I’ve been working in Communications for several years now and during this period I have helped develop and implement many programmes across a range of industries, but amongst all the excitement around creative tactics and top-notch strategic thinking, measurement always seems to be something of an afterthought. It’s seemingly the bridesmaid and never the bride.
Admittedly, numbers, metrics and analytics may not appear sexy in an industry packed full of big-hitting and attention grabbing ideas, but that does not diminish the fact measurement needs to be considered right from the start. It’s not an optional extra.
I’ve heard the term Moneyball Marketing bandied about and it perfectly encapsulates how data gives us the information we need to get the wins with more precision. Indeed, I often write that one of digital marketing’s greatest strengths is that it enables us to take a data driven approach and spend budget more intelligently. Central to this concept is measurement so we can make sense of seemingly endless data.
In my experience there is often some confusion about what exactly should be measured from Communications and PR activity; when in actual fact the beginnings of the answer can be found in the Barcelona Principles. But the Principles only provide the framework. The key to measuring what matters lies in asking your stakeholders the right questions, so you can ensure activity meets communication and business objectives.
As an aside I’m frustrated at the lack of understanding of the Barcelona Principles as measurement is crucial to the future of our industry. If we’re to genuinely counsel the C-suite, rival the advertising industry and increase the standing of PR, it’s vital we can show X activity has achieved Y Outcome. Outputs like coverage and online mentions come nowhere close to measuring the true value of PR. In fact they encourage a focus on the wrong activity and subsequently the wrong results.
I’ve listed Outputs, Outtakes and Outcomes in more detail below, so you too can take a robust approach to measurement.
These really are the low-hanging fruit of measurement. They are easily quantified and are the result of activity which generates blog posts, Tweets, online mentions and event attendance. Historically, too much emphasis has been placed on Outputs (often by Consumer PR teams), but they should be considered the first step of measurement, not the only one.
Outtakes go somewhat deeper and measure communications objectives. This could be recall, retention of messaging, influencer endorsement, as well as sentiment change or brand lift. As communications professionals I believe this is the level everyone should aspire to as a minimum requirement. If your agency just gives you press clippings it may be time for a change.
Finally, Outcomes are measured over a longer term, require more buy-in from the client and greater resource to measure, but most importantly are linked back to business objectives. Outcomes are quantifiable changes in behaviour, such as perception shift, advocacy and sales. In short, Outputs and Outtakes are useful, but Outcomes show communications activity in its most impactful light.
Before undertaking any activity you must benchmark these metrics and set out KPIs to show what you aim to achieve. After all, if you don’t keep score, you won’t know if you’re winning.