What Good Looks Like – The Power of Benchmarking in Marketing Communications


I was watching a training video the other day, designed to illustrate what good practice looks like in one area of leadership and management.  In so many aspects of work, getting good results is an iterative practice. We learn by watching other people who do things well, by trying things out and learning from the results so we can improve our performance next time. If we know What Good Looks Like, we have a benchmark against which we can measure our achievements.

In marketing and PR, we spend increasing amounts of time measuring the outcomes we achieve from tactical activities.  However, we often do this in a vacuum.  While we encourage clients to know how their effectiveness is improving compared to previous activities they’ve undertaken, we also want them to look beyond the walls of their own organisation. Benchmarking is a powerful tool which is often overlooked.  Communications teams often just want to ‘get on with the job’. Consequently, they know What Good Looks Like in the context of their organisation, but not how it compares to the sector, or to the high performing companies we all admire. Stepping back to consider how competitors and other successful organisations operate might help them achieve better results.

Modern Benchmarking Techniques Have a Lower Price Tag

Benchmarking has a reputation for being costly, but modern research methods mean that it’s as easy to obtain data about your rivals’ marketing and PR campaigns as it is about your own. In social media and SEO, for example, there are tools available for monitoring a whole range of brands for the cost of a modest monthly subscription.  For PR campaigns, PRSV analysis can provide a detailed picture of how effective competitors are at generating media coverage and online audience engagement. Looking at data from a range of companies starts to build a picture of What Good Looks Like.

However, the real advantage lies in understanding how to interpret data, to know whether you are comparing apples with apples. At first, it can be hard to recognise which metrics are meaningful. Successful benchmarking is about boiling down large volumes of data into a set of competitive insights that are actionable and will make a difference to business results. That’s why we construct benchmarking exercises which look at a wide range of indicators, from search to consumer engagement, from key message delivery to audience behaviours.  This enables us to obtain a clear picture of What Good Looks Like, rather like building a jigsaw puzzle.

Once an organisation has established What Good Looks Like, it’s so much easier to envisage How Better Might Be Achieved.  Benchmarking provides a starting point for integrated campaign planning and smart setting of objectives, before the ‘rush to action’ begins.

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