Time is now to leverage the use of analytics

It will take time to get all PR agencies to recognize the power of analytics.

Two years ago, there was a need to debate the importance of measurement and analytics to PR. Now the discussion has moved on to how analytics can be integrated into today’s communications firm.

What is key is how PR firms and leaders can lead change to benefit the agency-client relationship of the future. I get an average of three telephone calls a week from firms of all sizes across the globe. The starting point is that management must see the need for a measurement and analytics approach.

Questions are typically, ‘How do I start?’ and ‘How do we persuade clients that measurement and analytics is a must-have component of our PR work for them?’ For many practitioners wanting to take the leap, the main question is what will their measurement framework look like?

The International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication is able to help by pointing firms to the valid metrics framework developed by an international taskforce after the Barcelona Principles outlawed advertising value equivalents.

Challenges remain and we accept that it will take time to get all PR agencies to recognize the power of analytics. There is evidence of a measurement skills gap.

A survey in the UK by the PR Academy was reported in PRWeek UK with a headline that said it all – ‘Measurement replaces digital as PR professionals’ greatest training need.’ In this survey, about 50% of PR students acknowledge a skills gap in measurement.

Filling this gap takes commitment and education. Agencies can play a vital role in getting clients to adapt their thinking and realize the benefits that come with analytics. For the topic to be taken seriously at a firm, our experience is that it comes as a direct result of strong leadership.

FleishmanHillard recognized that the agency’s ability to gather, make sense of, and apply research and analytics for their clients’ competitive advantage was key to its success. The firm has since hired Christina Liao as SVP and senior partner and director of applied data from The Coca-Cola Co.

Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty realized that in order to deliver a high level of analytics understanding to clients, staffers must study measurement and analytics in their induction.

As part of its g4 business model, GolinHarris organized a 60-person global strategist community where a specialist team integrates campaign metrics and analytics with insights that inspire campaign strategy.

The goal is to measure and understand the relationship between communications stimulus and the attitude and behavior changes that contribute to business success.

The other key to making analytics an integral part of PR practice is leadership from the client community. Already we have analytics evangelist clients such as eBay, FedEx, Starbucks, Microsoft, and more.

But, there are still clients who insist on continuing with advertising value equivalents as a measure of PR campaign effectiveness, which is just wrong. The use of this measure has dropped significantly and, eventually, it will die out altogether.

I’ve no doubt the attitude of clients is vital to the wider adoption of analytics in PR firms. We will take the next steps to move measurement on a global scale with the launch of Measurement Week in September, designed to encourage the widespread adoption of these techniques, without which PR is devalued as a business discipline.

We will be involving clients, PR pros, trade bodies, and our members. It will be a key element in our global education program that will allow PR firms – and their clients – to affirm their commitment to analytics in the communications function and build education programs for their teams.

We’ll continue to emphasize that data equals insights with our International Summit in Amsterdam in June, which has the theme, Upping the Game – from Measurement to Insights. The summit will feature three agency leaders, FleishmanHillard’s Dave Senay; Kevin Murray, chairman of The Good Relations Group; and Matt Neale, president, international, GolinHarris.

These leaders will share new thinking and call for a commitment to embrace analytics as a key driver for the PR industry.

Barry Leggetter is CEO of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC)

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