PR remains an obscure, difficult-to-understand discipline from an outsider’s point of view. It goes without saying, then, that its measurement probably baffles more people than we think, including some from the media industry.
Richard Bagnall, chairman of the Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), recently tweeted criticism of a Forbes article titled “How to measure the value of publicity.” The article itself highlights the importance of objective setting in the PR evaluation process, but fails to condemn the use of advertising value equivalents (AVEs), merely explaining that “the advertising equivalency approach is not specific enough.” As a vocal advocate for the ban of AVEs in PR measurement, Bagnall lamented that the article would “confuse the market further.”
Being a PR measurement and media research analyst myself, I have witnessed the confusion that some organizations face when it comes to measuring their input, output, out-takes and outcomes. AMEC has worked on an interactive evaluation framework to help measure their impact. The framework (summarized in the graphic below) is accessible online to help those who wish to establish a plan, set targets and measure the impact of the PR efforts.
Source: AMEC Framework
Industry bodies such as AMEC, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) and the U.K.’s Government Cabinet Office have done a great job at redefining measurement standards. Thanks to their initiative, the quality of organizations’ work in this regard have strengthened, but practitioners need to continue to advocate for reliable metrics and teach the true value of tangible and credible results.
With this in mind, here are four pieces of advice we can follow to better communicate about best practices in measurement and facilitate understanding with the organizations we work with.
- Use the language our colleagues on the board speak. Do not dumb down the analysis. However, do use the concepts, metrics and key points your colleagues live by to assess the success of their campaigns. “You can only have strategic, top-table conversations when you talk the [business’s] language and discuss your impact on sales, brand reputation, advocacy or adoption,” Giles Peddy, senior vice president of EMEA operations and U.K. managing director at PR firm LEWIS, explained in a recent article. In my experience, dashboards containing tailored metrics work quite well to share easy-to-digest and sizable, but still actionable, insights.
- Acknowledge our audience isn’t always savvy about data and analysis. We need to dedicate some time to train and explain what each metric and piece of information in our evaluation process implies and means to our audience.
- Highlight clear links between the initial business objectives and the desired outcomes. This way, our audience will be able to relate to our measurement research and our findings will have more impact.
- Integrate our measurement analysis by speaking to the different departments of the organization. For example, the marketing team could share insights on customer behavior, the sales team on sales data and the digital team on web traffic. Identifying areas of collaboration will enable us to not only understand where opportunities lie but also to get a holistic picture of business performance.
The Forbes article also recommends “the tools available in Google Analytics to track results and measure ROI for companies.” The author rightly emphasizes that “different types of business, with different goals, will track different performance indicators.” However, we need to be careful with the latest (sometimes obscure) compound score that everyone is talking about, as it might not always be tailored to our specific needs.
For example, we have heard about the index scores produced by Technorati, Klout or PeerIndex. The use of universal “valid metrics” can be dangerous. Every organization is unique, so measurement shouldn’t be the mere collection of starter KPIs deemed as valid metrics. Those indicators are useful only, and only if, we are able to understand its different components and what each number represents, and check if those metrics are in line with our initial objectives.
Measurement is complex. It also plays an essential part in building the credibility of the profession, which is why we need to be able to communicate about it in a simple way and pass on the knowledge.