer surveys I usually include an 11-point question on how likely they are to recommend the company or its products to others, with 1 being “Extremely unlikely,” 11 being “Extremely likely” and 6 being “Neutral.” You subtract the percentage of people choosing 1-6 (the detractors) from the percentage choosing 10-11 (promoters). (Those choosing 7-9 are called passives and ignored for the calculation.)

This is known as the Net Promoter Score® (NPS) invented by Satmetrix Systems. Apparently it has been validated by the company that developed it as a good measure of overall customer satisfaction.

However, it’s only useful if the survey includes a great many other questions that quantify satisfaction with various aspects of the company so that the company knows what to fix in order to get a better score in the future.

For example, I’m working on a report this week where the business-to-business manufacturing company received an overall negative NPS. However, 74% of customers said the company met or exceeded their expectations for quality. On the other hand, only 56% said it met or exceeded expectations for on-time delivery. These more detailed questions help you understand what to fix and what to leave alone.

PR program evaluation

CP: Are there issues relevant to the setting of different PR programs (e.g. media relations, speaking programs, website communication, social media) that need to be borne in mind and, if so, what are they?

One issue is to be sure, through research, that we understand which channels are working best for different messages, for different stakeholder groups, at different stages of the relationship/sales process.

CP: When there are a range of PR programs being implemented, is it important and relevant to ensure there is consistency between the KPIs and the approach taken to determining what the KPIs actually are? What are the issues relevant to this process?

Absolutely. If we’re going to measure multiple campaigns, survey questions should be parallel in construction, from wording to response scales.

We can’t just ask if people like those communications, but we need to identify how much each one influences different desirable behaviors—from calling the company for more information or to set up a sales call, or to influence the selection of the company for a contract.

For one client, we not only used consistent survey questions for each of their marcomms and PR campaign elements in the customer communication survey, but we also asked their sales force very similar questions about how much influence they thought these vehicles had. While there was a great deal of internal/external alignment, there were many communication vehicles that the customers said influenced their behaviors far more than the sales force believed.

Since the sales force controlled distribution of many of these vehicles, they were shooting themselves in the foot by not giving all their customers access to these vehicles. The company made a lot of changes based on the survey results.

What did you think about what Angela said? Do you set what you consider to be meaningful KPIs for your communication strategies and programs? What are the issues you have in setting these KPIs; what are your challenges?

About Angela Sinickas

Angela Sinickas, ABC, IABC Fellow, is president of Sinickas Communications, Inc., an international consulting firm that helps organizations plan and measure successful communication, including 23% of Forbes’ Global 100 largest corporations. She wrote the manual How to Measure Your Communication Programs and has earned 17 IABC Gold Quills. She also teaches an online graduate class on communication measurement for Northeastern University. Over 130 articles on communication planning and measurement can be read at www.sinicom.com Angela was in Australia presenting a training session on measuring communication straegy ROI for IABC NSW, with the support of Ogilvy Public Relations Australia and St George Bank.