By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.
Jack Richards works as the global marketing manager for CARMA, a company established in 1984 that provides media relations and monitoring services. I have known the company since 1996 in Singapore through a chap named Jim Macnamara, who came to me and shared what measurement is all about.
In the latest episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur podcast, Jack discussed how CARMA and measurement can help business owners get noticed — and understand how they’re getting noticed.
Image from Twitter
According to Jack, CARMA is a client-first, expert-led, and data-driven company. These are factors that are important in relation to media monitoring, measurement, and evaluation.
They help public relations agencies, marketers, and communicators demonstrate the value of PR and the work that they’re doing.
As a business grows, the owner finds it hard to know what people are thinking about their business and its market. In the process, a lot of marketing, communications, and PR teams also fail to make that transition from tactical execution to strategic thinking. The problem is that their measurement is all tied in with that.
Any marketer or communicator will measure stuff in some form. At the start of that measurement journey or maturity, people will have to count stuff. And the issue with counting stuff is that you’d end up in a sort of perpetual cycle of not really achieving your business objectives and not thinking about how you can drive your business forward.
However, with proper analysis, you can understand your audience.
Back when you first started your business (when there were three or four of you in an office with five or six customers), doing this was very easy. But as you grow, so does your audience. They — along with the touchpoints you have with them — change. You’d also need to understand your competitors better as the competitor landscape is also changing. And there are many different touchpoints that can’t necessarily be done in the ways that you’ve been doing it as a small, agile business.
If you want your business to grow, you need to think more strategically than just counting or doing stuff.
Image from Unsplash
How the Monitoring Landscape has Changed
Nobody gets into PR to do measurement. People get into PR to do the fun stuff. But over the past years, monitoring and measurement have changed.
Back in the day, you would have had clippings from newspapers and magazines land on your desk. You would say hello to clients and report what you’ve achieved for a certain month, demonstrating the value of your work. But does it really demonstrate the value of your work? Does counting stuff demonstrate if it’s the wrong audience, or if the messages are wrong or resonating, or if the coverage you’re generating is negative in terms of sentiment?
Now, the way we measure things and the metrics that we’re looking at has changed. We’ve moved on in terms of channels — there are media, then new media, which has now become the social media; there are paid channels, earned channels, and our own channels.
This change is about moving beyond just measuring the stuff that gets printed in newspapers. While the majority of media is still traditional media, there’s a lot more going on. This is why Jack emphasised the need to think about how media and PR link in with the rest of a business’ communications strategy and other touchpoints as well.
Monitoring Helps Make Future Decisions
In the past, monitoring was about counting stuff. But now, Jack said that we’re at a point where we can really do proper and expert analysis from real people; not just with automation that’s talking about likes, subscribers, and shares. Today, we can dig into different metrics that allow businesses like you to understand how your content is performing.
It’s not just about how much you’re doing, but the value of what you’re doing.
A lot of people won’t have the time and money to be doing stuff that doesn’t matter and doesn’t generate results. So it’s through integrating measurement in the planning process and thinking about the success of your campaigns (and reevaluating them) that you can do the stuff that matters.
If you’re putting out content, ask yourself: Is it getting to the right people? Are the messages landing? How are we faring compared with other organisations? How are our spokespeople performing? Which people do we need to be using more and less?
Digging into these can save you a lot of effort and help you deliver what matters.
Screengrab from CARMA
Today, there are different digital and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered platforms being used to analyse content.
Jack pointed out that while this technology is a foundational building block, you still need sociopolitical and cultural understanding when analysing the content of your campaigns. You need context and empathy.
This is why at CARMA, they have analysts on the ground who’d derive insights from those metrics. Though metrics tell you so many things, what they really go after is the output of the content that you’re putting out. What do people think or feel as a result of that? What do people do now because of the activity that you’ve done?
CARMA’s experts and analysts have at least 10 years of experience. They’re not just a salesperson, but a consultant. They try to understand that broader environment and apply those insights to your business to help you make organisational decisions.
Screengrab from CARMA
Jack reiterated that many of CARMA’s staff have worked in PR roles before getting into the wonderful world of media intelligence. They’re not PR people; they’re not there to tell you how to do your job. What they try to provide you are insights on how to make better decisions.
If you have a campaign (e.g. you want to lead people into entering the top of your sales funnel), they’d show you how their PR campaign is influencing website traffic; where do people go once they get to your website.
Before, it’s just about content going out into the world. Now, it’s about thinking about the entire end-to-end process — from putting a piece of content out to monitoring how it affects the share price. It’s about looking across the whole spectrum and producing reports for clients to help them make decisions while having that micro-focus at every single point of the process.
On Content That Directly Leads to Engagement and Traffic
Digital PR is an area of interest for Jack. It provides solid benefits — digital linking, for instance, has a huge impact on increasing search rankings.
But when it comes to content, he noted that it’s always going to depend on your organisation. If your prospects are getting into the middle of the funnel (i.e. they’re now aware of you, they’ve seen your social media updates and infographics), it’s now those educational resources that would move them to the bottom of the funnel. These are content that would help them understand and provide them value more broadly.
This is similar to one of the insights I mentioned in my The UnNoticed Entrepreneur Book, which is about how people want to be informed. Brian Clark, the author of Copyblogger, also talked about the changing nature of what we produce as PR people — from being less promotional to more informative.
Image from Unsplash
And for Jack, this is where the importance of measurement in the planning process and incorporating measurement framework is emphasised (He recommended the AMEC or Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication as a source of great resources on this topic). By integrating measurement at the start of the process, you’ll have your objectives in mind and those objectives will keep you on track. This all comes back to doing what matters.
By deriving insights that demonstrate the value (or the lack of value) in what you’re doing through an integrated framework, you can look at your activities at every step of the process and tie them back to your objectives. Ultimately, it will help you keep thinking about what you need to do better — what’s working and what’s not.
Adapting to Changing Trends
We now live in a weird post-COVID world where everything has changed. Everything that you thought you knew about your audience in early 2020 has changed — the way they consume their media, the days they go to work, their objectives, the way their businesses operate.
This is why for Jack, it’s really important to keep your research up to date (be it market research, focus groups, or doing proper evaluations of your campaigns). There really isn’t a particular trend. So whatever you do, you should make sure that measurement is running through your veins. Know your audience by touching base with them and by properly researching.
You have to speak to people and know your audience. You could say that you know your audience: Dave, who you’ve been working with for the last 10 years; the CEO of the office opposite to yours. However, the truth is that — as Jack has emphasised — everything has changed.
You’d be flying absolutely blind if you create something without a plan to measure the performance of your content. And it’s not only a waste of time and money, but it can also be detrimental to your business as you can be putting out the wrong messages in the wrong places.
A Necessity Even for SMEs
Historically, people thought that research and media monitoring are the preserve of multinational corporations with a big corporate department; it’s outside the budget parameters of average small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
However, this doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, CARMA has recently launched a service for SMEs.
Image from Unsplash
Today, we’re seeing more automation, which is fantastic. But what that misses is that client service, that consultancy that you need to set up a measurement framework. According to Jack, another way to look at things is that it’s costly not to do measurements. It’s detrimental not to know your audience.
If you’re a PR agency and you’re missing clips and you’re not able to prove your value, or you’re trying to monitor everything, you won’t be able to cut through the noise. And there are two angles there: One, it’s expensive not to do monitoring and not doing it properly. Two, it doesn’t need to be expensive if you can find the right partner to work with you; a partner who can create a service that’s not just out of the box but one that matches what you’re trying to achieve for yourself (if you’re in-house) or for your clients (if you’re a third-party agency).
Depending on your measurement maturity, measurement can go from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars a month. If you can afford to spend a few hundred dollars on Facebook advertisements every month, you can also afford to be monitoring them as well.
Measurement is an area of marketing that most business owners put off a bit. It’s not the glamorous or fun part of creating something. However, it’s ultimately the acid test of how well a business has done.
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.