Measurement matters, and PR firms need to take action

Cision MD of enterprise and insight business Jeni Lee Chapman on why measurement matters more than ever

Jeni Lee Chapman has experience working at leading marketing information companies with global clients. Prior to joining Cision, she worked at Gorkana
Jeni Lee Chapman has experience working at leading marketing information companies with global clients. Prior to joining Cision, she worked at Gorkana

Measurement week was launched two years ago by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC). The initiative has grown from a one-week event to measurement month and this year’s events have been hosted in cities across the globe including Sydney, London, and New York.

Change is happening and more companies are recognizing the importance of comms measurement and evaluation.

A 2014 study by AMEC found that two in three members agree that clients and stakeholders are putting increasing emphasis on insights and less on monitoring.

The Arthur W. Page Society also conducted research and found that among its 200-plus members that participated in its "Page Jam" in 2015, investment priorities were shifting and the three highest for the CCO where social media, owned media, and metrics and tracking systems.

A panelist at this year’s AMEC conference, Eileen Sheil, executive director of corporate comms at the Cleveland Clinic, talked about how measurement strategies had enabled her team to not only avoid potential cuts to its PR budget, but also grow it.

The team has been able to link its PR and media efforts to a specific ROI around the number of patients that came in as a direct result of their campaigns.

Macro changes are driving the trend for companies to implement rigorous measurement programs that not only help show the value of what the communication teams are delivering, but are also developing programs that give them the foresight to guide the company through the issues coming up.

Social has made comms even more global than before. The role of a CCO requires a global view and the ability to listen to social conversations in various countries that may affect a company’s business in that region.

It’s still surprising when large companies want to do a measurement program but "only want to measure mainstream media" and do not want to integrate an understanding of social as a comms channel within their program. Both are key as social sharing feeds off of what reputation-relevant media and influencers write about, but it also works the other way around.

It is a mistake for any senior-level PR pro to think they do not need to understand the role of social in amplifying a story or determining what news becomes a story.

In addition, quantity metrics alone are finally being recognized as not enough and, in some cases, misleading. At a conference last year, Jackie Matthews, long-term contractor for comms research at General Motors, shared a story that encapsulates this issue.

She told of being part of presentations from three different agencies for three separate campaigns. The first one was a large initiative that had delivered about 300,000 impressions. The following week, a second firm came in and presented the results of a medium-size effort with about 600,000 impressions. Finally, the last team presented the results of a campaign so small, the head of measurement had not even known about it. However, it delivered three times the number of impressions as the first one.

While Matthews was sure the agency had done good work, the numbers being used to show the campaign’s "success" had the opposite effect by being perceived as over-inflated.

Numbers matter and doing measurement the right way gets you more budget for your teams and a seat at the table. Doing it the wrong way can do the opposite.

For agencies, the more you can show your value, the stronger your relationships will be with clients. Comms firms need to incorporate a measurement module into proposals to clients – and that measurement must be done by a third party. If you insist on grading your own work rather than working with an independent firm, your work and its impact will never get the same recognition.

AMEC defined some calls to action for members to accomplish in the coming year, including an update on current programs to include competitive insights. Also, members should replace things such as AVEs or impression-only metrics and commit to adding in qualitative metrics such as the quality of the story or progress delivering specific core messages to your target audiences.

Finally, set goals. You will garner respect from your organization if you do.

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