Chasing causality: How to measure PR realistically

In physics, ‘causality’ is the relationship between cause and effect. An effect on an event has to have happened due to a cause in its past. On paper the logic of this is simple, and the idea of cause and effect is something we learn from a young age: if you push the tower of building blocks the effect is the tower falls over. In the realms of marketing and especially PR, identifying that root cause is much harder. One could argue that pinpointing root causes for any variable in human persuasion is a complex web of factors and influences. Only when combined do these factors determine why we as humans chose to adopt a particular value, attitude or belief, or conduct an individual action. So, where do we start when we want to measure our work? Let me run you through eight things to think about when designing a measurement programme.

  1. Can you show the effect?

The desire to show effect is everywhere, from the boardroom to the government agenda. When money or time is on the table, people want to see the return on investment (ROI). But I would argue as there are some many variables, trying to show cause and effect isn’t always possible. What is better is to track consistent metrics and learn from your results. In this way, you are focused on driving change.

  1. Think long-term, then short term

The idea of ‘Theory of Change’ ask us to define long-term goals and then map backwards to identify the necessary preconditions that must be in place (and how these relate to one another) for the goals to occur. If you take this approach, you can take a large task and break it down into manageable chunks, which can be monitored and tweaked. It also applies the rationale that behavioural change takes time. Very few campaigns have the budget or ‘mass human connection’ to create fast-paced change, for example, with the water bucket challenge.

  1. The definition of value

Value is in the eye of the beholder. What is the ultimate ‘thing’ (value) you’re trying to measure as a degree of effect? The value of something will be different to different people. Ultimately it’s your client’s definition of value that you need to know and need to measure. You then have to ask yourself; can you measure it? Is it do-able? What tools do you need to measure that value?

  1. Measure in three areas

Just like your science experiments at school, you need a measurement process based on the values identified. This breakdowns into three building blocks.

Inputs: Agreed SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed) objectives, Key Performance Indictors (KPI) and starting benchmarks.

Outputs: Measure the output of the work you have done, for example, coverage achieved, key message pull-through, tone, sentiment, impressions, or share of voice (SOV).

Outcomes: The measurement of the actionable results of coverage achieved or the communications activity, including but not limited to: click-throughs, referral traffic, lead gen forms, engagement, business sales… ultimately a behavioural change or action.

  1. Build a framework

At Babel we take the points raised above and build out a ‘Results Framework’ for each of our clients. As the ‘value’ to each client is different, the frameworks are bespoke. Each framework identifies the value we are looking at, what the variable is, and how it is going to be measured.

For example:

  • Awareness (value)
  • Strengthen SOV (variable)
  • Benchmark SOV for trade and business media against competitors (measurement)
  1. Good ROI

“At its most basic level, ‘good ROI’ means that for every dollar put towards marketing, the business gets more than a dollar back,” (TrackMaven). Whatever you’re measuring, this statement resonates with me. Aiming to show this through your measurement outcomes should be something we strive for. We need to think long-term, but we also need to demonstrate immediate value to keep the long-term goal resourced.

  1. Where to start

To begin, you need to give yourself a starting point (a benchmark) and then a map to show the journey you are going to take (your results framework). Broken down this would be:

  • Know the starting point
  • Define your values and KPIs
  • Know how to measure them
  • Measure
  • Adjust
  • Evaluate if the campaign is going in the long-term direction you are looking for to achieve the change required eventually
  1. The money verses time debate

Every stakeholder is different. If we are to make campaigns successful and actually achieve goals for clients, we must ensure we have the right resources available to measure and then evaluate these campaigns. If this isn’t supported in the budget, then we must be realistic about what we can demonstrate as the value of a campaign in relation to the objectives.

To conclude then, remember when it comes to evaluation, everything should be a cycle starting with data insight and goals to achieve. You then adjust as you move forward. The hard part is identifying what the ‘value’ is and how it is going to be measured based on the resources. For help building out a campaign focused on delivering results, have a chat to Babel to see how we can help.

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