Agency Doctor: ensure your objectives are made to measure

There are many tools that can help you evaluate your campaigns, but they will only work if your objectives can be measured.

Richard Houghton: associate partner at Agency People
Richard Houghton: associate partner at Agency People

It is 15 years since I first got involved in evaluation models for PR, as the PRCA’s representative for the PR Planning and Evaluation Toolkit. While we have made progress, it is best described as evolution rather than revolution.

The good news is that it has never been easier to evaluate and demonstrate value, and a new framework from the International Association for Measurement of Communication (AMEC) can help demonstrate value across social and traditional media.

Before we get into the detail of the AMEC tool I want to address two issues I get asked about regularly. Firstly, is there a single number or metric that can be used to demonstrate the return on investment from a campaign? No. There is no silver bullet for measuring influence.

Every campaign has different objectives and is run in a different environment and context – while every organisation sees success slightly differently and PR rarely works in isolation.

My second bugbear is the consistent failure to set measurable campaign objectives. Richard Bagnall, MD at Prime Research and a director of AMEC, is spot on when he says of unmeasurable objectives: "If you are not evaluating against objectives you’re just monitoring."

I’m confident that if you look at the client campaigns you are running at the moment the majority of them will not have objectives that are measurable. I know from conversations at this year’s Communications Directors’ Forum that this is something that our sector needs to address and is the responsibility of both consultancies and clients.

For those looking to develop current evaluation activity or to start, AMEC may well have the answer with its Social Media Measurement Framework, launched this summer. Apart from simplifying the process it allows for planning, monitoring and measurement of results. Plus, it will get you thinking about all stages of the process from planning, through setting targets, choosing appropriate SMART objectives and how best to demonstrate value you have created for the client.

One of the challenges with many evaluation processes is that they do not use formats and language that are familiar to those outside of PR.

AMEC’s new framework takes its lead from the marketing funnel, which drives awareness, knowledge, consideration, preference and action. For the evaluation of PR, AMEC has created a five-step funnel: exposure, engagement, influence, impact and advocacy.

The framework provides two separate models: one that allows you to evaluate paid, owned and earned media and a second that allows for the evaluation of programme metrics, business metrics and channel metrics.

This second model enables the integration of traditional channels so that you have a single manageable model.

AMEC has provided us with a fully populated model with a wide choice of measurement metrics, but you can also add your own. So you can measure outputs, outtakes and outcomes in a single model, but only if your objectives are measurable.

Richard Houghton is an associate partner at Agency People

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