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How to Build a Measurement Framework for PR

The lucky seven tips

09 November 2021 by

Hot off the back of our exceptional kickoff to CARMA’s Measurement Month, last week’s ‘Embedding a Culture of Measurement’, we delve deeper and ask ‘How do we build a measurement framework?’

 

A warm welcome from our global CMO, Kristin Devey, set the scene and introduced us to this week’s guests, Richard Bagnall, Co-managing Partner and CEO, Orla Graham, Account Director, and Rawan Hashem, Director of Content Insights.

You could argue that an hour isn’t anywhere near enough to cover such a broad and important topic, but thanks to concise presentations, we hope this session delivered a solid case for why you should embed a framework into your organisation, and how you can do it. It’s all about helping you to start affecting real change with your clients and stakeholders.

 

The important questions up front

During #AMECMM especially, we tend to get asked, “Why would you want to help your competitors?” Richard illustrated ‘why’ with a beautiful photo of boats stuck in the mud during low tide, alongside the old adage, “A rising tide lifts all ships”. Put simply, it is in everyone’s interests that practitioners have a single voice that talks about best practice. This mindset ultimately became the ethos of AMEC, and was something that we carried with us throughout the development and evolution of the framework in the way we use it today, as far back as Berlin’s 2009 International Summit. Want to feel old? That’s now 12 years ago…

A question that was asked early on for AMEC was “How can we speak with a common language when everyone’s talking about measurement in a different way?” AMEC’s approach at the time was to leave no stone unturned. Developing seven robust statements on what good and bad looks like, the framework’s beauty was in its balance of detail and accessibility. And to ensure this balance was just right, AMEC worked alongside a number of trade associations, including PRSA, CIPR and PRCA, as well as 300 organisations who played a key part in the framework’s development, including CARMA.

 

Building upon success

By 2011, AMEC had introduced the Valid Metrics Framework, in which PR and comms worked alongside the traditional marketing funnels that we’ve all become so familiar with. The important questions asked here are “How does PR link to an outcome?” and “What does the organisation want you to do?” By using traditional frameworks alongside our own, we were able to make PR and media measurement not only more familiar to marketers, but to a new movement of PR professionals who, like us, understand that ‘stuff for the sake of doing stuff’ needs to swiftly move aside, with a determined focus on delivering organisational outcomes instead.

Much like measurement, marketing has evolved too, and as we saw new channels rise (and in some cases fall), it made sense to introduce a Social Media Measurement Framework. After all, PR and comms hasn’t been about journalist relations for some time now, with audiences engaging through other routes, such as paid, earned and owned. In an integrated world, our framework needed to reflect that.

 

Uh oh, too many frameworks

Yes, six frameworks. Whilst we had every faith in the work we’d ourselves contributed to, from the big, bombastic headline approaches down to the finer, more granular details, six frameworks is five too many. Richard explained how in 2016 he led the senior team to take the best of it all and develop one overarching framework to rule them all, with a more refined focus on:

  • Being able to apply best practice, from the two-person not-for-profit, to big financial organisations
  • Basing the framework on a well-regarded and widely used business technique called ‘process evaluation’
  • Helping PR people do more than just ‘count stuff’, and focus on stronger output metrics, content evaluation and ultimately, value
  • Measuring impact and outcomes as well as activity

Richard wrapped up with some impressive numbers. The current framework is now used by over 2,000 organisations, and has been translated into 22 languages. Not only is it taught in education institutions around the world, it’s also acknowledged as global best practice.

 

Richard’s final thought

The PR and comms world is at a tipping point. Economies, budgets and abilities are stress factors at just about every organisation right now. The future is uncertain as we find ourselves suspended in a holding pattern of taxes, revenues and vaccines. So there’s a ginormous focus on ROI like never before. As such, nobody wants a PR department that just does ‘stuff’ without showing value.

We cannot keep counting, and we must show the value of reputation management, PR and comms in a meaningful way. Let’s all lean in and understand.

 

The three O’s (or four, including Orla…)

Outputs, outtakes and outcomes. Orla’s introduction to this part of the framework was a refreshing reminder to think about your audience (and their objectives) first. Measure impact, not metrics. The importance of an audience’s journey cannot be underestimated. Ask them (and yourself): What’s going on? What’s the impact? How does it link back to your objectives? And most importantly, your organisational impact.

Orla’s call to ‘See, think and do’ opens us up to additional levels of awareness, reputation and action, three key pillars to our framework. But here, we encourage you to come up with your own – whatever version of this works for you. Orla also gave us a glimpse into some impressive work with Tourism Ireland, who used the framework to reconcile the value of publicity. At the beginning, they weren’t measuring any aspects of their strategy, and by the end of the implementation, their comms strategy, targets and audiences were all underpinned by the framework.

 

Transformation examples

Rawan’s segment wrapped everything up rather nicely, echoing some of the subjects that we covered in our first webinar; clients are not looking for a 40-slide report, but just a few screens that tell a meaningful measurement story. Of course, PR and comms pros want to prove value, but with many defaulting to stats upon figures upon numbers, it’s a transition that we need to help clients work through.

With so much data, where do we start? Rawan concluded with an inspiring example of her and her team’s work with a government client focused on changing reputation and perception for the better. No mean feat. Initial conversations with the client suggested that they were too invested in measuring outputs. These are easily quantifiable, but they don’t tell a story. After all, if you count stuff, you embed a culture of counting stuff, and that means you just ‘do stuff’. That isn’t strategic PR. A series of workshops embedded a new standard for best practice and measurement, and helped the client to design a transformation framework which identified which metrics to carry forward and those to leave behind.

 

The power of progress

The framework has evidently been a long time in the making, as has our own adaptation. That’s not to say it’s complicated. In fact, the fundamentals are very simple, and you’ll have to forgive us for having a rather similar post-webinar analysis to last week’s. Spoiler alert: it’s storytelling.

Always use data to tell a story. And by doing so, help your clients renew their interest in measurement and comms. From outputs and numbers, to outcomes and recommendations, clients all over the world are understanding the value of frameworks, and whilst they’re multifaceted in their composition, a framework is nothing more than a tool to help us measure what matters.

 

A tool can enable, but it’s not the answer on its own. 

 

Your homework, if we may, is to tailor the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework to suit your team or region, be a critical thinker – a connected communicator, and, as always, tell a meaningful measurement story.

Of course, if you need any help, just reach out

 

You can now watch a replay of this webinar.

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