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If we look at the banking industry today, it’s clear that there are huge challenges for banks in adapting to a changing PR landscape.

As the social internet revolutionises the way we market ourselves, and financial marketers are provided with a whole new paradigm of tools to prove their worth - PR can sometimes seem to be struggling to re-invent itself.

Like it or not, there is still the expectation for PR departments in the financial services sector to provide a cuttings book every month to demonstrate success.

However, we know that due to the development of digital channels, the cuttings book is just not a nuanced enough tool to track and measure the success of a whole campaign anymore (if it ever was). 

It’s not that banks are technologically backwards - there is a growing acknowledgement that social has a starring role to play in PR and banks aren’t immune to this importance.

But, to take on social, we need smarter ways to measure PR. The problem being, is that the cuttings book is such an easy way to explain what we do – it has immediate relevance to those who don’t necessarily understand some of the intangible benefits of great PR.

At first direct, our current approach is to measure our PR both strategically and tactically, we can then reflect on them in different ways to ensure we are meeting what we set out to achieve.

Our strategic measurement goals, those looking at the long term results like the reputation of first direct, Net Promoter score and the general position of first direct as a bank, help us provide context on day-to-day activity or shorter terms campaigns, while tactical measurement examines how effective each individual activity is.

The challenge for tiered measurement structures like this is in understanding how we can relate them together to provide a complete picture of the effectiveness/otherwise of our PR function.

Inevitably, tiered measurement leads to a degree of confusion as it becomes impossible to isolate the effect that tactical activity is having on the strategic whole.

However, in an attempt to find a more linear measurement structure, we’ve been looking at some of the impact assessment work done in the public sector, where it seems that thinking in this area is much more developed, and it looks like the model should be easily transferable.

This new model should provide us with a step by step process – and measurables along the way – that tracks activity from the beginning all the way through to isolate its impact on the business.

Returning to my first point, people like clippings books because they can see that their investment has resulted in something. Saying that "we got a thousand tweets or a hundred new links" just doesn’t have the same resonance. If though, we can say "we got a thousand tweets, that lead to"… then it becomes a very different conversation.

We’ll be implementing our framework over the coming weeks, so I’ll post again early next month on its early stages, how we’re refining it and what it has lead us to do differently. 

Natalie Cowen

Published 19 March, 2012 by Natalie Cowen

Natalie Cowan is Head of Brand and Communications at first direct and a contributor to Econsultancy.

7 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Doug Baxter

There is a side point here about where responsibility social media channel management exists, and whether that is internally in a PR department. Here in the US, the consensus is that clients who try to handle it themselves are getting overwhelmed and in instances, handling it badly or not at all as a result. The more important social media becomes to reputation and customer acquisition, the louder the case for specialist agencies.

over 4 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

Even as a small organisation, we gave up keeping press cuttings years ago. Instead we use Delicious to tag stuff we find online about Econsultancy (see http://delicious.com/Econsultancy_Press) and then automatically pull this through a page within our online Press Centre (see http://econsultancy.com/uk/about/press/mentions)

over 4 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

p.s. from a business case/ROI point of view for this kind of online PR/coverage you can, of course, look at the amount of direct traffic you get (where there are links), or any halo effect in the nature/volume of searches/referrals when you get coverage, to gauge value.

However, at Econsultancy we easily justify all of this under 'SEO' as the key value driver - whilst it is hard to measure exactly we are convinced enough of the value of links (and even mentions) from 'online PR' for helping our search rankings; and we know the latter are *extremely* important to us. So we've reached the stage where we don't even question the business case - it is just part of what we do and accept as 'business as usual'. We are, of course, small and digital-focussed, but I think all businesses will realise this in the end.

over 4 years ago

Natalie Cowen

Natalie Cowen, Head of Brand and Communications at first direct

@ Doug - thanks for your comment. We manage all our social media channels internally with teams from PR, digital marketing and customer service. However, we believe the question of ownership and engagement through these platforms is really irrelevant, what matters is that they are a first direct employee and can talk freely in context.

@ Ashley - thanks for your response. It’s interesting to hear how Econsultancy measures online activity, but isn't tagging on Delicious collation, just as with amassing clippings in a coverage report? Collating clippings is important to us but we also need to know what value they are driving so, for example, understanding the way digital coverage impacts on search rankings is equally, if not more important.

over 4 years ago

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