Public Relations Tactics

Where’s the beef? What social media and cows have in common

April 2, 2013


The PRSA/AMEC Measurement Symposium at the PRSA 2012 International Conference in San Francisco included a session on the past, present and future of social media measurement.

Season Solorio, senior director, issues management, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, and Angie Jeffrey, senior counsel to CARMA International, president,, offered their insights.

The following is a Q-and-A with Solorio and Jeffrey about some of the most important evolutions in social media measurement, particularly as it relates to the beef industry.

Some may joke that what cows and many on social media have in common is too much methane, but how does social media figure into what you do for the beef industry?

Solorio: While many people may be familiar with using and measuring social media for brand awareness or sales purposes, in the beef industry, we also use and measure social media to protect and defend the reputation of beef.

When people hear or read about the latest beef “issue” of the day — whether it’s related to beef’s nutritional value, safety, environmental impact or the way beef is raised — they are more likely to question whether to eat beef.

It’s critical that we are aware of conversation that is happening in traditional and social media in real time, so that we can effectively respond to these concerns through strategic and targeted response efforts.

When an issue is developing, what do you do?

Solorio: When our sophisticated system of media monitoring picks up an issue, our teams quickly analyze the situation and develop the best response strategy.

By having a broad view of how beef issues are being discussed by the media and online, we can identify which are getting the most attention or might be a “hot” issue that the industry needs to deal with.

We also go back and measure how effective our response was to certain situations by using a variety of measurement tools, including Web analytics, messaging analytics, sales data and consumer confidence data.

How does NCBA measure social media effectiveness — particularly as related to other media measurement and business metrics?

Jeffrey: Many organizations like the NCBA need to directly compare social and traditional media results against one another. Therefore, they have to be measured in the exact same way regarding qualitative factors such as topics, messages, issues, time frame and sentiment. Then, the PR professional can compare them both against Web analytics or URL tracking...and through correlations to leads, sales, survey scores or other business outcomes.

The differences in the effectiveness of social and traditional media on various issues can be amazing.

That is a lot of data. How do you avoid incurring a huge cost?

Jeffrey: To measure large volumes of traditional or social media citations, use a hybrid approach: part automated, part human. For the immediate big picture, automated analytics platforms are great for identifying major areas of concern. For real insight, human analysis is a must.

To keep costs down, use a statistically valid sample of clips from a key media list or from some other type of criteria. Free sample-size calculators can be easily found on Google.

Reader question

What exactly is big data, and what should a PR firm be doing in this area?

Big data refers to the integration of information from various databases to develop key insights about consumers.

The PR firm’s role in big data is to provide data streams that our clients can integrate with their customer records to develop smarter communications programs.

This may take the form of media information (social and traditional), as well as an analysis of syndicated databases that many agencies purchase for smarter target insights.

Have measurement questions? Email

David B. Rockland, Ph.D.

David B. Rockland, Ph.D., is the new-retired partner/CEO and managing director for the research and change communications businesses at Ketchum. He has held leadership positions in corporate communications and research throughout his career, with extensive global experience in both areas.


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