Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Collective Conversation Feed: How do you measure PR?

While most of the worlds attention has been turned toward Cannes and the festival of advertising there♣, the faceless men and women of the PR industry have been busy trying to work out standard measurements to track and value what it is we do.

5 measurement companies, two hundred delegates from PR and the aforementioned measurement companies flew into Barcelona to nut out the specifics. It was the second time the global group had come together and while i’m not aware of what they came up with last time, the outcome of this meeting wasn’t a standardised measure. They did however come up with seven nifty principles that they could all agree with.

1. Measurement and goal setting are fundamental for any PR programmes
2. Media measurement requires quantity and quality – clip cuts are generally meaningless
3. AVEs do not measure the value of PR and do not inform future activity; they measure the cost of media space
4. Social media can and should be measured
5. Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring media results
6. Business results can and should be measured where possible
7. Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement

The over all shift that these principles describe are an increasing desire to dissociate the world of PR from the world of advertising. The value of media has fallen sharply this year, right around the world, so I’d agree that AVE’s (Advertising Value Equivalents) doesn’t make much sense. Also, allowing for some measure of quality of coverage, and quality of effect seems like a great direction to be headed in.

I’m a little disappointed that the group felt that social media was unique enough to single out for a principle. Any interaction online has almost infinite measurability when compared to some of the traditional media platforms. The continuing exclusion of digital at the highest levels of the industry seems unbelievably out of place to me. We could learn a lot from the media planners and their language of channel neutrality. There is a tendency to chuckle it up at ad agencies who leap into the production process of a 30 second spot, while we think nothing at all of reusing the coverage target slide from the latest presentation on the server. All agencies need to play a part of moving PR thinking towards true online/offline integration. Its worth it for our clients and the job enjoyment of our staff.

Digital rant over, measurement means being able to crow our success and learn from our failures. It’s about delivering a considered and comprehensive ROI to the client, one that hopefully starts by communicating effort, perhaps through quality and reach. Quality and reach probably don’t represent return in many business, and when we make the jump from Comms Manager to CEO, that bottom line looms large. Demonstrating effect on sales, and the development of an engaged and re-contactable audience are key.

Interestingly, the winners at Cannes in the PR Lions section exhibited this type of breadth. Many of them fell back on AVE’s to communicate quality and reach, but since most were ad agencies that is hardly surprising. Secondly, they subscribed a group of advocates who drove their campaigns transmedia. Finally, they all could document (or at least suppose) a significant change in consumer behaviour, the most successful in increases of sales.

Media buyers have been weighting channels on their influence and value for years. By developing a channel neutral weighting system we could potentailly have one system across both new and old forms. It might be as simple as reach (potential reach/actual reach) x quality (the value of the channel itself) x influence (the likelihood of a channel generating news, content or action). Then again, it might not.

This wasn’t meant to be an attempt to define the measures for the industry. I believe that the PR industry has a tremendous advantage in our existing skill sets in building campaigns that earn media. We have, for some time now, told stories that capture the minds of influencer’s and get retold in their voices. I believe that the changes in terms of social media have massively increased the number of people who can act as an influencer, and I’ll accept that just because everyone can, doesn’t mean everyone does.

In developing a system of measurement for the industry, let’s not lose sight of the things we do extremely well, and try to find a way to measure those.

♣ Well, ok. It was probably only me watching Cannes...Collective Conversation Feed by Ben Shipley

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