Moving measurement forward

Getting many PR professionals comfortable with measurement isn't easy, but progress is being made.

I recently returned from the International Association of the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication annual meeting that was held in London in mid-June. Each year, I try to take our measurement efforts to the next level by bringing home new ideas.

This year, the focus was on metrics that matter. What are they? And how do you know you're measuring the right thing? It's important to set measurable goals that matter to your organization. If you want to know if A is happening, don't measure B. Also, develop the right key performance indicators that you can measure against. For Cleveland Clinic, we know we want to measure whether we're getting our corporate narrative messages to the right audience through the right media outlet.

The Non-Profit Group of AMEC, of which I am a member, also worked with Braun Research prior to the conference to conduct a study of nonprofit organizations and PR measurement. We wanted to learn if nonprofits measure PR efforts, and if not, what are the barriers? We surveyed more than 300 nonprofits, mostly from the U.S. as well as several other countries.

We learned that nonprofit organizations know measurement is valuable, but also have several barriers to implementation. The key barriers include limited budgets; measurement is not an expectation of their job; and PR people feel they aren't "numbers people." All respondents understood that measurement is very important to their jobs, but felt they need to be able to do it in a more cost-effective way.

AMEC has also been working toward standardizing PR measurement. Although there are variations of PR measurement, the research, monitoring, and analyst community has been trying to come together to agree on a more synchronized approach to reduce the variation of how PR is measured. This year, AMEC leaders unveiled a free framework for PR folks to consider. Take a look, as it's easy to use and may help your leadership better understand the business value of PR at your organization.

I also ordered "MetricsMan; It Doesn’t Count Unless You Can Count It," a book written in memory of Don Bartholomew, an expert in the PR measurement field. I bought it for my entire team to help them get more comfortable about measurement, how to do it, and why it's important.

Measurement truly is a journey. We've been working on it at Cleveland Clinic for nearly five years. It takes patience, planning, a vision, and partners to help you do it right. We're getting there, but thankfully, AMEC helps us push our efforts forward, teaching new ideas, and coming together as a team to drive PR measurement for the industry.

Eileen Sheil is executive director of corporate communications at Cleveland Clinic. Her column focuses on the myriad challenges of healthcare PR and topics related to the management of the comms function. She can be reached at sheile@ccf.org.

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