Molly Huie, Senior Research Analyst, Market Connections. Inc.
In today’s government communications world, the ability to be nimble and communicate via traditional media relations, as well as to leverage social media, is critical to the success of any communications effort. For many public relations officers, this often means turning on a dime, 24/7, to provide the right information to citizens in a timely fashion.
Our friends at GovLoop recently issued the “GovLoop State of Communications Report,” which highlights the top trends in government communications taken directly from the GovLoop community. This report is an ideal primer for any government communications professional dealing with this new frontier of public relations.
One area of the report that caught our attention was the Metrics article (see page 11), since showing measurable results is often the biggest challenge of any communications effort.
While many communications professionals build metrics around simple items like the amount of re-Tweets, blog readership and Facebook activity, the reality is that agencies can dive much deeper in terms of developing metrics that provide true program-level value.
Agencies need to harness what is actually being said in social networks – positive, negative or neutral – and develop actionable steps to enhance their programs based on this feedback. Again, this goes beyond just tracking the number of blog readers to fully understanding what citizens and other stakeholders actually think and feel. In the market research world, we call this sentiment analysis.
We also recommend agencies augment this by doing traditional research in the form of Voice of the Customer (customer satisfaction) or Attitude, Awareness and Usage (AA&U) studies – depending on the agency’s business objectives. Often what a citizen is saying in a 140-character Tweet is not the full story.
For example, I once heard one researcher from Listerine on a conference panel discuss how many Twitter followers claimed that their product left a burning sensation in their mouths. For many organizations, this would be enough information to prompt a drastic change in their product offerings.
But Listerine did not stop there. It performed sentiment analysis and found that one-half of its consumers actually liked the burning sensation. The company also discovered that consumers used the products for unique things beyond tackling bad breath. Without performing sentiment and social media analysis, Listerine would not have had these insights; or worse, they would have made unnecessary changes to the product.
Of course, Listerine is a consumer company and not a government agency. But as many PR professionals know, it is all about influencing an audience, whether it’s citizens, consumers, IT professionals or funders – the list goes on and on.
Many communications professionals today justify their efforts simply through the number of followers, comments, blog readers that occur from any effort. If public relations officers really want to show value and justify their roles, we recommend taking metrics to the next level. More important, by properly harnessing how citizens feel, government agencies can use this data to improve performance.