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Measuring engagement in healthcare communications

Using the METRIC Model to measure engagement and track the outcomes of influencer communiciations

Public relations programs are increasingly focused on building relationships with stakeholders and influencers, particularly in the public affairs and issues management environment. Measuring these fuzzier, more intangible aspects of public relations has been a challenge for PR practitioners. One solution is the METRIC Model to measure engagement and track the outcomes of influencer communications

The METRIC model was developed by Determinus, the research arm of the Chandler Chicco Companies, and was awarded a Silver Merit Jack Felton Golden Ruler Award in 2011. It moves beyond typical PR measures like media coverage and event management, to track and measure progress in effective coalition- and relationship-building as a critical factor in achieving overall organizational objectives.

An example of the need for measurement of progress in relationship building is The Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance, which is working to change society's perceptions of, and approaches to, preventing and treating obesity. Its approach uses practical strategies to develop innovative means of combating obesity to prevent the further spread of obesity-related chronic diseases in America.

The alliance is a collaboration of consumer, provider, government, labor, business, health insurers and quality-of-care organizations united to combat obesity. It operates out of the Department of Health Policy at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and is funded by industry.

When it was founded in 2009, the alliance established a steering committee to support its mission. As the work of the alliance evolved, the organization created additional categories of membership including associate member and government liaison classifications.

Measurement and evaluation objectives
The alliance felt it would be valuable to measure its success in engaging the steering committee and associate members in activities that furthered its mission. It wanted to understand the depth of the relationships it had forged, provide a benchmark to measure against in the future and demonstrate progress toward its goals.

Core to the model is the identification of the desired actions of each stakeholder. Like all measurement tools, this is customized for each program. Each potential action is assigned a weighted score based on its significance in moving toward the desired outcomes. When the STOP Obesity Alliance used this approach to measure engagement of its member organizations it identified a range of desired activities and assigned point values, for example:

  • Ongoing communications with alliance staff (1 point)
  • Submitting item for alliance e-newsletter (2 points)
  • Participating in 'Weighing In', the alliance blog (3 points)
  • Including alliance news in their membership communications (4 points)
  • Leveraging relationships to further the alliance mission (5 points).

Based on their point values, activities are classified as Limited, Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Full Engagement. The requisite points are assigned for each relevant activity throughout the year and the accumulated points for each classification results in the total engagement level for each member.

fig1s


Each member's overall level of engagement can be illustrated against the criteria in graphic format as below.

The data showed that nearly 90 percent of steering committee members have interacted on the Full Engagement level, up from 80 percent in the previous year. Nearly 65 percent of members participated in activities at all levels at some point throughout the year and steering committee membership had increased by 15 percent.

The model sets a benchmark for establishing and tracking targets for the future and allows for comparisons of the engagement levels among various stakeholders. As the program evolves, additional activities can be added and point values assigned, or reassigned, as appropriate.

Some of the achievements reflected in the model are listed below.

Snapshot of successful outcomes
Alliance member engagement and alignment flourished in 2010:

  • The alliance established the STOP Obesity Alliance Task Force on Women and nearly 20 members joined
  • Alliance co-hosted an advocacy forum with several member organizations which focused on breaking down the barriers between policy and research and ways to engage researchers in the important work to enable obesity policy change
  • Obesity was included as a focus area in one member's 2010 Guidelines for the Practice of Diabetes Education following participation in the Task Force on Women
  • Several members distributed alliance materials on obesity and related health conditions in meetings on Capitol Hill, including state-by-state charts and the Primary Care white paper
  • A member hosted national webinar on weight and health and the disconnect in treatment.

Measuring beyond internal relationships
Beyond its own membership, the alliance monitors traction with external audiences who play an important role in changing public- and private-sector policy as it relates to overweight, obesity and weight-related conditions. The alliance identified four categories of external stakeholders for tracking: communications/media, policymakers, businesses/business groups and advocacy organizations. The alliance used the METRIC Model to evaluate these external relationships as well. Based on the desired outcomes of these relationships, customized engagement criteria were developed, categorized and weighted through the assignment of a point value ranging from one to five, as follows:

  • Requests a meeting with the alliance/shares our story (1 point)
  • Asks to partner or volunteer with the alliance on specific projects (2 points)
  • Expresses interest in sponsoring the alliance (3 points)
  • Invites alliance leadership to attend, speak or participate in a non-STOP event (4 points)
  • Requests to become an alliance member/adopts alliance recommendations and/or policies (5 points).

Activities for external relationships are classified
as Awareness, Collaboration, Partnership, Adoption and Full Engagement. As with the internal stakeholders, the requisite points are assigned for each relevant activity throughout the year and the accumulated points for each classification results in the total engagement level.

The external relationship tracker shows that all external audiences have engaged on the Awareness, Adoption and Full Engagement levels. Communications/news media has shown the highest level of engagement, going beyond merely producing a story to attending alliance events, participating on discussion panels and engaging in dialog with alliance members. Policymaker engagement increased 14-fold from the previous year and is now engaged on all five levels.

fig2s

Some of the achievements in engaging external stakeholders are listed below.

  • WLS Lifestyles Magazine created a monthly column entitled 'Wisdom and direction from the STOP Obesity Alliance,' in which the alliance director pens articles on current issues in obesity and weight-related diseases
  • Alliance served as a resource for Sen. Mark Warner on a bill to raise funds for the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition – the bill was passed and the alliance was recognized as a key resource and supporter
  • Alliance was tapped by Reps. Fudge and Granger to support legislation to designate September 2010 as the first National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month – legislation was passed and the Alliance was listed as a supporter and participated in the planning Council around the month
  • US Conference of Mayors included the Obesity GPS among its 'tools you can use' in its monthly newsletter
  • Focus of alliance media coverage shifted from general obesity news to a deeper look at health and the need for supportive environments that encourage weight
  • loss success
  • Alliance developed relationships with top-tier health reporters resulting in repeat placements in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today
  • Alliance director was invited by The Huffington Post, WLS Lifestyles Magazine and HealthNewsDigest.com to be a regular contributor on obesity issues.

Keys to success
Planning is critical to success in implementing the model. By getting it right from the start, all relevant interactions can be documented in a timely manner. It is not realistic to ask the team to go back at the end of six or 12 months and try to recall the path of engagement for each member or stakeholder. Appropriate staff members should be assigned to document interactions regularly in real time for each member or stakeholder using a template set-up in Microsoft Excel or a similar tool, accessible through a collaborative platform.

To clearly demonstrate the value of relationship building, pair the data with some of the specific achievements, anecdotal feedback and highlights of activities to bring the results alive and illustrate what lies behind the numbers, especially when presenting to those outside the inner management circle.

The METRIC Model provides the fundamental data for measuring relationships with the alliance, however, reporting could also include some of the standard PR measurement metrics to provide a more fulsome picture. For example, message penetration in media coverage, type of media in which the coverage appeared, open rates for an e-newsletter, click-throughs from the e-newsletter and e-newsletter subscribers by sector (eg, .edu, .org, .gov/.us and .com/.net).

In summary, the METRIC Model has several features which contribute to its success: it is fully transparent, can be customized for specific PR campaigns, it can track progress over time and can be adjusted as programs change and it is easy to interpret. The model is increasingly in demand from clients who need to understand progress in engaging stakeholders, make adaptations to leverage what works best and demonstrate success to external audiences.

The Author
Marianne Eisenmann
is Head of Determinus, the research arm of the Chandler Chicco Companies and is a member of the IPR Commission on Measurement and Evaluation. She can be contacted at meisenmann@chandlerchiccocompanies.com

7th February 2012

From: Marketing

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