Breaking down the barriers to measurement

Delegates at the recent AMEC and IPR Measurement Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, voiced a pressing need for an increase in education across the industry on the importance of measurement.

Delegates at the recent AMEC and IPR Measurement Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, voiced a pressing need to increase education across the industry regarding the importance of measurement. When it comes to measurement, there is an evident disconnect in the industry today: even though the vast majority of RFPs issued request information on measurement approaches, measurement is often cut from the budget or significantly scaled back when the account or assignment is actually awarded.

In the 2010 PRWeek/Hill & Knowlton Corporate Survey, 53% of the senior corporate communicators polled reported spending 0-5% of their PR budget on measurement, with another 29% spending 6-10%. Why is it that measurement is so often relegated to being an after-thought, without a significant budget?

On the second day of the Lisbon Summit, a panel of measurement experts was asked: “How do we get PR professionals to take measurement more seriously?” Richard Houghton, president of the International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO) summed up the obstacles to measurement as:

  • Lack of budget;
  • Lack of measurement expertise or understanding among PR professionals;
  • Agencies/measurement providers' preference for proprietary measurement systems to differentiate themselves;
  • Lack of common agreement on what to measure; and
  • Fear of what the results might say.

Mike Daniels, chairman of AMEC, advocated the development of a standardized research infrastructure, while still allowing different metrics for different business uses. Making measurement methods transparent and replicable across campaigns and clients would allow comparability and help build traction. Meenu Handa, director of corporate communications for Microsoft India, concurred, saying that commonly agreed upon standards would create a push-and-pull effect for measurement through peer group pressure, but in their absence, PR professionals have the option of avoiding measurement.

These points resonate with what I have seen. Of these challenges, I feel that the lack of budget and the lack of knowledge are the greatest obstacles to proper measurement. There are a wealth of white papers on best practices and guidelines on both the AMEC and IPR websites. Yet “the measurement is important” message (and by this I mean the application of robust measurement versus lip-service measurement) is still difficult to push through all levels of an agency or client organization.

Thankfully, the Lisbon measurement agenda is setting out to tackle these challenges in the coming years with four clear priorities that help to solve these issues. With the support of everyone in the industry, we can get there.

Ruth Pestana is worldwide director of strategic services at Hill & Knowlton.

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