A heightened focus on accountability and proving return on investment has left comms teams trying to do as much as possible, with as little as possible, whilst delivering the biggest organisational value. Yet many PR and comms teams still have not fully embraced measurement best practice or applied it to their organisations.
There are plenty of barriers in the way. Some practitioners are unsure where to start, others are battling internal culture or data silos. Securing the buy-in of senior leadership has been shown time and again to be a critical hurdle to overcome.
PR is not alone in feeling this heightened pressure. The 24/7 business environment, disrupted media, escalating crises and increasingly tight deadlines have seen pressure mount across the many facets of critical work that we do. There’s always more work to do with less time and fewer resources.
Do, plan and measure what’s meaningful
Ironically, the busier we are, the less time we have for the things that can make us more efficient: planning, prioritising and aligning our activities with business priorities. If we are too busy getting on just ‘doing stuff’, the temptation to simply ‘count stuff’ can then seem compelling. This risk is compounded by the proliferation of automated portals and SAAS platforms with their pretty dashboards, inflated numbers and real-time charts making ever bigger claims about what their automated systems actually do.
PRs dirty secret is that some agencies often don’t plan properly. They may just undertake activity and try to get coverage. But they don’t take a step back to decide what the plan is and how that can be measured. Having a proper plan you measure meaningfully against means you understand where you are going and what you have achieved. The best agencies understand that and if you want to match them then so do you.
Measuring what matters requires a clear and demonstrable link between communication strategy and what is most important to the organisation. Remember, the number one rule in measurement and evaluation is just because you can count it doesn’t mean that it matters. Take a step back to understand your organisation’s business objectives as a starting point for measurement and ascertaining how activity actually contributes towards their achievement. Get tech-informed and data-enabled.
Technology lends a hand
Technology can enhance every aspect of the way we work and has a huge role to play in media intelligence. But what is critical is that comms professionals know where their data comes from, what the tech does with it, where they can trust it and where it falls short. Where teams rely on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation to take the entire strain, we end up with messy, fragmented data.
The PR tech stack and automated media intelligence alone are not going to magically provide the full picture. It takes getting back to basics and applying critical thinking. This means researching, establishing benchmarks and appropriate targets, defining a plan, as well as excellent strategic and tactical execution. You then need measurement beyond activity-based counting, that links through to the organisational effects that are driven as a result of our work. If we continue to measure based on activity-driven metrics, we are just busy fools. We have to measure and use data appropriately to measure based on outcomes that support our objectives.
Tap into the right resources
All this can seem easy to say, but how do we start to overcome the challenges and measure better? As well as my day job at CARMA, for the last six years I have been chairman of the evaluation industry global professional body AMEC. AMEC’s primary focus is to support education and drive best practice in the communications evaluation sector. It is known for setting standards, particularly the Barcelona Principles, which offer a set of seven practical guiding values for meaningful and relevant measurement.
These Principles set out a broad view of what good practice should entail, but they don’t show how to apply that in your own organisation. For that reason I led the team that created AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation Framework. This interactive tool provides all of the guidance and support that you need to create your own meaningful measurement programme, providing a consistent and credible approach that works for organisations of all sizes. Importantly, it can be tailored to very specific use cases, campaigns and objectives.
Unlock the power of data storytelling
In the years ahead, it is crucial we use measurement to prove that PR is not just a cost-centre undertaking activity, but a genuine value creator, supporting and driving desired organisational outcomes. Even the rise of in-house Insight departments shouldn’t take the data out of the hands and minds of communicators.
We need clear plans, established benchmarks, KPIs and SMART targets for success. We need measurement that speaks the same language as the organisation’s leaders and provides a meaningful report of achievements. We need to allocate time and effort to measurement as a strategic foundation for planning and course correction to ensure we are getting it right.
Organisations that can truly unlock the power of data, and PR professionals that can make sure their efforts are accurately represented, will surely have the upper hand.
This article originally appeared on the Allegory Communications blog.