10 PR measurement predictions for 2015

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Happy New Year! The PR and social media measurement industry is going through some exciting times, and you’ve probably read plenty of review-of-the-past-year articles, (including mine: The Measurement Industry’s Evil Empire?).

So now I will gaze into my crystal ball and look forward to the excitement our industry holds in the coming year.

1. Don’t count the little guys out yet.

2015 will be a boom year for the independent public relations and social media monitoring and/or measurement companies that remain standing. GTCR’s consolidation of Cision, Vocus, Visible and Gorkana into a single monitoring and measurement company no doubt will change the metrics landscape, but it will be 2016 before clients see benefits of the deal.

The recent order from the UK’s anti-trust watchdog group, the Competition and Markets Authority, puts on hold any benefits from the proposed consolidation of Gorkhana/Cision/Vocus. This means that for most of 2015, established customers will continue to face at least three different platforms, and prospects will wonder what they’re buying.

2. Customers will continue to be frustrated, so opportunities abound.

A fascinating discussion of vendor pros and cons begun by Jon-Michael Basile on LinkedIn reveals a wide range of consumer confusion, frustration and, yes, even some satisfaction with the big players in the industry. The 50 comments (so far), mostly cover customer experiences with Vocus, Cision and Meltwater. These vendors are revealed as good for some things and bad for others, with a surprising number of specific negative comments, distributed more or less equally among the three.

That conversation suggests that while GTCR gets its act together in the next 15 months or so, there will be tremendous opportunity for industry stalwarts like BurrellesLuce, CyberAlert and CustomScoop to gain market share—largely because much of the confusion arises from clients’ failure to articulate their own needs and from vendors’ over-promising their capabilities.

3. Social media listening tools, media monitoring and influence measurement must dovetail.

As the lines between traditional and social media continue to blur, social monitoring platforms are offering more and more traditional media integration in their packages. The problem is that the volume of social chatter overwhelms traditional news. When you try to figure out just who matters or what topic is trending with the people who matter, the data are meaningless.

Big platforms such as Visible, NetBase and Radian 6 rank authors by their Klout score (God forbid) or the number of followers, but doing so overlooks any influential voices that may be well connected but not prolific on social media. Systems such as Trackur and LittleBird can identify the truly influential. Either through acquisition or partnering, these systems will begin to be incorporated into social media monitoring platforms.

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4. Consolidation will come to the social analytics marketplace.

As if clients weren’t confused enough by the maneuverings in the monitoring/measurement/PR services world, the social media analytics world is even worse. As in the old PR measurement world, there are myriad tools to do different things:

  1. There are companies that do a great job helping you distribute your content on social media, including Sprinklr, HootSuite and Spreadfast.
  2. There are companies that do a great job monitoring, such as NetBase and Sysomos.
  3. Then there are the companies that excel at metrics that tell you whether all that distributing and listening are having any impact, such as Simply Measured and Social Bro.

To date, no one does all three functions well. The people doing the “pushing it out” function have got to get better at measurement, and the measurement companies will be forced by client demand to do a better job managing engagement. Look for a GTCR-like consolidation move sometime in 2015.

5. A major brand will make a major mistake based on flawed social listening data.

Having both offered and used social listening services in the last decade, I know how incredibly easy it is to jump to a conclusion only to find out that the data are fundamentally flawed.

The pretty pie chart that automatically shows up on your dashboard may stun you with dramatically bad news, but the real story might turn out to be a whole bunch of people panning a book character who shares a name with your brand. Or perhaps your automated analysis system has decided that “cheaper” is a negative adjective, when you just proudly announced a major reduction in your prices.

As I keep telling clients, there never will be a fully “automated” system. Unless you have humans checking, reviewing and correcting the data daily or weekly, you run a high risk of reporting flawed numbers. In the meantime, look for some high-profile embarrassment as a result.

6. Measurement sherpa will make it onto a list of the “jobs with the most potential” in 2015.

For the first time in my memory, a job title that includes “research” actually made it onto a list of “Jobs with the Most Potential…” Although measurement sherpa isn’t a category CareerBuilder is tracking yet, I predict that if the folks there knew what a measurement sherpa does, it would be on the list.

There is a surge in demand for data analysts and people who can glean meaning from data. PR agencies and departments worldwide increasingly are being asked to demonstrate their value, and that necessitates measurement.

That is where measurement sherpas—or research assistants, or whatever you call those people in charge of monitoring and/or evaluation—can wield so much power. A good measurement sherpa can turn out a report in four hours or less. When someone does that consistently and those reports make it into the boardroom, that person will start to get noticed.

7. Integrated dashboards will become the new PowerPoints.

I’ve spent far too much time formatting numbers into a PowerPoint deck, so I know how easy it is to make mistakes. That’s part of the appeal of powerful dashboard platforms such as Tableau, SAS and Clik, which take data from various sources and automatically bring them into a single dashboard, from which you can present results and analyze the data.

There isn’t yet, and probably never will be, one company that does everything well. So, clients continue to buy the tool that is best for their needs, but then are left with no easy way to combine results from Google Analytics, Simply Measured, NetBase and the like. That is why you’ll see a major shift not just in corporate America, but in nonprofit, higher education and DMO circles as well.

8. Nonprofits and destination marketers will lead the way in proving the ROI of social media.

In these days of sophisticated social metrics and CRM, it is easier for nonprofits and destination marketers to make a connection between their publicity efforts and, if not ROI, then at least results. Because these organizations tend to be smaller and more focused on their missions, data are more easily shared between departments. For this reason, organizations such as Atlantic City Alliance and National Wildlife Federation are making substantial advances in measuring results. On the destination marketing side, technology like that of Arrivalist will make it even easier. Look for great case studies emerging from these sectors in 2015.

9. Business schools and communications departments will join forces to teach measurement.

Universities including McMaster and Syracuse are joining forces to teach business to PR people. Unfortunately, not enough business schools are teaching PR well, but I predict that will change.

Business leaders are more aware than ever of the potential costs and risks associated with mismanaged PR—note NFL, Uber, LuluLemon, Centerplate, etc.—which is one reason why PR people are finally getting some, if not all, of the respect they deserve. The problem is that if the PR people themselves don’t understand the business implications of what they do, they won’t hold that seat at the table for very long. That is why educators at the forefront of PR and business will come together in 2015 and create the courses that the next generation of PR and business people need to succeed.

10. Paine Publishing will debut at least two new eBooks.

This isn’t much of a stretch, as we already have these in the works. So, I’ll definitely be right on at least one of these predictions. 

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