Does it count?

When evaluating results of your work, stepping away from ‘success theatre’ and starting to count what really counts and measuring for learning instead can be scary. But in the end the only way to demonstrate the value of PR is to bring back these learnings to the organisation – good news or bad news.   

Being able to demonstrate the value of PR has always haunted the PR industry. There are increased demands within organisations for the communications team to meet and exceed the KPIs, all at a time when PR industry is keen to prove its importance. The increasing availability and use of data and digital tools has accelerated these developments. 

The beginning of the “school year” is heaven for PR metrics geeks like myself. AMEC holds its annual “Measurement Month” in September, featuring several events and webinars dedicated to the subject. This year the evaluation of PR was also on the agenda at the October ICCO summit in Helsinki. 

If you use school analogy, when it comes to measurement the PR industry is still in elementary school compared to other marketing disciplines who are further along.  

While evaluating the discussions of the past months, there seems to be a lot of work still to be done, and two questions remain most crucial;

  • Why do you measure?
  • What do you measure?

Sounds simple, right? 

Quality of data, valid and vanity metrics

After tackling the “why” hurdle and taking the brave decision to evaluate to learn, the next step is to nail down what to measure.

  • Choosing the right metrics and methods comes eventually down to your business objectives – what do you want to accomplish and what are the best indicators of it.
  • Are you reaching your target audience and how are they responding to your message?

To answer the question on what are then valid metrics to use and what are the vanity metrics to avoid; valid metrics are the ones providing insights against your objectives, all others are vanity metrics. For example, brand communicators are sometimes so eager to prove their value that they cling on to anything that can be easily counted to make them look good; the number of clippings, (potential) impressions and some still use AVEs, although it is deemed to be outdated by the profession. 

The quality of data is a big issue also in the PR industry. While digital tools develop and offer nice looking, real-time dashboards, we tend to neglect the importance of being critical towards the data they are based on; interpreting it in the right context; and having the patience to invest in qualitative analysis by industry experts for true insights.

For example, your company has a large share of voice (when measured in mentions), but do you know where those mentions came from and what they were about? Is this coverage that really matters, from the Tier 1 outlets? How do they reflect industry events and trends?  

For me, the holy grail of PR measurement lies in the combination of big data, digital tools and investing in human capital interpreting the data for true insights that can help organisations to learn.

Further reading

As you’re working on your 2018 marketing communications plans, start with the business objectives, think thoroughly on how success will look like, what you want to learn, and which metrics, tools and industry expertise will help you get the needed insights.

Good sources to start from are the AMEC integrated evaluation framework, the collection of essays -  “Demonstrating Value of Communication” - from international public relations research experts, contributing to the AMEC measurement month (September 2017),  and the “The PR professionals guide to measurement”, introduced at the ICCO Global Summit this October.

Let’s make 2018 a year of better measurement!


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