Measurement can feel hard. With the ever-expanding data sets, metrics, providers, and methodologies out there it can seem overwhelming. Just like when I walk into the kitchen to cook. I’m by no means a good chef, which is why I like to have a recipe on hand. Earned media measurement, and data in the industry more broadly, doesn’t come pre-baked, so in the same vein, we can find a recipe to help us cook up something that adds value to your business.

Pick your recipe
First off, pick your recipe based on what you are trying to achieve, or in the case of this analogy, eat. There is no point putting your chicken in the oven and expecting to pull a pizza out as a result. Building a measurement program is the same; thinking about what we want to end up with is the starting point. Are you looking to measure the effectiveness of a campaign or track your brand over time? Do you want to understand the impact of your media relations or quantify the effectiveness of your influencer work? Knowing what you want to make – or, in this case, measure – will mean you pick the right recipe to follow.

If you feel like a beginner, start with something simple to build up your skills and confidence. Don’t expect to walk into the kitchen and produce a perfect soufflé on your first attempt. Better to start small – with measurement, that could simply mean making sure you are collecting the coverage and applying a few simple output metrics.

The other thing to keep in mind is what flavour combinations you are trying to achieve. It’s like picking out your toppings for a pizza. If you aren’t sure, you might keep it simple with a margarita, rather than ask for all the toppings at once. Measurement is the same. It can seem like you need every data source and every metric to make sure you have something robust in place. But if you aimlessly throw all these things together, you end up with something disgusting which no one wants to eat.

Gather your ingredients
Often, even when we’ve picked the right measurement recipe if our data isn’t robust enough the final outcome can still be disappointing.

Papa John said it best: “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” Data are our ingredients for measurement and even when we’ve selected what is required based on our recipe or experience, we still need to make sure it’s fit for purpose before we start cooking our measurement dish. This means checking each one of our ingredients for its source and quality. For example, it’s easy to think of all coverage as equal, but we might only want the higher quality content or media titles that we know our target audience is more likely to be reading.

It can also mean thinking about how we want to categorise, tag, or enrich your monitoring. There are pros and cons to all the different ways you can do this; automated data is cheaper and quicker but usually not as accurate, while human validated data has a higher level of accuracy with a bigger budget.

Get cooking
The data and metrics you use in your measurement recipe are the inputs, not the final state. Your organic gluten-free artisan bread flour, mozzarella and toppings sat on your kitchen top won’t transform into a pizza magically, you’ve got to get cooking. Using your data in the right way is what ultimately produces something of value, which means making sure that there is analysis, insight and context applied to what’s being collected and not expecting the numbers to tell a story on their own.

Always make sure you are taste testing as you follow the recipe; it can be easy to think you’ve planned enough but you never know if certain metrics are going to work, if your data sources might change, or you just need to make some personal adjustments to taste.

Serve up and enjoy
You’ve selected your measurement recipe based on what you are trying to achieve, checked the quality of your data ingredients and followed the cooking instructions while adjusting for personal taste. Time to serve up and enjoy. Plating up your measurement is just as important; do you want something simple like an analytics dashboard or do you need something fancier like an insights report? Often this will depend on who you are cooking for; something for yourself or a Saturday night party with friends? Once you are done eating, don’t forget to make notes on your recipe of what worked well and what didn’t, so you can adjust for next time. Recipes are like frameworks, structured enough to get you started but once you’ve followed it enough, they become flexible guidelines shaped by your tastes.

Doing the washing up
Start with the end in mind, pick your recipe before you select your data ingredients. If you aren’t comfortable yet with measurement, start simple to develop your skills and confidence. Collect the data needed for what you are making and be sure to check the quality: better data, better measurement. Combine and analyse your data to give meaning and flavour. The meal is greater than the sum of its ingredients, just like metrics in measurement. Make sure you note down adjustments to your personal tastes to make incremental improvements each time you enter the kitchen. Don’t forget to share, if you’ve cooked up something delicious there will be others across your business wanting to take a bite.

For me, measurement is like cooking: more enjoyable when you have fun with it even if you make a mess. Bon appétit.