Measurement’s Need for a Responsible Revolution

Precise measurement of investment to promote and enhance reputation has long been a tricky area, and one that the communications industry has worked hard to advance for some years.

As content and interaction that impact reputation become increasingly digital, and data analytics for assessing them continues to improve in application and sophistication, the art of measurement is becoming more of a science.

This was the background to PRWeek’s inaugural Measurement Conference in London on 20 November. The discussions were far more pointed and enlightening than a general acknowledgement that techniques and understanding need to continue to evolve.

The event was held in partnership between PRWeek and the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC)—the global body that led the establishment of the Barcelona Principles of communications measurement. AMEC Global Managing Director Johna Burke spoke at the outset of the day about the need for SMART measurement (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) to evolve to SMARTER measurement—the additional E for ethical, and the R for revolutionising.

The plea was clear: communications teams need to ensure they are measuring genuine influence and reputational change rather than chasing the trails of fake followers, spurious media content or even bots posing as influencers; and they need to act upon measurement data to revolutionise its value.

“If we are passing around reports with counts and amounts, we are probably not listening properly and are chasing the wrong targets,” Burke said. Her message was clear: communications measurement needs to focus on longer-term reputation management and genuine outcomes wherever it can, rather than continuing to undershoot with quantitative reports that lack meaningful insights.

Over the course of the day, those themes—focusing on meaningful measurement in a responsible way and using measurement to improve the effectiveness of communications—rang through loud and clear. Speakers and panellists’ views included:

  • “Our measurement function first has to justify our existence but now it’s about optimising what we do. That means not measuring things once a month, but communications being able to demonstrate a constant presence.” Fergus Campbell, head of communications, Gumtree.
  • “We need to make sure that measurement is not about making our own homework.” Marianne Morgan, director of research and analytics, Citypress.
  • “Our communications team needs to be more integrated with what our public affairs and policy colleagues are doing, and we always need to align our measurement approach with our primary objective.” Alice Klein, head of media, Shelter.

I later took part in a panel discussion on building communications teams with the right kind of measurement expertise, and shared a few points of view:

  • Measurement needs to be a shared enterprise between the client and the agency, with a full and frank discussion about what should be and can be measured, and how best to do it.
  • There needs to be full alignment between commercial (or other central) strategy, marketing/communications strategy and the approach to measurement, so that measurement can help to inform strategy and enhance ongoing performance.
  • Measurement needs to be a key priority for communications leaders, who need to be bold in driving benefit and change from it, and confident in making recommendations based on it.
  • As an industry, we need to make measurement central to what we do and how we do it, rather than “the last slide to go into the deck.”

There is much to take stock of in the ongoing discussion about making communications activities more measurable, and continuing to advance our approach to doing so—although progress in recent times has set us on a very positive path. Responsibility will need to be upheld, while drastic measures are adopted with confidence as the measurement impact grows. But the PRWeek conference certainly showed that the pursuit of knowing the positive outcomes of our actions, rather than overreliance on hoping it does, is gaining pace.