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Why measurement needs to be about more than arse covering: it’s about purpose

By John Croll

Media intelligence is where I’ve spent the past 20 years of my career, and when it comes to measurement, I’ve formed my own fairly strong view of where the industry sits currently and where it’s headed.

And the reality is, the status quo isn’t going to cut it. The change we need will happen when our industry and our people are truly connected to the purpose.

The marketing and business community often talks about brands finding their Why (Simon Sinek), we talk openly about the need to invest in becoming a “purpose driven company” however, PR and communications is still surrounded in vanity metrics that provide a vague understanding of the benefits being achieved. This lack of tangible purpose driven metrics is also affecting our talent retention in communications which means the industry is losing its prized assets. 

We need to transition from thinking about media intelligence to leading with media smarts; it’s time for purpose driven measurement. There’s a movement to now elevate not only the conversation, but the approach, and make measurement meaningful beyond arse covering.

Industry View

ICCO’s World PR report 2020 states that 37% of global agencies are planning to invest in measurement and analytics. The report applauds this, yet I also find it concerning that the figure is not 90% or above. 

The report tells us we’re operating with optimism and we’re looking forward to as much profitability as we have done in previous years (pre Covid-19), yet how can we expect this to continue without adequate measurement of our role in organisations’ successes? 

In addition, Muck Rack reported in 2019 that 72% of PR pros said measuring business impact is currently the top challenge facing the industry. So, the positive is that we know it needs to change, but we’re not sure how to do it. 

Rest assured, there are experts out there who do know how to unlock the truth to effective communication evaluation. Here are just three areas of focus that every PR person can employ today to reimagine their measurement efforts:

1. Trusted Technology

New technology will help to empower comms professionals to understand, influence and predict changes in media perception. By using technology that saves time and accurately produces real time results, additional thought can be put in creating campaigns, or communications that matter, and ultimately, make a difference. 

My business partner and tech futurist Michael Bade is one of the most forward thinking product innovators in our industry, and he sees AI powered search, recommendation engines and predictive technologies being key to unlocking measurement agility and success. Machine learning will enable our industry to be more in touch with capturing more value than ever. 

2. Beyond the data dump 

Today’s most effective communications programs and functions are data driven. They’re based on insights to formulate strategy and then dependent on insights from outcomes to gauge success. This is the convergence where data becomes more than just data, it becomes insights and is where our measurement efforts need to be focused.

Bill Gates once said “The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competitors, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” 

We all have access to basic data but as communicators we need to call upon people and tools to help us decode it in a way that makes it usable. 

3. Education

Arm yourself with industry discussions. There’s no silver bullet so don’t try and find it, draw inspiration from those who are doing parts well and create your own bespoke methodology that reflects your output.

Jim Macnamara, Professor of Public Communication, University of Technology Sydney has for a long time discussed that academic research and practice are “mutually informative”. Looking at academic research to help inform best practice should not be discounted as it is often commissioned to discover gaps of knowledge in the industry.

A good place to start would be the AMEC education college as it aims to “set the standard” for best practice and new ways of working and combines both academic and practical advice. 

Conclusion

We’re in a new world on every level. The year 2020 is like no other I’ll likely see in my lifetime in terms of uncertainty, scepticism and business trepidation.

But with that should also come great optimism, and an opportunity to drive efficiencies, to see things differently, completely reimagine our processes and of course, to demonstrate clear value - well beyond arse covering.

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