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Part One: Eight Steps Towards Creating a PR Measurement Culture

Improve your PR by unlocking data-informed insights

18 August 2021 by

If you read our previous blogs about making the investment arguments for PR measurement, you’ll have seen that we dealt with concerns about measurement exposing failure along with how and why it is both an ethical and practical imperative. The truth is that while a minority of organisations (or individuals within them) can and do use data as a stick rather than a carrot, the majority accept that humans do things, or make decisions that don’t always go well. When that happens crucial lessons should be learnt and, in our experience, it’s the organisations successfully creating a culture of measurement that learn most and, as a result, are able to reduce future failings.

In our next two pieces we’ll explore the mindset required to make measurement part of your organisational DNA. But before we dive into those steps, it’s crucial to remember that the complete measurement process connects PR activity to business objectives. It does this by way of a cycle of measurement and improvement, including planning, data collection, analysis, and adjustment—and then going back around to do it again, and again.

A measurement culture begins with data informed decision-making, and then moves beyond it to embrace the larger process of learning to improve. Data is a tool; measurement is a process of improvement. Measurement is about making data impactful, compelling, and memorable by using it to tell a story.

So, how do you build a culture of measurement? In short, the answer is you must monitor, model, and incentivise the use of measurement, with behaviour promoted by example from the top. The long answer? Here it is, in eight steps, we’ll cover the first four this week with the remain four coming next week.

 

1. Communicate the increasing need for a measurement culture

Measurement and evaluation are not new to public relations. What is new is ever-advancing technology, more and more data, and the growing need to analyse and quantify results. Typical measurement projects require cooperation between employees with skills in all these areas. So, to properly take advantage of the new technology and data, you need a culture that encourages collaborative learning and improvement.

Remember though, there’s a big difference between counting and measurement and there’s a temptation to see dashboards and real time charts with lots of figures and think that they are meaningful measurement. But just because it’s counting something, doesn’t mean that it actually counts. Many companies appear to offer cost-effective solutions, but basically just count ‘stuff.’ They promise a lot, but just because they show pretty charts and tables, doesn’t mean that they’re measuring what actually matters.

 

2. Make sure measurement starts at the top

A measurement culture cannot flourish without leaders who respect data, use it themselves, and encourage its use throughout their teams. The c-suite must show by example that data-informed decisions are the basis of the company culture.

Moreover, an organisation must take care to measure its own success in ways that encourages the culture it wishes to promote. “You become what you measure,” so a measurement culture must measure itself. A best practice is to develop a system to track the use of measurement, and then recognise and reward those who use it.

 

3. Enable free-flowing data sharing

A measurement culture needs free-flowing data. Decide what data should be available to employees, and then give them access to it, the tools to interrogate it, and inspire them to use it. This can be difficult for big and Global businesses, which often have several sources of incompatible measurement data and several different departments, each guarding their own data. Work to tear down those silos and simplify your data sources—or at least make them compatible. Ideally, implement a data and analytics environment so that all your employees can access data, visualise trends, and develop actionable intelligence.

Says Johna Burke, Global Managing Director of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC): “Comms really needs to understand what makes an organisation tick. They should probe and query the company’s broader objectives and understand how it makes and spends its money. Only then can they gain insight into how and where they should be delivering value, either to individual programs or to the wider corporate strategy.”

 

4. Let the data change your mind

A measurement culture promotes a willingness to change one’s thinking in the face of evidence, to learn from data-informed experience. Here is Johna Burke again: “The most prized skill for any comms professional is critical thinking. Real value comes when you challenge the status quo, when you don’t accept traditional wisdom. Question everything—interrogate data with a fresh eye. Don’t just accept things that are handed to you.”

 

Coming up next week: We’ll cover the final four steps to building a measurement culture that lasts. Will your top tips be included? If not we’d love to hear them!

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