Proving our worth: comms evaluation critical to industry's future

In the second of a series of columns from our partner AMEC, Richard Bagnall reflects on the organisation's Global Summit 2019 and what it could mean for the future of comms evaluation.

AMEC, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, held its global summit in Prague in May. Reflecting the ever-increasing importance of the topic, we were joined by more than 300 delegates from 39 countries.

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The summit showed that the measurement, evaluation and insights sector is in buoyant health and record demand. AMEC’s Global Insights report, released at the event, shows that communications evaluation is growing strongly across the world. It is often cited as the number-one topic on communications professionals’ minds.

Never before in more than 25 years in PR and evaluation have I known such sustained interest in how to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of PR. As I said at the summit, now truly is this industry’s time.

Despite the huge demand, the evaluation sector remains realistic about the challenges it faces. Many PRs are still confused as to what best practice looks like and how it should be applied to their organisation. Securing the buy-in of senior leadership on the importance of measurement and evaluation remains the most oft-cited difficulty. It is critical, therefore, to help people explain the value of good measurement.

At the heart of AMEC’s purpose is best-practice education on meaningful measurement. As a trade association we do this by running initiatives and providing free-to-use intuitive resources and tools. AMEC was the organisation behind the Barcelona Principles, M3 (the Measurement Maturity Mapper), and the widely adopted Integrated Evaluation Framework. This Framework has been translated into 22 languages, is in use at more than 2,000 organisations and is being taught on PR academic courses. It truly has become the de facto process for best in class measurement.

It was pleasing, therefore, to hear such great case studies at the summit showing how the Framework is solving the challenges of some of the world’s most respected brands and organisations. We were treated to three great sessions by the global comms leaders of Adobe, Sage and Diageo. They each explained how they had adapted the Framework to help them prove their value to their organisation, successfully tell their measurement stories and prove the value of the comms function.

The ongoing globalisation of evaluation was a recurring theme. Organisations are looking to ensure that their measurement programmes are run to a consistently high standard in all markets in which they operate. This is particularly good news as there has been a real risk of a ‘two-speed’ evaluation market developing – one where the more sophisticated approaches are in practice in developed markets, while in the emerging markets, basic output quantitative metrics predominate.

These basic metrics of course can include the dreaded AVE, which has now largely been consigned to the dustbin of history in the UK and US. Francis Ingham of ICCO/PRCA reinforced this point forcibly from the stage, urging his agency members to play their part in not allowing it to happen. AMEC’s new PR agency group, under the leadership of Jon Meakin of Grayling, is working hard through its Common Ground initiative to play its part.

The summit’s other key theme was how the industry is moving on from backward-looking ‘auditing’ of performance to forward-looking interpretation of multiple data points to provide critical strategic insights. Linking evaluation to the planning process is the next exciting stage of the process for the comms industry.

The AMEC Awards ceremony, which showcased more gold-winning pieces of work than ever before, had plenty of examples of this in practice. Like the Framework, this now needs to go mainstream and AMEC will be working hard on a new educational initiative to help make that happen. Watch this space!

Richard Bagnall is chief executive of Europe and the Americas for CARMA International, and chairman of AMEC

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