Monday, March 30

Measuring Communication, Cost Part 1


While most communication measurement models ask professionals to consider the cost per impression as it pertains to the cost of the media purchase, the better measure is "cost per outcome" or "cost to achieve intent" (assuming the intent is achieved). While impressions are important, there still needs to be accountability in determining what those impressions achieve.

In the ROC abstract, there are three cost considerations: actual cost, time to produce, and experience required. The first, actual budget, is the easiest to determine (C = b + t + e). Specifically, the budget consists of the cost of the project, including printing, production, and distribution. Although overlooked by many companies, it's best to include internal staff time, benefits, etc. and/or the total cost of the external sources.

Why is important to calculate all costs?

Calculating the cost of any campaign, and elements within a campaign as they pertain to outcomes, can help communication managers and executives make better budgeting decisions. For example, if Publication A delivers 10,000 impressions at a lower CPM than Publication B, which delivers 500 impressions at a higher CPM, most managers would cut B before A. However, if Publication A delivers 10 outcomes while Publication B delivers 100 outcomes, then the decision would be flawed because Publication B actually has a higher ROC.

The thinking isn't new; it's principled, well-reasoned, and had been adopted by a few media buyers who realized it was often better to buy time on a television show that your audience watched than to buy bulk value rotate "deals" that landed you impressions at 3 a.m.

Last year, I provided a different real life example where I heavily recommended a local Ham Supreme retailer to place a good portion of its media buy on an unproven pilot program. The agency I was working for balked at the idea, insisting we buy a high frequency cable rotate instead. The result: Ham Supreme ran heavily at 3 a.m. in the morning instead of on a show that eventually climbed to number one. Why did I want the pilot? Psychographics suggested Home Improvement viewers might like big ham sandwiches.

The point is that every communication related service — advertising, public relations, marketing, etc. — needs to focus on maximizing impressions. Doing so leads to better decisions. Likewise, the same can be said for decisions related to the cost of production, e.g. if a $2 per piece brochure delivers the same outcomes as a $200 per piece brochure, how can someone justify the additional $198 per piece? Conversely, how can someone count impressions never made by brochures stuck in storage.

Cost analysis can also help companies make decisions about internal vs. external time too. Very often, outsourcing specific work makes more sense than allowing less experienced staff members to perform the same work for more money when you factor in benefits. This is especially true now for companies that have cut back staff, and continue to ask employees do more for less.

Another example that comes to mind was when one of our accounts hired an in-house team member, specially to write news releases, two years ago. While the account considered it a savings, the in-house position cost them four times the amount for diminished outcomes.

In short, more than ever, communication needs to be measured against the outcomes that companies hope to achieve. While not all of these outcomes are tied to direct sales, the practice of benchmarking, measuring, and determining return can free up budgets and maximize the impact of communication over the long term. At least, that is what we've seen for almost 20 years.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

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