I was going to try and have a post plugging today’s #measurePR chat up early today… but then I realized it would be so much better if I was able to get the recap up instead.

Right?

So here I am!

We had a great turnout for today’s chat, which I was very happy about. Well, I’m always happy when we have a good turnout, but especially considering we had to reschedule the previous chat, I was wondering if y’all would remember it.

What was I thinking? You never disappoint.

Today, Seth Duncan of Beyond came back as our special guest. When we were mulling over what to focus the chat on, we thought discussing “outcomes” would be good, since very often, practitioners focus solely or primarily on outputs.

Here are the questions I asked Seth today (and so many other folks responded too):

  1. What is your definition of outcomes in public relations?
  2. Are there any outcomes that are standard to organizations across the board?
  3. Can you define what a “KPI” is?
  4. Is there a difference between KPIs, PR outcomes and business outcomes?
  5. What are some cost-effective ways of correlating outputs to outcomes?

Now, you might think some of these are really basic questions, but the truth is that they can still flummox practitioners who’ve had years, even decades of experience.

And especially since the chat brings together folks at all levels of experience, we thought it would be good to focus the conversation around outcomes with these questions.

Here are some of the insights from today’s chat:

Definition of outcomes in public relations

Seth said (and I’m pulling his answer over several tweets together, so it might not be verbatim),

“There are two types of outcomes in PR: business outcomes and PR outcomes.

“Business outcomes tend to have two qualities in common; first, they have to be a measure of behavioral change (sales or otherwise); and second, as a metric, business outcomes must make sense/be recognizable across an organization.”

He continued by saying that PR outcomes can be broader, and can refer to any part of the communication “life cycle” or “funnel,” with the funnel stages being:

a. Awareness

b. Knowledge

c. Preference

d. Behavior

To note: Seth also made the point that business outcomes primarily refer to the behavioral part of the communication funnel.

As to whether or not there are standard outcomes for organizations across the board…

No, not really, according to Seth (and I was personally delighted by his answer because I agree that there is no one-stop solution when it comes to measurement. If it’s going to be good, it has to be customized).

Seth made the point that while sales is obviously one of the most-talked about business outcomes, it’s not relevant for many organizations, but that “cost savings is a universal outcome metric that could be applied to any organization.”

Again, quoting Seth:

“It’s important to remember that business outcomes for PR aren’t just expressed in dollars. Business outcomes could also be employee turnover rates, favorable legislation, etc.”

It was interesting that towards the end of the chat, the whole “sales thing” came up again. When Seth wondered aloud at this (and I retweeted him) Eric Bryant said:

The point Seth was trying to make earlier (and I agree with him) is that while profit is the goal of business, increasing sales is not the only way to go about it. Right?

Anyhoo, moving along…

What is a “KPI”?

The reason I asked this of Seth was that this is a question I get asked often, and it drove my students at Johns Hopkins to distraction last year. So I figured there are probably a lot of people who have the same question.

Here’s what Seth had to say: “For PR, it’s any metric that can be correlated with the various stages described in A1.

Noting that there were quite a few comments about how KPIs need both context, strategy and relevance, Seth continued to say that the need should be framed in terms of awareness, knowledge and actual behavior.

As an example, Seth said that “share of voice” is a good KPI, but it says more about awareness than business outcomes.

And Anne Buchanan made a good point when she said:

Is there a difference between KPIs, business outcomes and PR outcomes?

Seth: “KPIs can refer to any part of a communication campaign: they could be PR activities, media results, or behavior.

“PR outcomes usually refer to any end results of the communication campaign. The outcome for [the] early stages of a campaign might be increased consumer awareness measured through primary research …”

And then he said something that sparked a LOT of debate:

“… I also think there’s agreement that business outcomes are a subset of PR outcomes that are specific to behavior.”

Quite a few folk felt it’s the opposite, and I asked Seth to explain this further.

He said, “Some parts of PR campaigns are about getting messages out, changing awareness, etc. These should lead to business outcomes, but should be measured in their own right; [it] makes measurement more actionable.”

Finally, what are some cost-effective ways of correlating outputs to outcomes?

Seth mentioned using web analytics, and acknowledged that correlating PR activities to offline business outcomes is more difficult. Market mix modeling is an option (and one that he mentioned) but not inexpensive, so out of the reach of many companies.

He then said, “The second way to measure offline business outcomes is to use primary research. Just ask your customers, ‘Where did you hear about us?’ ‘Do you follow us on Twitter?’, etc.”

He also made it a point to note that “there a near infinite number of other ways to measure outcomes, these are just two often-used ones.”

Good stuff, eh?

I know you’re probably dying – DYING! – to read through the whole chat, so here’s the transcript of today’s #measurePR Twitter chat with Seth Duncan.

When’s the next chat, you ask?

I’m so glad you did!

Feb. 15, 12-1 pm ET, with Jim Sterne.

Jim is a total web analytics guru, and I’m stoked that he’s making time in his busy schedule for our chat.

So please do save the date and join us. I know web analytics is an area many public relations practitioners have questions about, so if you have a question you’d like Jim to answer, how about bunging it in here?

Or directly here:

See you then!

Head shot courtesy Seth Duncan

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke