The 5 ‘menaces’ of PR measurement

By a senior account director at Atmosphere Communications

Five years ago the Barcelona Principles were set up as best practice for the PR industry’s approach to measurement and the efficacy of communication. The seven guidelines aimed to move the industry to a more strategic and comprehensive way of showing its true value. They were also supposed to be the death knell of the flawed existing metric, Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). To what extent has the South African PR industry adopted and implemented the seven principles? And are we evolving in line with international trends and keeping pace with measurement best practice?

By a senior account director at Atmosphere Communications
By a senior account director at Atmosphere Communications

It is hard to quantify the shifts with any precision. There have been some steps, but at best they are isolated, small in scale, random and sometimes merely rhetoric and self-promotion by the industry. So to use the phrase coined by the Queen of Measurement, Katie Paine, what are some of the ‘measurement menaces’ we need to overcome?

Menace #1: Setting smart objectives: Let’s start at the beginning. If we are unable to set smart communication objectives, how can we expect to measure our efforts? If a client brief is unclear and provides no link to the business strategy, we need to ask, ask, and ask again until we have clarity. Only then can we measure the impact of our efforts and move from communication outputs to business outcomes.

Menace #2: Measurement KPIs of clients: Are AVEs still the metric by which a communications manager’s own performance is measured at annual review time? We have to be brave, bold and responsible, and ask why clients would want us to continue providing misleading data to their executives that could result in flawed decision-making and ultimately incorrect allocations of precious budgets. I just love Katie’s turn of phrase: “If clients demanded hookers, bribes and heroin, would you provide those too?”

Menace #3: Integrated campaigns: While integrated marketing and communication is on the rise and clients are seeing the benefit of having PR in the mix, we must not be swayed to adopting traditional advertising campaign measures for the sake of alignment (and appeasing marketing managers!) One of the most exciting announcements at a recent international summit on measurement in Stockholm was the announcement of a task force that will develop a measurement framework to reflect the reality of integrated communications.

Menace #4: Packaging measurement as a new or unique offering: Acknowledgement of our collective industry slowness to progress meaningfully in terms of measurement may force us to waste no further time in trying to come up with the next big thing that will set our agency ahead of the next in the measurement stakes. It will also force us into a mode of collaboration and tapping into the frameworks that already exist.

Menace #5: Good measurement will require some resources: Let’s not be naïve or shy away from the fact that measurement will require budget allocation. We are in the business of changing human behaviour – awareness, perceptions, attitudes, opinions, engagement, trust, loyalty, relationships and ultimately action. Algorithms and quantitative data can at best provide a temperature gauge, but qualitative analysis provides understanding and insights into human thinking.