5 min read

Modern Media Measurement

Our view on the metrics that matter in a complex, fragmented media landscape.
Modern Media Measurement

Watershed's mission is to help advance our clients' reputation and key business initiatives by providing total media awareness.

We've been doing exactly this for 20 years now, and in that time have watched the media environment change dramatically. Today the public media sphere is ever more complex and fragmented, with various influencers, viral moments, memes, and niche communities playing outsized roles, often in unpredictable ways.

What does this mean for media measurement?

It's a question that energizes us here at Watershed. In this post we will explain our approach to media measurement—what we call modern media measurement—developed over years of listening closely to our clients, and carefully designed to serve their rapidly-evolving needs.  

Earned, Shared, Owned, Paid

All corporate communicators need to know the ground truth of how their brand is being discussed in the media and online.

The good, the bad, and the ugly can turn up anywhere, anytime, in any media (a good reason to have trusted media monitoring in place). The goal of media measurement is to place this media coverage—good or bad—in a broader context that also considers other factors: your business objectives, benchmarks of peer and competitor activity, trends over time, strategic opportunities, team performance goals, and more.

Effective media measurement should help you step back from the daily flow of stories and social posts and make sense of the whole. It must be aligned to your organization's specific needs, not what everybody else is doing. It must provide clarity, not clutter. It should be fast, digestible, jargon-free. Otherwise it is not serving you.

What metrics should you be tracking? Every organization is different, so there's no one-size-fits-all answer. But to frame the conversation around what to measure, it is helpful to spend a moment revisiting the 4 major media types:

  • Earned media
  • Shared media
  • Owned media
  • Paid media
The Four Media Types Explained

Earned media is any publicity that you don't pay for, which can include traditional media coverage in national, trade and local outlets, podcasts, blogs, speaking opportunities, as well as inbound web links.

Shared media includes all the content shared on social media about your brand, whether it originated from your own posts or not. Shared media may appear on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as well as other platforms like Glassdoor, review sites, forums, and private social channels.

Owned media includes any asset under your direct control, such as your website, newsletters, corporate blogs, social media accounts, and webinars.

Paid media includes advertising of all kinds, such as TV/radio/print but also search engine ads, web and social media ads, retargeting campaigns, sponsored posts, and paid influencer campaigns

Earned and shared media are the trickiest to measure, but also present exciting opportunities for innovation. Because earned and shared media activity occurs on third-party sites (e.g. newspaper websites, TV networks, social platforms), there is always data that's out of reach. But if you know where and how to look, insights abound. Watershed's modern media measurement is actually rooted in old-fashioned human brainpower—highly-experienced media analysts who read, synthesize, and code media mentions on a wide number of metrics, then layer in other data (think: social engagements, influencer networks, web traffic) to form the fullest picture possible of your coverage impact.  

Owned media should be the easiest to measure, as all the data are theoretically under your control. Learning the CTR for your internal newsletter, for example, or the view counts for your blog posts should be straightforward and an important piece of your overall measurement program. Yet internal coordination across departments is often required, and that can cost you time and personal capital. Be prepared to invest in getting the data collection right, so down the road the insights that come from it can be trusted.

Paid media also tends to lend itself to easy measurement. Ad platforms want to make it simple for customers to see and understand their ROI, so the platforms typically offer copious data on impressions, clicks and audience demographics. Most platforms have unfussy data export options, but integrating paid metrics into your overall communications measurement regime may involve internal turf battles or some favor-asking as well.

Bottom line: you need to be measuring wherever there is media activity about you.

Tracking the Spillover Effects

Four ways to communicate your company message, four different sets of metrics. Can they be united? Yes, certainly. At Watershed, we contend that for true total information awareness and clarity, they must be united.

Take the common case of a positive earned media placement in the trade press. Alone it's a nice win, but the total spillover effects may be far greater. Consider:

  • Did it drive new website visits?
  • ...Trigger an influential share on LinkedIn?
  • ...Soften up a sales prospect?
  • ...Lead to an executive speaking opportunity?  

Fusing data from across the four media types can build a robust "big picture" view of communications and external relations successes. Even when the cause-effect data is imperfect or incomplete (as, frankly, has always been the case with PR), teams can build a strong case to their C-suite of having direct impact on reputational and even business goals.

Talk to us about your leadership's attitude toward measurable ROI for external relations, as each executive team has different expectations. We are seasoned in developing KPIs that fit the situation.  

The Metrics That Matter

When it comes to measuring earned and shared media, we urge our clients to resist the temptation to use outdated vanity metrics like Impressions and Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). Impressions paint an unreasonably rosy picture of how many people actually viewed or read a story; AVE isn't reflective of how information is consumed and shared today.  

Our recommendation: Look to establish ground truth of how company messages are being circulated and received by journalists, influencers and stakeholders. In numbers and words, show how narratives are forming and spreading.

Fundamentals matter. Communications leaders need to be able to confidently compare their performance to peers, and accurately measure their progress against internal goals.  

Watershed's earned and social media measurement reports typically track:

  • Volume
  • Narratives & major story drivers
  • Coverage topics
  • Message pull-through
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Emotional trigger analysis
  • Share of voice
  • Strength of company voice
  • Media tiers
  • Coverage prominence
  • Key reporters, publications & influencers
  • Social spread

What's the secret sauce? Human analysts—who are able to discern the subtleties of narratives, company messages, sentiment, and emotional triggers are central—are indispensable to media measurement. Ours have deep industry experience, so they not only understand the technical aspects of PR measurement, they also speak the language of energy, healthcare, utilities, transportation, finance, and the other industries our clients occupy.

Add to that the use of leading edge data collection methodologies and algorithms, and time-saving technology and visualizations, and you end up with modern media measurement that will let communications teams rise to the next level. (Our dedication to stellar client service is also unparalleled.)

Like the Watershed name suggests, we follow the information flow upstream and downstream, from the smallest streams to the major byways, tracking the narrative currents in both smooth and turbulent times.  

Get in touch and see how we can help you.