Chapter 16 of #FuturePRoof is all about measurement and evaluation. Communications reports that go beyond coverage numbers and share of voice in the media are far more useful documents to the C-Suite.
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MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION John Brown
· Why public relations practitioners need to change how they measure and report
· The key principles behind best practice and evaluation
· How to align campaign objectives and outcomes with organisational objectives and report in a way the
Pounds and pence, that’s what measurement for the C-Suite comes down to right? No, not really - the success of a communications programme can go way beyond the bottom line.
Selling PR results
I don’t know of a PR professional that’s not heard the infamous words ‘I need you to sell this coverage to the board’.
Pages of graphs, charts and guff analysing share of voice and message cut through are diligently churned out by the PR team, only to be given a cursory nod in the board meeting and forgotten about by the time the posh biscuits are served.
The idea that PR results need to be sold in order to register in the board meeting is a concept that doesn’t sit right with many in the industry. Results should speak for themselves because they are measured and evaluated in a way that makes them impactful, relevant and useful without having the lipstick applied.
If your PR team spends the last week of every quarter or the last few days of every month frantically window dressing results in a bid to apply the right amount of polish then stop. Take a deep breath, pick up the phone and suggest that things need to change.
In short, if you need to ‘sell’ your PR results, then the way you measure and evaluate the work you’re doing needs to evolve.
That change may involve completely readdressing the purpose of the PR programme.
What’s the point?
Why bother with PR? It’s an important question and one that doesn’t get asked enough either by in-house executives or agency teams. We should all ask ourselves, regularly, why are we doing this PR programme?
By challenging the reason why we do something we should, provided there is a reason, discover our purpose, goals and objectives.
Luckily, a bunch of clever people in Barcelona, and more recently in a spare room at Ketchum Towers in London, have spelled out how we can set ourselves goals and objectives that link to an overall purpose.
I couldn’t get very far in writing a chapter on measurement without first patting the Barcelona Principles on the back. So here are the ‘seven commandments’.
Fig 1. The Barcelona Principles
1. Importance of Goal Setting and Measurement
2. Measuring the Effect on Outcomes is Preferred in Measuring Outputs
3. The Effect on Business Results Can and Should be Measured Where Possible
4. Media Measurement Requires Quantity and Quality
5. AVEs are not the Value of Public Relations
6. Social Media Can and Should be Measured
7. Transparency and Repeatability are Paramount to Sound Measurement
1. Goal Setting and Measurement are Fundamental in Communication and Public Relations
2. Measuring Communications Outcomes is Recommended Versus Only Measuring Outputs
3. The Effect on Organizational Performance Can and Should Be Measured Where Possible
4. Measurement and Evaluation Require Both Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
5. AVEs are not the Value of Communications
6. Social Media Can and Should be Measured Consistently with Other Media Channels
7. Measurement and Evaluation Should be Transparent, Consistent and Valid
However, perhaps the most important, and often overlooked, principle is the first one around setting a clear goal and underpinning that goal with useful objectives.
Give your communications programme a purpose. A purpose that resonates with the business as a whole, not just the finance team or the media relations team. This purpose might not even become apparent in the ‘brief’.
But if you want to avoid the situation of being sat on a Chesterfield chair in a dusky boardroom being asked ‘what’s the point in you?’ then getting your purpose and your goal nailed and agreed at the start is a big step towards measurement and evaluation success.
From there we can start putting in place the right measurement practices. But it takes two to tango.
Show me the money
Right at the start of this chapter I said it’s not all about pounds and pence when it comes to measurement. I truly believe that. But there is a conversation around cash that needs to be had with the senior executives of businesses. That conversation is around investing in measurement.
For too long communications professionals have been asked to pull rabbits out of hats when it comes to analyzing the success of a comms programme or campaign. Frankly, the ‘C-Suite’ needs to put some skin in the game. What’s more, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for investment.
Principle 4 of the Barcelona Principles suggests that qualitative and quantitative methods of measurement should be employed in order to achieve effective evaluation. That comes down to investing in benchmarking and proper market research as well as coverage counting and message analysis.
At the start of the campaign or comms programme, sit down with the primary stakeholders, lay out your shiny and relevant purpose and have a frank discussion as to what investment can be made to monitor the progress of the work.
Oh and please make sure that at that meeting there’s more than just PR people present. Communications goes further than the four walls of the marketing department.
Moving from sales to business
Communications professionals have a privileged role in that the work we do spans across every aspect of an organisation. From sales through to HR and beyond, our skills can be applied in more diverse ways than almost any other role.
Yet when it comes to measurement we have become myopic. In a desperate bid to try and align ourselves with what we think the C-Suite is interested in, money, we ignore the rest of the great work we are doing.
A CEO doesn’t just spend his or her time in the company vault counting gold coins. They have a responsibility to steer their business towards success on a number of different fronts. From the welfare of their employees through to the impact they have on society.
Communications programmes should have a purpose that can touch on different aspects of the business and as such we should be looking at how we can measure the impact of our work across different facets of the organisation.
We have a bunch of tools at our disposal. From something as simple as an internal staff survey that measures the sentiment and awareness of a PR campaign periodically, through to something more complex in the form of customer surveys and scorecards. The point is, we have a responsibility to spot the different stakeholders affected by our communications work and measure the impact it’s having on them.
A communications programme report that goes beyond coverage numbers and share of voice in the media to covering employee sentiment, customer loyalty and recruitment success will be a far more useful document to the C-Suite.
What’s more a report such as this, provided the results are appealing, could be your ticket into unlocking more budget for communications and getting a seat at the board room table.
Putting pounds behind Tweets and coverage
Don’t do it.
There is plenty of guidance out there on how to measure and evaluate communications programmes. The trick is to have the courage to stop old practices and move into new territory.
If we spent half as much time thinking about measurement as we do about what to next float down the Thames then we’d be all enjoying a measurement and evaluation golden age.
Of course, some of those older metrics should and must be measured, but not in isolation.
If we want to look a board room executive dead in the eye and with confidence present the value of the work we’re doing then we need to do the following:
· Showcase a clear purpose that maps onto the organisation
· Have the right blend of qualitative and quantitative metrics
· Prove the value of what we do goes way beyond the bottom line and in fact lies at the heart of the organisation as a whole
· Don’t try and convince a CFO that a tweet is worth £2 in revenue