Raising the industry standards of measurement 'the most important issue facing PR'

The PR and communications industry needs to raise the standard of measurement and evaluation across the long tail of small to medium-sized agencies, AMEC's Agency Working Group chair has said.

Grayling's global strategy lead Jon Meakin wants the PR profession to lifts its game on measurement
Grayling's global strategy lead Jon Meakin wants the PR profession to lifts its game on measurement

As PR and earned media has its moment in the sun, Grayling global head of strategic services and AMEC agency group chair, Jon Meakin, wants larger agencies to provide a helping hand to smaller ones and for agency leaders to "set aside egos and competitiveness" in raising standards across the board.

PR leaders: 'Time to bin vanity metrics and focus on measuring impact'

"This is the most important thing facing our sector for a number of reasons," Meakin told PRWeek following the launch of the Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) Agency Working Group.

"There is still that legacy of us being the less serious discipline when it comes to measurement and evaluation. Even though this is changing, there is still a legacy shadow we must come out of. It’s really important that we talk about measurement and evaluation, we shout about it and let clients know this is something we are taking seriously.

"The prize for the agency sector is enormous. Happy clients stick around longer and spend more."

Meakin, who was sharing his personal views on measurement as a 25-year PR veteran, explained that large global agencies have been doing sophisticated measurement for many years, but "there’s a huge long tail of small and medium-sized agencies that don’t traditionally do this stuff well".

‘Let’s set egos aside’

Part of the reason why smaller agencies struggle is down to a lack of resources and an natural aversion towards spreadsheets, pivot tables and data sources.

The area he believes the profession measures most poorly is social media success, for example using account followers as a proxy for reach.

Meakin would like to see more data analysis skills coming into PR, and for larger agencies to help smaller ones raise their standards.

"It’s about the big agencies reaching out a hand to the smaller agencies and saying, ‘we as a profession need to up our game’. If we do that across the board, we all benefit," he said.

"There is a natural protectiveness from agencies about not sharing proprietary tools and methodologies, even at Grayling with G-Core. But there is an industry best-practice standard that is available to all and it ought to be the benchmark.

"How we plan to share this is through education, by setting aside egos and competitiveness and trying to encourage agency professionals as peers to share and talk openly about common goals and challenges and how we can overcome them."

‘An integrated approach’

AMEC’s integrated evaluation framework provides a "bedrock" of what good measurement and evaluation looks like.

The tool, which is free to use, takes a holistic approach to evaluating measurement, rather than looking at different types of media in isolation. This means that earned, social, paid and owned media are combined in a single data source to measure the success of a client’s programme.

"Even if we on the agency side have not been responsible for that whole piece, we need to see the whole picture," Meakin said. "That’s really where AMEC’s agency group was born."

Another area Meakin would like to see improved is better integration of measurement and evaluation with each discipline in marcoms mix.

"With a lot of clients, we sit at the table with the above-the-line agency, the media planners and sometimes a separate social agency. For me, there ought to be one evaluation model. I don’t care who owns it or drives it, but we all need to feed into a single evaluation," Meakin said.

"Very often it’s that one-upmanship and competitiveness of agencies across different disciplines that gets in the way."

This can sometimes be caused by clients managing their agencies in a siloed fashion, but when different agencies operate as a single team within a single marketing budget, "that’s where the magic happens and suddenly the campaigns get better and the outputs improve".

"It’s in all of our interest to play nicely in the sand box," he added.

In November, AMEC will be putting on a range of events for Measurement Month.

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