Q&A: Ketchum's Flaherty on measurement in PR

Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty will be the keynote speaker at AMEC's Fifth European Summit on Measurement on June 6 in Madrid. He spoke to PRWeek about how the PR industry should tackle its long-standing measurement challenges.

Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty will be the keynote speaker at AMEC's Fifth European Summit on Measurement on June 6 in Madrid. He spoke to PRWeek about how the PR industry should tackle its long-running measurement challenges.

PRWeek: What are the key measurements that the PR industry uses? How can they improve?
Rob Flaherty, Ketchum:
There's a spectrum of measurement options moving from output measurements to outcome measurements. Ketchum and AMEC's advocacy is that it's not enough to do the most basic measurement of outputs – for example, impressions only or advertising equivalency, in which what you're measuring is what got out there. There's a better way.

To us, there are three fundamental questions that measurement should answer: One, did you reach the right people with the right message? If you're only measuring volume, you're not really looking at whether you reached the right people. Ketchum uses daily dashboards for clients that show whether their three core messages are getting through in the media. If one of those messages isn't getting through, you would dial it up.

Two, did their behavior change? Questions like ‘Do you plan to buy this product or vote for this candidate?' are measures of intent. But did they lead to an attitude and behavioral change?

Three, did it produce some economic benefit? That's what we're trying to move the standard toward.

PRW: What kind of measurements are clients asking for?
Flaherty: There's a big spectrum among our client base of companies that are still interested in metrics like impressions and others that want more than that. Now, as the communications business has a larger opportunity across the whole spectrum of marketing, and as marketers increasingly apply the power of earned engagement, we have a better shot of working with the CMO. The CMO is quite used to data to measure the reach and effectiveness of their marketing program. As we increasingly have larger opportunities across the marketing spectrum, we need to get better at measurement.

PRW: What marketing segment is the leader in measurement? What are you trying to learn from them?
Flaherty: It's not advertising, because they, too, have been on a journey to move from measuring outputs to measuring outcomes. Some of the measurement of online effectiveness leading to behavior is very important to look at because you can track someone's behavior online and whether it somewhat leads to purchase. That has created a whole opportunity for us to more closely tie what we do to behavior. One of the reasons digital campaigns are so hot these days is they do tend to draw more of a direct line from the start of a campaign through to behavior.

What I hope to do [at AMEC's European Summit] is talk about where our business is going, the opportunity that our discipline has, and the essential role that measurement, data, and analytics have in seizing that opportunity. Given that the people in that room are obviously proponents of measurement, the more important thing for me to do is to talk to them about how they can further make the business case for measurement, data, and analytics. It's more about arming them.

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