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Yes, You Can Measure a PR Campaign

As diversity chair for the Greater Fort Worth Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, I was recently tasked with bringing in a guest speaker to discuss communicating with a diverse audience. (The luncheon was focused specifically on diversity.) I invited L. Michelle Smith, AT&T’s head of corporate diversity, and was pleasantly surprised — and excited — when she discussed the company’s use of the Net Promoter Score, or NPS, to measure audience engagement with its brand.

NPS is a real-time measure of how your customers feel about you. Ms. Smith spoke about how AT&T had tailored a segmented messaging strategy to its LGBT audience and used the NPS system to measure the strategy’s effect.

We use the NPS system at The Starr Conspiracy to gauge client loyalty on an ongoing basis. It tells us how our clients feel about the results we’re delivering. The NPS uses a simple one- or two-question survey that measures a customer’s willingness to promote your business or brand — the ultimate test of client loyalty and the least expensive form of marketing.

The first question is simply: “On a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being highly likely, how likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to a friend or family member?” Although most of our clients are unaware of how the system works, a nine or 10 means they are “promoters” and will probably help spur growth for the company. Clients who give a score of seven or eight are “passives,” meaning they are satisfied but vulnerable to other options. Clients who give a score of six or less are “detractors” — clients who are unhappy and will likely tarnish the brand through discussions with other potential clients. Your NPS is calculated by subtracting the percent of detractor responses from the percent of promoter responses. Raising one’s score is a major accomplishment.

What was fascinating about how AT&T used the NPS was that they used it to measure the effectiveness of a public relations campaign. Far too often we hear that measuring PR results is elusive at best. AT&T measured its NPS with an LGBT audience before launching a PR campaign: -2. Yes, negative 2. Yet, as Ms. Smith explained, AT&T had a compelling story to tell about its proactive, positive stance on LGBT issues. In fact, the company established a nondiscrimination policy in regard to LGBT employees as early as 1975 — well ahead of most of corporate America. The low benchmark NPS suggests AT&T was doing a poor job of telling its story as it related to the company’s history of very progressive policies that are supportive of the LGBT community.

After launching a series of award-winning campaigns to engage the LGBT community and share AT&T’s story, the company raised its NPS to a 13 — a 15-point move in the positive direction. And AT&T accomplished that on a shoestring budget. It tapped into its own employees’ stories and curated a social media strategy that engaged like-minded influencers (some of whom had crossover audience appeal) and leveraged carefully planned and timed earned media efforts.

Ms. Smith’s presentation illustrated how to develop an effective public relations strategy in a modern, digitally driven culture to tell a compelling story without forcing a message on an audience. What was most impressive was how AT&T deployed the use of NPS to measure the campaign’s success. Thorough planning and sound execution backed by measurable results are what every client expects of us as a marketing and advertising agency. It was reassuring to see how others are using NPS to validate solid work.