Six Common PR Measurement Myths Busted (Part 2)

How PR Measurement Transforms Fear of Failure into Learning

5-7 minutes

Last week we tackled the first three myths and misconceptions most commonly associated with PR measurement and analysis programs. These included how to overcome measurement apathy while also outlining seven key arguments to support investment.

Now we look at how to overcome the final three PR measurement concerns. While we have been keen to bust misconceptions, there is also a valid concern about measurement being used as stick to beat PR teams that we need to address. Institutionalised fear of failure can be a tough mountain to climb, but as many business leaders, academics, mentors and coaches will attest, failure is only failure if you fail to learn from it. In a bid to overcome the FOFO (Fear of Finding Out), our next two pieces will be focused on how to build a culture of measurement, but for now here are the last three myths we need to bust.

Myth 4: “We already measure—with AVE!”

Oh, the vanity! AVE (Advertising Value Equivalency), along with likes, impressions, and other counting metrics, are all examples of basic quantitative measures of PR output. These numbers are easy to come by and typically seem oh-so impressively large, but they lack direct relevance to the business value of PR efforts.

Big numbers and overreliance on dashboards are fuelling the appetite for vanity metrics. There is a temptation to see good-looking dashboards with lots of impressive figures and think it’s meaningful measurement. But this isn’t enough. PR practitioners must shape what they’ve done against organisational objectives. Real success comes when they take those ‘digital breadcrumbs’ and link them to outtakes (what do people think as a result of what you do) and outcomes (what do people actually do as a result)?”. And if AVE is still the beast you need to slay, see this guide from Richard Bagnall for why not to use them.

How to make your case: Educate

The good news in these cases is that the users of vanity metrics are at least familiar with the concept of measurement. They need to be educated and guided to more valid measures of success. This can be difficult if they’ve been using AVE for a long time or have a measurement vendor actively enabling their vanity habit. Taking key stakeholders, and the wider organisation, on a journey of measurement maturity is a challenging but rewarding pursuit. To create a step change in measurement PR teams need to inform and educate to make sure it is change that lasts. Moving away from vanity metrics also creates internal recognition that a busy PR team isn’t definitively a successful PR team and activities can be meaningless unless they are measured properly.

Myth 5. “I might be shown to have made a bad decision, and I’ll do anything to avoid that.”

Many people are aware of the power of measurement but are afraid to risk being shown to have made a mistake. “Measurement” to these people implies the distinct possibility of not measuring up.

It is human nature not to want to be shown to fail. But it is corporate culture that encourages or discourages learning from mistakes. Any culture that recognises the value of learning through mistakes—and embraces employees who provide those learning opportunities—will have an easier time adopting measurement. And see more success as a result.

How to make your case: Measurement is a process; there is value in failure.

A key tenet of measurement is that there is value in failure. Measurement is a process by which you improve your PR program by discovering what is going right as well as what is going wrong. Measurement is about trying, testing, and improving—it’s an ongoing investigation of what works and what doesn’t.

Johna Burke, Global Managing Director of AMEC, gave us her perspective on what failure should mean: “I believe that failure or poor performance actually defines how people get better. Know why you failed and use that to accelerate other programs.

“At AMEC we want to encourage more of a fighter mentality, to build the confidence among communicators to push for better metrics and evaluation. This can only improve their work. For example, we urge people not to worry about turning in a report with a line going down, as long as you can explain it and have a plan for changing that trend.”

Myth 6. “Proper, meaningful measurement is too hard to do correctly.”

We’ve saved this one for last because it strikes closest to home. Yes, it can be hard to do meaningful measurement. No matter how confidently we talk about measurement, it is sometimes extremely difficult to identify business objectives, choose metrics that properly connect PR to those objectives, find the data and analyse it, and then get everyone involved to use that analysis to improve a program.

How to make your case: The experts have managed the most challenging PR measurement conundrums and are ready to help.

The good news is that the measurement industry works tirelessly to make measurement better, faster, and easier. There are many, many resources available to educate and assist you and your organisation. There are conferences, classes, frameworks, and all manner of inexpensive ways to learn how to do measurement. The greatest measurement minds and the most active measurement organisations are dedicated to helping you make your measurement more valid, more accurate, less difficult, faster, and more valuable than ever before.

So, now that you’ve come this far, the next time someone says, “I don’t measure our PR because of [insert appropriate myth being offered as the excuse],” you can make an argument for it. Or send them these articles. Or, better yet, find some data that tells a useful story—and show them how it’s done.

Coming up next week: Now you’ve got measurement buy-in and investment, how do you create a culture of measurement to maximize its impact?

Speak with one of our experienced consultants about your media monitoring and communications evaluation today.