A unique way communicators can measure impact

Glean takeaways from Progressive’s 2020 hiring initiative to get a better handle on proving your ROI.

Measuring impact and demonstrating ROI continues to top the list as one of the biggest challenges faced by communication professionals.

Roadblocks such as understanding organizational goals or KPIs, knowing what to measure and focusing on outcomes versus activities keep many communicators from developing strategies that focus on getting audiences to take the actions that produce the business results our clients are after.

But the PR team at Progressive Insurance knows how to uncover the right information to capture what to measure and impact the bottom line. Learn from Progressive’s 2020 hiring initiative project to improve your communication and measurement.

“Progressive is a very data driven company and I always wanted to align and improve our measurement efforts to better help the company grow, as well as demonstrate our PR value,” says Mary Shaffer, Progressive’s PR manager. “The first step was a conversation with our analysts and media buying team to get us speaking the same measurement language as other areas of the business — awareness, consideration and acquisition.”

Business goals

Progressive Insurance has had a decade of rapid growth. In 2019, the company posted a 14.7% year-over-year increase in private auto direct premiums written, the highest among the top 20 such insurers and the only one that rose by double digits. With an increase in customers and total revenues topping $39 billion in early 2020, the company needed more employees to support continued growth in auto, property, commercial lines and recreational products insurance at more than 250 locations across the country. (Revenues as of today have topped $42 billion.)

At the start of 2020, the company set a goal to hire 8,000 new employees throughout the year in areas such as claims, customer service, sales, IT, and data analysis. The largest hubs of Progressive employees nationwide are in Austin, Texas, Cleveland, Ohio, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Phoenix, Arizona, and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida.

Communication objectives & measurement setting

Working with its internal client, the Talent Acquisition Group within HR Recruiting, Progressive’s PR team set the following communication objectives to help achieve the business goal of hiring 8,000 new employees.

  • Gain eight placements in national and/or trade media outlets during the first quarter.
  • Gain three unique pieces of coverage in each of five Progressive major markets during the first quarter.
  • Gain a 100% increase in pageviews on Progressive’s careers homepage during the week of Feb. 24.

The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and time-bound) framework used to develop these objectives stands out with set numbers and deadlines.

“The best advice I have for those challenged with deciding what to measure is to remember that this is a process,” Shaffer says. “Listen closely to client challenges and goals; think things through differently (i.e., what else is important to measure, how will we cut, slice and dice the data) to choose the right metrics. In this case, finding out how many people read a news story and then found our careers page from those stories was a huge win in adding value.”

Implementation

Beginning Feb.24, 2020, the PR team carried out its communication strategy with the following tactics:

  • Press release distributed via wire followed by email and phone pitching to encourage interviews and coverage.
  • Social media posts using #nowhiring, #resume, #jobsearch, #progressiveinsurance, #gethired, #topworkplace, #bestcompanies, #insurance, #werehiring, #growth + #career and #RethinkProgressive hashtags.
  • Internal communication articles on hiring and the company referral program posted on the intranet.

The PR team used a variety of tools including Critical Mention, Google Alerts and Google Analytics to track placement, social media engagement, and website traffic from the start of implementation in February 2020. Immediate program wins included:

Week of Feb. 24, 2020:

  • A 146% pageview increase on the Careers homepage
  • A 305% increase in newsroom visits

Overall:

  • 25% increase in yearly placements
  • Secured coverage in all Progressive large markets
  • Secured 10 placements in national/trade outlets including ABC News, Crain’s Cleveland Business, Cleveland.com, Fox News, Insurance Journal, Repairer Driven News, and The Gazette.

Top earned social share:

As the PR team tracked and collected data, they took the necessary time to closely review it and create a simple dashboard to clearly convey the results. By connecting the communication activities to the desired audience actions and ultimately recruiting’s goals, the Progressive PR team was able to demonstrate how it contributed significantly to the company’s growth.

“The combination of strong collaboration, choosing the right metrics and clearly communicating that data, makes it much easier to demonstrate the value of our PR team’s efforts to the company as a whole,” Shaffer says.

Note: All this work was launched and measured pre-COVID-19 2020.

Julie Baron is strategic and change communications consultant with Ragan Consulting Group

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