Six Common PR Measurement Myths Busted

And Seven Facts to Use When Seeking Analysis Investment

5 - 7 minutes

For those of us involved in PR measurement its value is a given. But gaining wider organisational buy-in and getting the resources to measure properly can be a challenge, not least because there are six common misconceptions that often crop up.

Here we are tackling the first three of those myths, along with arguments you can use to support the case for measurement and analysis investment. The remaining three myths will be busted next week!

Myth 1: “Everything’s fine, so there isn’t any need for measurement”

t’s true that when things are going well there can be reluctance to challenge the status quo. Why go looking for trouble, right? What you don’t know can’t hurt you. But then, if you don’t know, it can be difficult to improve, learn, adapt and grow.

We have a strong belief that measurement is both an ethical and practical business imperative. Measurement removes reliance on gutfeel by objectively presenting the truth, and data always leads to better decision-making.

Here are seven good reasons to invest in PR measurement:

  1. It places PR at the table: measurement demonstrates the value of PR in language the C-suite understands.
  2. It improves PR programs: measurement provides a fact-based system to advance the effectiveness of PR programs.
  3. It empowers employees: measurement demonstrates to employees their own accomplishments, building a culture of recognition and celebration.
  4. It scopes out the competition: measurement allows more accurate assessment of positioning in a competitive environment.
  5. It makes PR decisions clear and transparent: The definitions of success are decided and agreed upon ahead of time, so everyone is better informed.
  6. It provides decision-defining data: beyond comms, measurement data is often applicable to other business decisions.
  7. It is constantly becoming easier and more powerful: the industry is tech-enabled and has the interest, aptitude, and skills to undertake the logical, data-driven process of measurement. There is more and more best practice advice available on how to measure properly; we live and breathe the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework.

Myth 2. “We don’t need data to make decisions, we are smart enough to do good work without it.”

Sometimes people are unconvinced of the power of data-informed decisions. They may have some distrust of “relying on numbers.” They may think measurement will hamper their creativity, personal influence or autonomy. They may not fully appreciate the way the business can benefit from using data to make better decisions.

Measurement is how the C-suite comprehends PR’s value.

The ready availability of data means that PR is no longer insulated from C-suite demands for ROI. So, one of the most compelling arguments for measurement is that it enables PR to express its value in ways that connect to business outcomes. Sales and marketing are both heavily data-driven functions which report to the board with widely known and understood metrics. PR must be able to do the same and, by doing so, gains a stronger and more strategic voice in the boardroom

We asked Johna Burke, global managing director of AMEC, about why measurement is so important: “As communicators, we’ve got to adapt our language so that it fits with corporate aims. We’ve got to justify the value of the work we do and show that we’re not some soft, emotional, and peripheral part of the business. We need hard metrics to tell the full story about how comms benefits the enterprise.”

PR needs to develop the data habit and lead by example.

Most people who are wary of data or measurement have already rejected the logical arguments. They can be inflexible and need to learn measurement’s benefits by gaining familiarity with how it works. Often the key to persuasion is to show them by example and let them “discover” the value for themselves.

Begin by starting small and going for quick wins. Put together some simple data to gain easy insights. This could be something as straight forward as looking at web traffic and dwell-time to a couple of different products and explaining how it’s possible to derive that product A resonates more highly than product B. You’re not persuading someone to “do measurement”—you are showing them the value of data and insights.

These simple data points don’t need much effort, permission, or budget. They are, however, the start on a wonderful road along the measurement maturity ladder. We recommend checking out AMEC’s Measurement Maturity Mapper, a diagnostic tool designed to help professionals at any level of sophistication plan their measurement and evaluation journey. At the other end of the spectrum are comprehensive measurement projects that require specialist expertise. For these projects you need resources and definitive buy-in from others and additional sources of data. Which leads us to…

Myth 3. “Measurement is too expensive”

Some people need to be convinced that measurement is worth spending money on. Those who worry about the expense of analysis usually need to be shown that best practice measurement is the very means by which to gain a larger budget.

Budgets are secured, and staff are motivated, when programs have demonstrable outcomes that can be mapped against strategic business objectives. Measurement ensures that PR professionals understand how to defend their position as creators of organisational value, rather than purely cost centers undertaking activity with no clear purpose.

How much to spend on PR measurement?

Leaders often ask how much measurement should or could cost and expect a definitive answer. Many a measurement expert has taken a stand on cost, saying, “you should spend X% [usually about 10%] of the budget of a comms program on measurement.” While it’s impossible to give a standard percentage to cover every situation, the point is that there is a certain percentage that one can recommend, and it is relatively small compared to the entire PR project budget. Perhaps the real persuasive power of expert statements is that they provide authority that leaders need to set a budget and move forward with measurement.

When the final barrier is an absolute lack of budget available, there are still ways you can include measurement that matters into PR activity. Check out these pointers on measuring PR on limited budgets.

So far, we’ve offered up suggestions about how to turn measurement doubters into believers and made the case for measurement and evaluation investment by pragmatically tackling the myths and misconceptions that typically derail efforts to onboard a measurement program

Read part 2 to bust three more PR measurement myths.

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