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PR measurement made easier in five simple steps

Catherine Blades

The key is capturing sentiment and making real-time adjustments when needed. Whoever owns the channel owns the metric

Catherine Hernandez-Blades, Aflac

How many of you read results of an annual employee survey, pick three areas where scores are lowest, and throw a bunch of communications activities at them and hope something works? After reading this article, you’ll never do it again. Promise.

Below are five tactics that can help – and each shares some common steps: You must determine the end state; isolate the metric; and create a feedback loop to ensure results – not just activities – get measured. That ensures you always solve for the right “X.”

1. Employee engagement

Start with getting executive leadership to agree on what activities constitute an engaged employee. Volunteer hours? Committee service? Mentoring? Once you agree, create a weighted index. Then count and plug the numbers into the index. This can be anything your leadership wants it to be. And it’s easy to execute.

2. Sales contests

How do you know communications’ impact on sales results? One way is to segment a group to serve as a “control” team. All salespeople will get the same set of information initially and the same updates throughout the contest period. The control team would receive daily motivational messages from the corporate communications team. At the end of the contest period, compare results from the two teams and see which cumulative total is higher.

3. Measure beyond activity

Let’s say the CEO wants more employee engagement in environmental and sustainability efforts, requiring an internal PR initiative. We do this in three steps. The first is what we call end state: Give away trees on Arbor Day and ensure employees actually plant them. Then isolate the metric. Employees should only be able to sign up for a free tree through the intranet portal, which should also be the only way employees learn of the giveaway.

The final step is the feedback loop. Any employee who sends in a photo of the planted tree enters into a drawing for free yard service all summer. The first two points measure activity. By incorporating the third point, you can calculate how much oxygen is produced as a result of each planted tree (results) and how many employees participated (more results).

4. Social engagement means real-time results

To start, efforts must be firmly grounded in the real world first, before entering the virtual one.

Aflac recently posted a Facebook message of policyholder support in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. It conveyed an assurance that policies for those directly impacted would not lapse for 60 days and toward the end of that time, we would reach out to see how we could continue providing support. We also noted the $500,000 donation we made to the American Red Cross, as well as our employees’ private contributions.

This post reached more than 66,000 people in the first 14 hours – and the comments were overwhelmingly positive. Audience engagement drives the metric here. The key is capturing sentiment and making real-time adjustments when needed. Whoever owns the channel owns the metric.

5. Benchmarking

The Reputation Institute (RI) has built a model weighted by industry that identifies seven dimensions of corporate reputation. Within those are 20-plus attributes. By deconstructing the model, the areas that can provide the most lift are revealed. In the insurance industry, almost half of the weighted model is in the dimensions covering governance, workplace, and citizenship.

Based on this information, Aflac engaged in a three-year plan to tell our CSR story. Only 18 months into the strategic plan, Aflac’s RI pulse score increased five-plus points. Three is considered statistically significant. We also claimed the highest reputation score of any U.S. insurance company. And the data is verified by a credible, independent third party.

In the end, it comes down to buy, build, or partner, while ensuring the right “X” is being solved.


Catherine HernandezBlades is SVP of corporate communications at Aflac.


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