• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • BeverlyMay
    Beverly May on August 13, 2014

    Countdown to the UX Awards: Get Discounted Tickets and Vote Now for the Winners!

    We're a partner with the UXies, the premier global awards for exceptional digital experience, which is in downtown San Francisco on September 11 after 3 years in New York!
  • Reportedly, Google is looking to target younger audiences, as far as account privileges are concerned. Basically, the company in question might lower age requirements for those who would like to sign up for YouTube and Gmail. Is this move unfounded, on the part of Google, or will it prove to be useful for long-term social media engagement amongst those who get involved earlier?

    Ask yourself this question: how young were you when you first started to use the Internet? I believe was around 7 or 8 years old when my parents allowed me to log onto America Online. To say that it was an archaic system would be an understatement, since it didn’t bode well for phone calls. In any event, we have been introduced to the online world at different periods in our lives and it wouldn't be out of the question to state that children are being introduced to it at younger ages today.

    Reportedly, Google is looking to target younger audiences, as far as account privileges are concerned. Basically, the company in question might lower age requirements for those who would like to sign up for YouTube and Gmail. At the time of this writing, Google only allows children as young as 13 years old to sign up. However, with certain workarounds that even those who aren't the most Internet-savvy can get around, those who are a few years younger than 13 could theoretically sign up.

    It's not like social networks are unanimously against the idea of younger audiences becoming involved on their websites. For example, back in 2011, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the comment, "...for education you need to start at a really, really young age," as he was one of the many individuals in support of individuals under 13 to become involved on social media. In a way, the words of authorities like Zuckerberg make sense. After all, children today are going to grow up in a world facilitated by social media, so why shouldn't they get involved early on so that they can familiarize themselves with websites like Facebook and Twitter sooner?

    As it stands, larger social companies like Google have seemingly set their sights on getting younger individuals to sign up. One could make the argument that parents are not thrilled about this and it's easy to see why. Even though anonymity is one of those traits typically associated with the Internet, the idea of personal information getting into the wrong hands is a concerning one. Why would a parent allow his or her 10-year-old child to sign up for a website that, in their mind, isn't safe?

    On the other hand, it's not exactly new to hear about companies opening up their channels to younger audiences. In fact, according to The Information, YouTube is developing a version of its well-known website for children, which will be free of vulgarity and mature content in both comments and videos alike. It's apparent that social media websites are becoming more attentive to the demands of various audiences. These websites aren't designed only for high school and college students and, from what I have seen, it's for the best.

    As the long-term success of Google's lowered age restrictions is concerned, I'd like to think that it this is where many individuals will say, "Let's wait and see." In order for this to be done effectively, parents have to be knowledgeable of their children's social media activity, regardless of whether or not age limits will be lowered. It's the most important rule that any Long Island SEO company can offer parents who are concerned about this. However, with proper supervision, the benefits of early social media engagement might very well be some of the most useful.

    Image Credit: http://www.onaylimail.com/

    It’s no secret that local social media marketing strategy is constantly changing. Instead of continually worrying about nuances found in different scenarios, it is more important to actually understand the why’s and how’s of the different strategies. Increasingly, users routinely engage with more than one major social media networking site.

    It’s no secret that local social media marketing strategy is constantly changing. Instead of continually worrying about nuances found in different scenarios, it is more important to actually understand the why’s and how’s of the different strategies. Increasingly, users routinely engage with more than one major social media networking site. Aside from the entire conglomerate of sites that technically are social media sites, including multiplayer online games (MMOs), chat rooms, blogs, and essentially any other venue where users can interact with one another, social media networking sites often go well paired together.

    Why would a marketer put Instagram links on Twitter? They don’t perform well, and the entire act is generally seen as a waste of time, especially when brands want to connect with the smartphone-crazed crowd on Twitter. However, the two brands can be bundled to form a highly effective local social media marketing strategy. Note that integration does not have to be automated.

    Even more important, bundling Instagram and Twitter can help give business owners and internet marketers more insight into how the platforms truly work. Anyone can tweet a picture or retweet a few sentences. However, the number of clicks on updated Twitter activity dashboards can be used as a crutch.

    Actually Understand What Platforms Do and How They Work[[{"fid":"149051","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_caption[und][0][format]":"filtered_html","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"style":"float: right;","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]

    Adding a URL for Instagram on Twitter can encourage user engagement, even if end users don’t click on the link. Simply having a link on a tweet can help get the right amount of user attention without being overwhelming.

    Yes, there are more important things than measuring the number of times a clickable link was used.

    This new genre of abstract social media marketing theory can benefit numerous campaigns. After all, links are part of the user experience. The platform is part of the user experience. The content that is behind the links and on the platform is just another part of the overall user experience. Is it possible that great content is often overlooked due to things that could be easily added like an Instagram link?

    Knowing How Different Social Media Platforms Can Create Value for Brands

    It’s relatively easy to follow the formula for basic user engagement. However, thinking outside the box and venturing into uncharted social media marketing territory aside from the content that is actually posted could be the answer to many national and local social media marketing quandaries. The first part of the equation is understanding how social media platforms work on an advanced level. The second part of the equation is understanding why any given target audience shows specific responses. It is important to have both pieces of the puzzle before trying to put them together.

    The Biggest Social Media Marketing Pitfall Seen Today

    Numerous social media marketing strategies fail for a simple reason. The people organizing them know how to use various platforms and tools, but they do not understand the platforms in-depth. Often, the best way to figure things out is to go beyond Twitter Analytics. Try adding a few Instagram links, and see what happens. In reality, guess and check will only go so far, so fast. Boost social media marketing by trying things that are unorthodox and seeing if they work. After all, adding Instagram links to tweets isn’t that outrageous in the grand scheme of things. 

    Recognizing and respecting that digital property is in fact “real” property requires organizations to (1) make sure they own their own domain name(s) and lay claim to related social media properties, (2) require all official email be sent via domain-linked accounts, (3) take cybersecurity seriously, (4) maintain a presentable web presence, and (5) create policies and procedures (and commit necessary resources) to maintain digital property in the best possible condition at all times.

    Although we're in at least the seventh decade of the Digital Era, and people realize how integral social and digital technologies are to both our personal and professional lives, there is still a very strong tendency to underestimate the critical role of digital property in managing a brand identity, pursuing goals and objectives, and managing risk. Digital property is often treated as if it's less important than more traditional notions of property like physical assets and tangible goods (including paper-based goods). The main reasons for this are likely:

    • It's something that many people haven't given much thought to (unless they have a tech company or online business). Everything's been changing so fast, particularly over the past few years, that many folks haven't had enough time to slow down and think about what their digital identity and activity should look like, or how they need to protect their brand(s) and organization(s) in cyberspace.
    • Compounding that issue is the fact that many people - particularly leaders - are still fairly illiterate when it comes to digital technology, and they often "don't know what they don't know." As a result, they are generally unaware of the kinds of factors they should be paying attention to and taking action on, particularly when it comes to managing risk. They also haven't prepared themselves to commit the necessary resources to ensure their digital property is well maintained and protected.
    • Finally, there is the issue of digital's "false invisibility." Unlike physical assets and other tangible materials, digital property is basically only seen when someone makes a point to look at it. So if an individual or organizational leader isn't paying attention to it, it's easy to forget it's there. Ironically, however, it actually creates much more exposure for both individuals and organizations. The number of people who can access a piece of digital property in cyberspace at any given moment is far greater than the number who can access any physical, earth-based equivalents.

    Recognizing and respecting that digital property is in fact “real” property requires a real commitment to at least five key actions. These actions are critical for organizations of all types and sizes, including "single shingle" business owners (e.g., executive coaches, consultants). Depending on their digital engagement, other professionals should consider them as well. In a nutshell, organizations should:

    • Make sure they own their own domain name(s) (and related social media accounts)
    • Restrict email communications to the organization’s domain-related address(es)
    • Take cybersecurity seriously
    • Maintain a presentable a web presence (at all times!)
    • Implement policies and procedures (and allocate time and resources) for maintaining digital property

    Treating Digital Property as "Real" Property: Recommended Actions

    Owning Domain Names and Social Media Accounts. Every organization should own their own domain name(s). This may seem obvious, but there are a lot of organizations that have never taken ownership of this key piece of digital property. I have a website client, for example, that has a valuable, well-established domain name, which is owned by their former web host. If they wanted to, they could hold the domain hostage, either refusing to transfer ownership or holding it for ransom. When scoping out work for another prospective client, I discovered they had somehow lost ownership of their domain and have had to lease it back from the legal owner to maintain their web presence. Since it's unlikely that the owner will transfer ownership to them, they will probably have to embark on a rebranding effort and acquire a new domain to secure their future ownership rights.

    In addition to owning the primary domain, it's a good idea to acquire the domain names for variations on an organization's core identity to protect the main domain and redirect people who may misspell or mistype the correct url. In addition to denovati.com, for example, we own denovati.net and denovati.org, as well as the domains for the alternative spelling, denovani.

    Organizations may also want to engaged in what I call a "digital land grab" to claim related social media properties such as YouTube channels, Twitter handles, and Facebook pages. Even if they're not needed in the short term, it's better to reserve them just in case. I have a digital coaching client, for example, who owns several brand names and domains and is trying to decide which will be her primary digital brand. I encouraged her to reserve related Twitter handles until she makes her decision, so she doesn't run the risk of losing any of them (which is what happened to another client of mine).

    Restricting Email Communication. Email communications should be restricted to the organization's domain-related address(es). I can't emphasize enough how important this is, and how not doing it creates unnecessary exposure and risk for an organization, particularly when email messages include proprietary and confidential information. Let me start by sharing some "unrecommended practice" examples I've encountered:

    • Years ago I worked at a firm that had a group of employees who never read their work emails. Rather than insist they they use their work email, the firm accommodated the employees by sending messages to their personal Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail and other accounts on public email providers. More recently, I worked with a non-profit social services organization in which virtually everyone communicated using their personal email accounts even though they all had work accounts.
    • The employees of two other non-profit organizations I have been working with recently use email addresses associated with academic institutions that provide some support for them (e.g., office space) but with which they're not officially affiliated, rather than addresses connected to their own digital identity.
    • The staff of the management company that runs my condo building use either personal email accounts or accounts associated with the management company for all building-related correspondence, rather than using email addresses attached to the domain for our building (which just so happens to be owned by a board member rather than the condo association - oy).

    Some may think these examples are no big deal, but they create both risk and confusion. The first risk, as noted above, is that confidential and propriety information is not only being communicated via unofficial (and in some cases insecure) channels, it's also being stored offsite. If an organization would not want an employee to take certain work documents home and leave them there, why is it okay to allow them to do the digital equivalent?

    There's also the risk that the organization can't properly lay claim to or manage their own email property. Obviously it would be virtually impossible to retrieve all the organizationally-focused messages and related materials stored in people's personal email accounts. But it could also be tricky to retrieve digital property that's effectively owned by another organization (i.e., the academic institutions and management company in the examples above), particularly if the relationship with them ends on bad terms.

    And finally, using a domain that isn't associated with the organization or its brands can create confusion and may undermine the organization's objectives. In the case of the non-profits, for example, people may think they're dealing with an employee of the university, and/or that the communications and activities of the non-profit are officially-sanctioned university activities. They could also get the impression that the non-profits receive significant financial support from the academic institutions, which could hinder fund-raising efforts. Note: although I am not as familiar with how this practice works, there may also be some risks for small organizations (in particular) who choose to use an email platform like Gmail, but mask it with their domain-focused email address. Anyone choosing this option would be well advised to read the fine print in the user agreement to ensure they have full rights to the content they create and all related Google data (e.g., contacts, calendar info), in addition to having their privacy rights reasonably protected.

    Taking Cybersecurity Seriously. It seems that not a day goes by that we don't hear about some security breach that puts both individuals and organizations at risk. We may be fighting a losing battle to some extent, but there's no excuse for not using good cybersense. One of the most important things we can all do is to establish strong (and unique!) passwords for every site we use. As noted in this article, "The question you need to ask yourself is would you trust (a) site to have a copy of your house key. If your house key could be copied instantly and used anywhere in the world by any person in the world, you wouldn't." They go on to advise, "Use a different password for each account you use — you wouldn't use the same key in all of your locks, so the same goes for passwords."

    As with individuals, good password security for organizations means not picking obvious choices. For example, a hot dog stand that was established in 1932 should avoid passwords like "hotdogs1932," "hotdogs32," "hotdogs32!" and even "23sgodtoh," as they are all easy to guess. Good password security is especially important for accounts that include confidential and/or financial information (e.g., PayPal accounts).

    To reduce vulnerability to spam, unauthorized website access, and the malware that can be transmitted via email, organizations should not include individual email addresses on their website(s); they should use generic addresses like info@ or email@ instead. Better yet, all communication from a website should be funneled through an online form that includes a Captcha or some other feature to prevent bots from getting through.

    As much as possible, organizations should limit access to digital property (even through their physical property!) to ensure that the smallest number of people necessary have access to various accounts. This applies to employees, of course, but also outsiders. Access for vendors or service providers should be deactivated after their contract ends, just as you would with an employee as part of the exit process.

    And of course education is key. Everyone in an organization should be aware of the potential risks of exposure, as well as the possible entry points into various systems. Even the most sophisticated software in the world can't protect against what is often the weakest line of defense: people. It's important to make sure they're informed, and that they are smart about where and how they engage.

    Maintaining a Good Web Presence. If an organization is going to have a website, it should look good and be a positive representation of the organization and its brand(s). Even if a site doesn't still have the flying flag gif (remember those?), that doesn't mean it not's conveying a sense of being old and out of date. Here again are some cautionary examples from clients and other connections:

    • A single landing-page only site intended to be temporary but persisting for years
    • A static, anemic site with little relevant info
    • Broken links, missing images and other significant errors
    • An unsophisticated site with an out-of-date look and feel (think shag carpeting, avocado green appliances, fussy furniture)
    • A (many years out of date) blog, and/or one with only a few entries

    Websites have changed a lot in the past couple of years, particularly to accommodate mobile devices, and if your website is your main digital hub you want it look good and reflect positively on your organization/brand. If you and your staff no longer wear giant, face-filling eyeglasses, muttonchop sideburns, big hair, and/or oversized shoulder pads, why would you want your digital property to convey the sense it was designed by Mike Brady or that your personal stylist is Austin Powers?

    Maintaining a decent website requires a lot of time and hard work. Don't have a website just because you think you have to have a website. Make sure it's necessary for your objectives and brands. If you're a "single shingle" professional, for example, you may only need a personal LinkedIn profile (especially now that they include a blogging feature) and possibly a company page. Again, use a physical world equivalent (e.g., a storefront, an office) to decide how important a website is, and whether it's worth the effort to create and manage.

    Although they're unlikely to look dated in the same way, social media profiles can also poorly reflect on an organization and its brand(s) by not making proper use of the core design elements for things like Twitter accounts, brand and company pages on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, and YouTube and SlideShare channels. Problems also arise when these profiles/accounts include erroneous or out of date information, such as Christmas hours in April, and old phone numbers and addresses. In addition to poorly constructed and managed organizational profiles, missing, anemic and inaccurate individual profiles on platforms like LinkedIn can be problematic as well - particularly if they're associated with organizational leaders and other professionals with an external focus (e.g., sales, business development, recruiting).

    And of course there's the problem of what I refer to as "digital detritus," which often happens when organizations abandon certain platforms or accounts without making an effort to board up, tear down, and or redirect visitors from digital property that is no longer being used. What kind of message does this convey to clients and prospects about the care and attention you're likely to give to their accounts and the products and services you provide them? Would you want your company sign hanging on a building or office you no longer use (particularly one that looks dilapidated)? Once again, if that's not a choice you'd make in the physical world, it shouldn't be okay in cyberspace...

    Making Maintenance a Priority. Organizations need to implement policies and procedures (and allocate time and resources) for maintaining digital property. One of the things that has become clear in the digital audits I've conducted, however, is that many organizations haven't yet extended thinking about their operations from the physical world to cyberspace. I think the primary reason is the "false invisibility" of digital property. For example, one of my clients, a high-end grocery retailer that takes extreme pride in the quality of their brand, would never allow out-of-date signage in their stores (e.g., announcing Christmas hours around Easter), but there were numerous instances of that very thing on various pieces of their digital property (e.g., store-based websites, Facebook pages). Similarly, another client that runs an annual event is not nearly as quick at tidying up their website after the event ends as they are at putting away all the physical artifacts.

    If you were to ask the grocery retailer how they keep their stores in such great shape, they would likely explain that they have various maintenance procedures in place, as well as a system for tracking and monitoring to make sure everything is in order. They would also say that responsibilities are clearly defined and that they make sure staff are properly trained to successfully complete assigned tasks.

    That kind of operational logic, which is so well established in the physical world, has to be extended to digital property as well. Organizations have to build digital maintenance into people's jobs, ensure staff have the required knowledge, skills and abilities, develop and implement a set of maintenance procedures, and monitor digital spaces on a regular basis. Doing this requires time, so leaders need to be sure staff have the capacity to incorporate digital activities into their regular work schedules.

    If current staff don't have the time or skills to take these tasks on, organizations should add a full or part-time position or outsource the activity. If there aren't enough financial resources to add staff or hire outside help, it may be necessary to pull back on digital commitments. In most cases, a small (or nonexistent) digital footprint is likely better than a poorly maintained and managed one that reflects badly on the organization and its brand(s).

      Your Thoughts?

      As always, I welcome your feedback. What questions has this piece raised for you? What would you add to, change, or delete from the recommendations provided?

      Just think about all the updates, posts, tweets, status messages and pins you see every day. What is it that makes you read or click through a post? A careful analysis shows that most activity in social media sites is triggered by visual representations or images. Our brains are more likely to be responsive to stimuli that incites an emotional reaction.
      It is fascinating that the world has taken to Social Media as fish takes to water. However, sometimes there looms a feeling of monotonousness and replication as to what we are seeing or reading. What you need to keep your community or followers engaged is a spark that can generate interest and initiate a discussion. At the end, our brains are more likely to be responsive to stimuli that incites an emotional reaction.
       
      Just think about all the updates, posts, tweets, status messages and pins you see every day. What is it that makes you read or click through a post? A careful analysis shows that most activity in social media sites is triggered by visual representations or images. But if you delve deeper you will still find distinctions that one that is breathtaking or the quirkiest, grabs the most attention. You must be thinking right now, how true it is!
       
      Here are a few tips as to how you too can improve your business by using Images in social media marketing:
       
      Understand Your Networking Community
       
      Knowing and understanding your social network or community is important for judging how images can be strategically used to target customers, so as to get the best benefit in business. Not only does it prove effective in raising your brand, but also facilitates SEO besides improving site traffic.
       
       
      It is also highly important to understand the customers who are interacting in your social media networks and publish content with ‘well-thought’ images that will grab their attention and even encourage them to share with their networks. 
       
      Use Unique and Engaging Images
       
      Social media is currently suffering from the problem of plenty; therefore it is essential for you to really stand out and make an impression that provokes a customer to take an action like share, retweet or pin. Similarly, for using images make sure to create original and engaging image designs using Photoshop, InDesign and/or Illustrator.
       
       
      Project Your Business in Visuals
       
      Visuals can be the best medium to project your business and create an instant impression in the minds of the customers. Create an optimum design strategy for your social media marketing campaigns and spice up your content by adding interactive illustration or a pictorial layout that will surprise and enthrall your customers.
       
       
      Collages that tells Stories
       
      Are you unsure about which image from a cluster of them will project your business in a better way? Well, use the confusion to your advantage. Create a collage of high resolution pictures and place it in strategic location like the header of your homepage and the landing pages for an effective response.
       
       
      Visualizing Testimonials
       
      Studies have shown that products reviews with images and videos or testimonials with images get better response and prove to be an effective and conversion-friendly technique for generating leads. So the tip is gather quite a few number of reviews and testimonials with images and share them on your social media network to your advantage.
       
       
      Display Your Laurels
       
      Build online reputation by sharing images of your achievements, awards and laurels you have garnered with your social network. Surveys have shown that businesses have managed to successfully use images of award winning products, appraisals, etc. to their advantage as a branding tool. Have you ever tried doing that?
       
       
      Project your Best
       
      One of the best ways to attain social media success through images is to project your best face forward. It can be either showcasing the superior quality of your products through visual imagery, with zooming option (just as you see for smartphones), or an illustrated image with brief text. Studies have shown that this technique creates a better transparency with your customer as they get to see what they will be getting.
       
       
      Infographics
       
      Infographics is now the emerging trend dominating the social media world. Being highly interactive visual representations of information, data and knowledge intended, it manages to quickly and effectively present complex information. And believe me users are really loving it!
       
       
      Infographic Image: Pinterest/ starbucks
       
      KEEP A TRACK HOW YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA IMAGES ARE WORKING
       
      Regardless of the measures you have been taking to improve your business using visuals courtesy social media marketing, it is imperative that you keep a close track of how ‘actually’ your images are working. Are they generating enough interest and attention? Are they getting enough shares, retweets and pins ups.
       
      If not, then you really need to re-strategize your social media marketing plans involving the images you have been using. Remember, your images should speak and denote your business. Because, as the old adage goes ‘An image can speak a thousand words’.
       
      So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and create a visual that can effectively communicate the information as well as capture the attention of your followers and customers.

       

      We all understand intuitively what "kicking butt" represents for our particular brand or organization. But thanks to PR measurement expert Katie Delahaye Paine, we have a tool called the Kick-Butt Index (KBI) that allows us to measure PR in a way that's relevant for clients. Here’s why I believe the KBI is a good way to approach the evaluation and reporting of PR campaigns.

      In business, everyone wants to kick a little butt.

      In my field, that means scoring a big win for a client—whether it's securing a feature article in a national newspaper, improving engagement on a Facebook page or creating an eBook that attracts thousands of downloads.

      For your business, kicking butt will mean something different.

      We all understand intuitively what "kicking butt" represents for our particular brand or organization. And thanks to PR measurement expert Katie Delahaye Paine, we have a tool called the Kick-Butt Index (KBI) that allows us to measure PR in a way that's relevant for clients.

      Here’s why I believe the KBI is a good way to approach the evaluation and reporting of PR campaigns.

      The public relations measurement challenge

      To begin, let’s use media relations and blogger outreach to put some context around the subject.

      Media and blogger outreach is typically a top-of-the-funnel activity that builds brand awareness, an important measurement metric for all products and services. If people haven't heard of your brand, they won’t be able to purchase it. Also, awareness is a helpful metric because it usually correlates to brand market share—and sales.

      However, a number of challenges arise when you attempt to use awareness to evaluate a media and blogger outreach program: 

      • It's costly to measure the impact a marketing program has on awareness. In fact, tracking studies are typically more expensive to implement than most media relations programs.
      • Brands market their products using a variety of tactics, including advertising, sales promotion and social media. Unfortunately, tracking studies aren't good at isolating the individual impact of each tactic. For example, it's not possible to know definitively how much earned media moved the needle versus paid or owned.
      • It is difficult to connect the dots from the moment someone first encounters your brand to their actual purchase of it. B2B brands that use marketing automation software can do closed-loop marketing to map the journey to purchase, but consumer brands sold through traditional retail channels are generally in the dark about how a prospect moves through their sales funnel. 

      The state of public relations measurement today

      Several years ago, the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) standardized media relations evaluation in this country with the introduction of Media Relations Rating Points (MRP).

      This approach pairs audited impressions (more correctly called “opportunities to see,” since there's no guarantee that a media outlet’s entire audience actually saw an interview or article) with a qualitative tool called the MRP score - which is definitely a step in the right direction.

      Prior to its introduction, PR professionals evaluated editorial media coverage in an inconsistent manner. For one thing, we didn't have access to audited audience numbers, relying instead on the sometimes unreliable numbers provided by the media outlets themselves.

      Some practitioners also used multipliers to increase the number of impressions. Their reasoning was that the reported impressions failed to account for multiple readers per copy (in the case of magazines), or that their earned media impressions had greater credibility than paid impressions.

      The good news is there's now uniform consensus in the industry that multipliers are little more than a best guess... and a definite no-no when it comes to PR measurement.

      Another questionable practice is the use of advertising value equivalency (AVE) to determine the value of PR. In this approach, the PR professional calculates the cost of placing an ad of the same size or length as the PR coverage.

      Most practitioners accept that earned media is very different from paid, so comparing the two in this way makes little sense. For example, ads are always positive and focused on the brand. Earned media can be positive, neutral or negative; itmay feature the brand prominently or merely mention it in passing.

      The impact of social media and the rise of the independent blogger

      MRP has significantly improved the evaluation and reporting of traditional PR. However, it's difficult to use this measurement standard—at least the quantitative part—for independent bloggers because accurate audience numbers are not available for independent online media. This piece of our earned media efforts needs to rely on a qualitative metric.

      Measurement accuracy is also a problem in shared media. In the case of Twitter, for example, some PR practitioners are incorporating followers into audience impression numbers. An influencer with 10,000 followers that tweets 4 times adds 40,000 impressions, or "opportunities to see," to a program’s tally.

      Given the half life of a tweet, this approach grossly overestimates the program's reach and its impact on a brand.

      Enter the Kick-Butt Index, which is a beefed up version of MRP’s qualitative score.

      What is the Kick-Butt Index?

      The concept involves determining, for any particular client, the attributes of the ideal communications effort, whether PR, advertising or something else. Once you've identified these attributes, you assign a value to each with a total value of 10. The ideal program would score a perfect 10. Now, instead of guessing at your success, you're able to evaluate it based on clear criteria that your client has deemed meaningful.

      What do I mean by meaningful? The criteria a company incorporates into its KBI should reflect how it creates value and drives business.

      For instance, when a company develops a magazine ad for its brand, what MUST be included in the ad? In the case of a food product, it will likely be an appetizing photo of the brand, a positive headline, and copy that encourages a reader to view the brand in a positive way.

      Here's an example of a Kick-Butt Index for an earned media article:

      brand kbi

      Score every article generated by the program individually; then tally the score and divide it by the number of articles to see the average KBI for the entire program.

      Benchmark KBI

      Of course, you'll want every article to score a 10 out of 10, but since perfection is unrealistic, I propose an initial benchmark for success of 70%. That is, the average score of all the articles should be at least 7 out of 10. This figure is totally arbitrary, but once you incorporate the KBI into a few PR programs, you'll get a sense of a reasonable target for your brand.

      What about shared media?

      According to the Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards, the widespread use of social media has made it crucial to take "shared" media into account.

      While there is no uniform consensus on how to go about it, they recommend using "shared" metrics as a way to evaluate paid, earned and owned media. The “shared” metrics refer to the number of times people share  a particular piece of content with others, including tweets, likes, LinkedIn shares and Google+ shares.

      In an earned media campaign, it's typically straightforward to count the number of shares each online article or blog post receives. There's no standard benchmark, but over time you'll accumulate enough data to establish one for your business.

      It’s not perfect

      Like the CPRS' MRP score, the KBI measures outputs instead of business outcomes, so it’s not perfect. In my books, however, the KBI is preferable to some of the other approaches, past and present, used to evaluate PR success.

      Most importantly, it's a flexible tool that allows you to customize the metrics for each of your clients. The Kick-Butt Index means you can finally not only define success narrowly and precisely, but also measure it clearly and accurately.