I’m willing to bet that if you spoke to most people working in PR today, the name Avinash Kaushik would mean nothing to them. Even amongst the PR 2.0 digeratti, I suspect he is largely unknown. At best they might be aware he is Google’s Analytics evangelist. Those who have read his 400+ page book on Web Analytics could, I’m sure, be counted on one hand.
Well, I’m now one of them. And what a revelation. This book works on so many levels. First, it is easily the most practical and informative book on the subject of web analytics. Which would make it valuable in its own right. But perhaps more than that, he outlines a practical blueprint for a data driven, outcome based approach to business generally. Which by definition includes PR.
In many ways, he provides the real world road map for Davenport and Harris’ Competing On Analytics. The basic argument of this book is that those companies investing unreservedly in building competitive strategies based around data driven insights will significantly outperform those companies that don’t. The secret sauce here is the use of analytics: sophisticated quantitative and statistical analysis and predictive modelling. Some nice case studies too.
And hard to disagree with their arguments – however, they didn’t really provide a hands on, practical way to begin implementing such a strategy. And being selfish, I couldn’t quite see how it would work in the world of PR.
Kaushik provides the missing link. It is a huge book – and nearly every page contains some great insight – it is also helped by the fact that he is a marvelous writer. He has a great gift for explanation and a witty, illuminating phrase. I have enough material for 100 blog posts rather than just one, but I thought I’d highlight a few things that really bought my eye:
The 10/90 rule: according to Kaushik, in the context of web analytics, you should allocate 10pc of your budget for tools and 90pc on paying for human beings with analytical skills. This in many ways mirrors what I and Mr Waddington have been banging on about recently – that the cost of tools to support the job of PR are now trending to zero – and that client money should be spent on value added skills. However, Kaushik’s book made me realise that skills in data analysis will not be confined to web analytics. Businesses will increasingly demand people who can justify PR and marketing recommendations on the basis of real data and genuine analysis.
Line of sight metrics: How connected are PR metrics to genuine business metrics? While the industry still seems to be floundering around trying to develop an acceptable standard for PR evaluation, the Web analytics industry can now potentially offer the ability to connect PR value to real business outcomes. There is no reason why PR campaigns can’t now be built that can be measured and evaluated in the context of metrics that really matter to a business rather than busted flush approaches like advertising equivalence.
Statistical significance: How many people working in PR today have a grasp of statistical significance? Even those who are more advanced in evaluation and analysis probably don’t apply it as a matter of course. To use a trivial example, compare the results of two press releases you sent out – how do you know whether there is a valid statistical difference between the results of the two. Guess what. There are free tools available that will tell you.
A culture of testing and experimentation: the world of web analytics lives by tests and experiments. The world changes so quickly that you have to test and learn on a daily basis. Again, how many PR companies have an ingrained culture of testing and experiment? While debates rage about the social media press release template, why not just get on with it and test different types of approach and see what works and what doesn’t. Why are we getting hung up about the need for a template when all we should bother about is whether something works for the people it is aimed at (and why the case studies for SMRs are thin on the ground).
How many useful free tools are there out there? Loads. And Kaushik lists most of them. I’ll save a complete list for later. But here’s one that made me think. Microsoft AdCenter has a pile of free tools for SEO. Admittedly its only based on MS search results rather than Google, but it gives you a clue as to where the world is going. One of these tools not only tells you what keywords people are searching on, but it makes a prediction of future trends. Imagine. Not only can you test your PR messaging today, but you get a sense of whether those messages will become more or less relevant in the future. That’s mind blowing.
I could go on. But that’s probably enough for now.
So. Buy the book. The future of PR is yours for $30.