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Truescope Talks: Johna Burke

In this edition of Truescope Talks, our CEO John Croll speaks to Global Managing Director of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), Johna Burke.

Based in Arizona USA, Johna is renowned in the global media intelligence and communication industries having dedicated her career to the space. She’s spearheaded AMEC for the last three years, initiatives like the AMEC Global Summit (to be held online next week from 26-27 May, 2021) and continues to dedicate her time to promoting the importance of the industry and the role of tech and data today for communication professionals.

John talks to Johna about the role of AMEC, her vision to drive the organisation and the industry forward as well as the state of the measurement and evaluation industry globally.


Hi and welcome to Truescope Talks, Johna. I've known you for a long time now, but tell us all a bit about your professional background and how you came to be the AMEC CEO.

Hi John, it's always wonderful getting some time to catch up about all-things measurement and evaluation; thank you for having me here.

My journey has been gradual and always an interesting one through all facets of PR and support services. I started as a technical writer producing user guides and safety manuals. This somewhat tedious work resulted in a lot of time with engineers and legal which was like solving complex puzzles but couldn't hold my attention long-term. I had resigned for a new challenge when the President and the CEO convinced me to stay and direct the public relations and investor relations.

I was young, an avid learner, tireless and up for the challenge. Those times seem like the stone ages by current standards. I remember getting our first fax machine and gathering the team to 'take a moment' and let the gravity of how this machine would 'revolutionise' our job. I had a staffer who was in charge of sorting press clippings and putting them in books to report to the line business managers and the board of directors, real 'cutting' edge stuff.

I used a BOOK for media contacts. Yes, it was that long ago. Realising there must be a better way, I joined a monitoring service to try and make a difference from the inside. I committed eighteen years to that endeavour. Having been a member of AMEC for more than a decade when the CEO role came available, it just felt like the right time and the right place. Yadda Yadda Yadda, here I am 2.5 years later. The role of global managing director is rewarding and allows me to work with, encourage and support an industry and leaders I admire.

How does the 'measuring of communications effectiveness' state of play look today? And what is your vision for AMEC and driving the industry forward?

The access to data and appetite for communication effectiveness has never been greater. I'm amazed daily by the products, technology, and insights-driven programs developed and managed by AMEC members. It's inspiring to be part of the industry during this evolution.

Historically, the vision has been more focused on measurement and evaluation of earned media, but recent years mandate the integration of communication effectiveness. Through tools like the Measurement Maturity Mapper, which allow organisations to benchmark their programs and the Integrated Evaluation Framework (IEF), which shows across all channels the effectiveness of communication, we help professionals answer how they demonstrate the value of communication. SMART objectives aligned with organisational goals, steer the communication to drive more value and orient stakeholders for long-term success and value.

Education continues to be a focus for AMEC. We launched our foundation course, a new online course designed to introduce students to the essential elements of media measurement and evaluation in April. This course is intended to improve the baseline understanding of measurement and evaluation, which will prepare more professionals for the AMEC Certificate course. By 2023, we aim to have a three-tier education program that will help upskill the market and drive more innovation and results.

What does today's member profile look like? How has it changed in recent years (if it has)?

We celebrate our 25th anniversary this year. Our commitment to best practice holds steady, but the profile of the member has evolved. The collaboration of seven evaluation companies in the UK, now includes a broader membership more representative of the communication ecosystem including communication agencies, not-for-profits, in-house comms teams, consultancies and tech partners in 86 countries. These members operate as a community and also have Special Interest Groups(SIGs) (not-for-profit, AMEC Agency, Tech Hub, CEO, Educators and Academics, and four regions to support members from APAC, LATAM, Europe and North America) where members can collaborate with peer groups on the challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

How does Australia rate on the global stage when it comes to measurement and evaluation globally?

We could do an hour-long show dedicated to the talent in Australia. Example: If we only used the AMEC Measurement and Evaluation of Communication Awards as an indicator, the innovative work from thought leaders like Khali Sakkas, an award-winning powerhouse and former international board member, Michael O'Connell, who consistently produces award-winning programs, Ngaire Crawford, a highly commended young professional of the year who leads our next-generation professional group and when partnered with Khali they dominated the AMEC Awards, Prashant Saxena, who co-chairs the APAC chapter, Deb Camden, who is on our planning workgroup bringing her expertise of setting SMART objectives and has brought home some AMEC awards for her clients along with AMEC Certified Members including several highly commended students from Australia.

It doesn't stop there, let's add that Australia is home to arguably the top academic on measurement and evaluation, Professor Jim Macnamara, who along with yourself has been recognised with the top distinction of AMEC, the Don Bartholomew Award. John, you also carry the distinction of Lifetime AMEC Fellow for your leadership within the association for your years of service as a volunteer. You may not mention this, but there are many young professionals you mentored and supported to pursue the AMEC Certificate who sing your praises in making the certification a priority - making them better consultants and problems solvers to help their client demonstrate the effectiveness of communication.

It's an understatement to say Australia is a force to be reckoned with in measurement and evaluation.

How can more professionals from the APAC region become involved?

  1. Join AMEC. There are many advantages, but primarily our members create advantage and elevate their expertise to become trusted counsellors.
  2. Support Barcelona Principles 3.0: Take a public position in support of the seven pillars of measurement and evaluation best practices.
  3. Take the AMEC Foundation course once it opens and sign up for the AMEC Certificate course, offered three times a year.
  4. Challenge your organisation to put their work up against the best in the world by entering the AMEC Awards.
  5. Join AMEC Free webinars and register for the virtual summit to be held May 26-27 to expand your learning about Communication Accountability: Planning, purpose and proof.

Finally, where do you think is measurement headed, and what is AMEC doing to change/shape the future?

The future is now. Some organisations see six months as a lifetime as they battle the challenge of having a business in this climate. At the same time, more often than nought, organisations are eyeing a twelve-month plan where they would historically be pursuing three to five-year plans.

What I do know without a doubt is it is a great time to be in data and evaluation. As more organisations are cautious and dedicated to making every communication count, research initiatives have never been more vital. Research allows organisations to 'peak' around the corner to be strategic in their planning, messaging, and communication goals.

AI is table stakes in measurement and evaluation. That means different things for different organisations, but those organisations incorporating technology into their program to make them more agile, responsive and aligned with their stakeholders are the ones who can expect to excel in the short and long-term. For some organisations, this will mean insights, and for many organisations, this will be 'cleaning the data’ making it actionable. Many organisations struggle to try to unlock value from the flood of misinformation, and AI will enable them to cut through the clutter of bots and bad data to more effectively target their stakeholder with the right message, in the right place, at the right time.

If the last year is any indication, the road ahead will have many curves and twists. AMEC will continue to be dedicated to upskilling professionals through education, feature best practices and share learnings from all markets with members and professionals worldwide to grow and develop as a community.

Register now for next week’s global AMEC Summit, ‘Communication Accountability: Planning, Purpose and Proof

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