Don't fear measurement; embrace it

A lot of people in PR approach measurement and evaluation with dread.

Change your attitude to measurement, says Chris Webb
Change your attitude to measurement, says Chris Webb
They worry about setting themselves up for a fall or revealing disappointing results. They come up with a raft of excuses to avoid it, convincing themselves it will take up precious time that could be better spent securing results, or that it’s too expensive.  

Despite general agreement about its importance, a ‘head in the sand’ mentality endures.  

My mantra on measurement is simple: embrace it. Have confidence in what you do and put it at the heart of your approach.  

Adopt the right attitude, really care about making a meaningful difference and the rest will flow from there. If you adopt this mindset then you’ll do better work as a result; that’s a fact. 

I think success comes from three simple guiding principles:

1. Place focus on what really matters
When people ask ‘what should I measure?’ my answer is always the same. Work out what you want to achieve and measure that. If you stripped back everything, what would be the central purpose of your campaign? What audience do you want to reach and what do you want them to do? This should be the focus, this should steer us at all times. We absolutely need to measure the stepping stones that will lead to the desired behaviour or attitude change but too often we forget to track the impact on our ultimate goal.  

2. Look forward and not just back
Too often people think of evaluation just in terms of a rear-view mirror, to look back and try to justify the time and budget invested. Instead measurement should also be used to look forward, to help us learn, adapt and improve, to guide us. It’s naïve to think our plans will be perfect from the start every time. Measurement can help us track progress and adjust our approach accordingly. We need to take the emphasis off solely trying to ‘prove our worth’ and embrace measurement as a way to keep us on the right track towards our objectives. 

3. Becoming obsessed by ‘so what?’  
We’re in the business of creating reactions, so we need to be more interested in what those reactions are. We need to be more inquisitive, more curious about what’s happening as a result of our work. However tempting, we shouldn’t ‘presume’ the double-page feature we placed in the Daily Mail, that’s littered with our key messages and a prominent call to action, will draw a standing ovation from the board. We need to demonstrate the actual difference it makes for the business.  

It’s time for change. We need to take collective responsibility for improving standards. No more excuses, no more apathy. Be brave and embrace measurement. Be passionate about making a difference and be proud of what you achieve.

Chris Webb is the head of measurement at Pegasus

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