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Is Measurement and Evaluation giving us boardroom satisfaction?

Is Measurement and Evaluation giving us boardroom satisfaction?

By John Croll

It’s #MeasurementMonth and it has me thinking about challenging my own views of media measurement and evaluation and whether, as an ‘industry veteran’, folk like me are doing enough to bolster its importance in the boardroom.  

What do I mean by that? I think to really understand communication effectiveness let’s take a step right back and ask, “Can measurement be defined?”

What does measurement mean to industry professionals?  Is there room, and is it time, to propel the conversation to one that is more sophisticated? What does sophisticated measurement look like? Do we even really understand it? Even at a basic level?

I don’t have all the answers (just yet) but I do have a couple of thought starters I wanted to share, because regardless of role title, communications professionals should be striving to use and understand measurement and evaluation as an invaluable (and sophisticated) tool to help drive success.  

Can measurement be defined?

“What does measurement mean to you or your organisation?” That’s what I asked my network on LinkedIn and Twitter recently. Why? Because I was invited to talk about ‘Emerging trends in media measurement’ for the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s podcast as part of #MeasurementMonth and it had me wondering whether measurement was easily defined. I was pleased to receive a few candid responses but I certainly wasn’t inundated, nor did a robust debate blow up about what we consider measurement to mean to us and our organisations. Here’s a snapshot of some of the responses I received:

  • “...Although measurement is powerful as a tool to gauge progress and status, the learning and growth comes from evaluating and then reflecting on your results. Measurement in and by itself become an exercise in data hoarding for no real purpose other than, perhaps, showing off.” - Jesper Andersen, Strategy Advisor and Managing Director of Quantum Public Relations.
  • “Essential to gauge success and demonstrate value in what we do!” - Shelley Hammond, Founder & Managing Director at One Roof Agency.
  • “Measurement is taking measures. On their own, measures mean nothing. Evaluation is the next step to compare measures (e.g., before and after comms) and identify value against objectives. Then the final step is learning to gain insights that enable continuous improvement and inform future strategy.” - Distinguished Professor, Jim Macnamara PhD, FAMI, CPM, FAMEC, FPRIA
  • “Not a new trend, but one that continues to require repetitive promotion. Extensive measurement data and analysis tools, assist proving and improving public relations performance and return-on-investment” - Ernie de Wal, Executive Business Advisor at Guidepoint and Gersen Lehrman Group, Vice President - Knowledge Management of Cision Canada Inc.

I deduced from this and the other responses, that those who contributed understand the importance of measuring what matters, but the way we measure and what we’re aiming to uncover remains, not only difficult to define, but it’s vastly ambiguous. And it’s challenging to articulate in a succinct way, even for the craftiest articulators and storytellers in the business. And what these responses also reinforce to me, is that there’s a job to be done to define measurement and evaluation. We must know what we’re talking about in order to be able to do it. And to better it.

What is the bigger picture?

Measurement starts with the numbers and must be followed by smart evaluation and analysis to gain the insights that will truly move the needle.  Many industry professionals know they should measure, but many lack the confidence to use the right tools to provide the data and insights they need to demonstrate value. Further, only 37% of global agencies are planning to invest in measurement and analytics according to the ICCO’s World PR report 2020 which is startling, and frankly, not good enough. How can comms professionals sell-in their value to the boardroom, or ask for bigger budgets if they’re not using tools and analysis to show what they are delivering to their business?  

This suggests that there is an enormous opportunity to move the conversation to one that is more sophisticated. How? By viewing it as a necessity.  Forget the, ‘I’m a words person, not a numbers person’ excuse, because, guess what? We need to measure ‘words’, by numbers.  

The need for this line of thinking is reinforced in a recent Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC) survey which found 74% of members strongly agree that clients and stakeholders are asking for increasingly sophisticated types of evaluation to demonstrate the benefit of communications activity. Yet, referring back to the ICCO study, only 37% are planning to invest further in measurement and analytics.

How to ensure boardroom satisfaction

So what does sophisticated measurement and evaluation look like? I’m not even going to mention AVEs. It’s about using the right tools and the right tech to uncover the insights that mean something to your organisation. And I should also clarify, sophisticated doesn’t need to mean complex. The most powerful metrics of analysis are often the simplest.

Tools like Truescope’s Dashboards allow communications professionals to do exactly that.  It’s not enough to know who is talking about your brand, but to know in what context, where and why is vital. You might have also hit a spike in coverage, but take it a step further and highlight and understand the events behind the change. It could help inform your next PR strategy.

Communications measurement has also moved on from solely media analysis or content analysis. The best and most sophisticated measurement lies with using insights from, yes, media analysis (including social media) but also consumer research and economic analysis. This involves expanding the scope to multiple vendors and implementing different methodologies, and not only across PR and Marketing, but involving IR and digital teams to harness information.

This multidisciplinary and multi-channel view is vital to capture a holistic picture beyond traditional measurement and evaluation. And, the need for this thinking, and doing, is again reinforced in AMEC’s survey which also found 64% of respondents agreed clients and stakeholders put increasing emphasis on insights and less on measurement and evaluation.

The touchpoints from where we derive data are also expanding and evolving. It’s not just about paid and earned content, but sophisticated measurement involves any point of contact a brand has with its audience. That’s paid, earned, shared and owned content as well as sources like online forums and call centres. But it’s what you do with the data that makes the difference.  

By approaching measurement with success, communications professionals will be helping to shift the perception of measurement and evaluation, and levelling up with clients and stakeholders who are helping drive the demand (and expectation) for more.

Now, surely that’s a positive to bolster boardroom satisfaction.

As part of #MeasurementMonth John featured in (off the) Talk Track’s podcast on ‘The great match up: Measurement vs. Evaluation’. You can take a listen to the full episode here:

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