Twenty years ago, the measure of the ‘PR man’ was the size of his clippings book, the fatter the better.
Obviously things have changed since then. Discourse on the nature of measurement and evaluation of communication campaigns have featured prominently among communication scholars, practitioners and business leaders, but they have become especially important in the 21st century as public relations practitioners are increasingly being required to show their value to the C-suite and the profession on the whole. Today, I will address one of three reasons why communication campaigns must be measured.
Planning, managing and executing a successful communication campaign requires a S.M.A.R.T and strategic approach, consequently, a large part of this process is an appreciation for the relationship among evaluation, strategy, setting objectives and the quantification thereof. Since communication has been historically seen as a qualitative undertaking, it is often asked: ‘why quantify’ and ‘what are some the strategies of quantification’? Several justifications exist for the measurement and evaluation of communication campaigns, these include, but are not limited to, demonstration of value, accountability and effective management, though not necessarily in that order. Today i’ll talk about demonstration of value.
Demonstration of value speaks not only to a practitioner’s value to the organisations, but the concept of shared value also known as triple bottom-line. Leading business strategist, Michael Porter, defines shared value as the equation where benefits to people, planet and profit are generated concomitantly; at one level, it meets needs through products and services; at another, it utilises resources, logistics and employee productivity; and at another level, it improves the environment in which the business operates. Public relations practitioners must apply communication strategies at the level of employee productivity that will contribute to this concept of shared value, hence their worth must be evident where the it counts, that is, the bottom-line. The justification of proper management is somewhat self-evident and directly related to accountability, as projects require clear goals, benchmarks and well-defined paths to achieving desired results, all clear features of effective management in any industry.
The point of measuring a communication campaign is essentially to keep one’s finger on the pulse of the campaign. Three widely discussed measurement strategies in communication include processes in listening, looking carefully at outputs and outcomes, and leveraging the Barcelona Principles. Industry leaders believe social listening is paramount to the point that some have created listening centres, something highly recommended for brands as it allows proactivity on various fronts whether positive or negative (PRWeek , 2015). It is a competitive advantage to be in a position to present clients with recommendations and strategies grounded in research collated by analysing millions of soundbites, micro-blogging and social conversations.
Industry leaders in analytics and insight will tell you that, up until a few years ago listening was an underexploited source of intelligence that gives honest, transparent feedback, it will also tell you how people are talking about a brand, the phrasing, the tone etc.
In terms of outputs and outcomes, the end game is to understand what has been done and why it matters, it informs the ‘so what?’ factor. Beyond this, it is important as it also gives insight on cost of outcomes which justifies output and the attendant budget.
Look out for my next blog which will be an extension of this one addressing accountability.