March 21, 2011
Placing measurement at the forefront of PR practice is an evergreen topic. Every year, a trade magazine proclaims that this is the year of measurement. And every year there are conferences and summits that lay out a great agenda for measurement going forward. Yet, as professionals, we still find ourselves putting measurement on the to-do list.
In fact, if you look at how many agencies pitch new business to prospective clients, the priorities are usually in this order: credentials, strategy, tactics, budget and then maybe measurement of results. Usually, as time is running out, someone tells the measurement person that he or she will have to make the pitch fast and create slides on the spot.
However, 2010 saw what may be the beginning of a change. First, in June, the measurement industry gathered in Barcelona and voted seven principles into existence. For once, the profession had reached a consensus on what works and what doesn’t. While the principles don’t solve every problem, they do specifically refute using advertising value equivalents (AVEs) and false multipliers — common practices that equate the value of public relations with the cost of advertising and that support the notion that earned media is always at least twice as valuable as paid media. Neither is true.
Then, in November, PR leaders gathered in London and answered two questions: If we don’t use AVEs, then what are the right metrics? And, since social media is the hottest thing going on in public relations, and the Barcelona Principles specifically address its measurement, how do we make sense out of all the different approaches that the approximately 300 suppliers of social media measurement are pushing?
So it appears that 2010 was the year that the profession got its act together under the leadership of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications, which put on the Barcelona and London events in partnership with many other groups, including PRSA.
Principles in action
When OneVoice (a combined agency of Omnicom companies that handles Philips’ business globally) pitched Philips, we did something a bit different with measurement. Instead of putting it on the back end as an afterthought, we opened the pitch with the concept of measurement. We said, “We’re going to show you a lot of smart ideas and cool tactics in a few minutes. But before we start, let’s first show you how we are going to be accountable through a global measurement system.”
Now, having worked together for almost two years, we’ve learned a few things that will help you consider how to implement the Barcelona Principles:
We have found that by embracing measurement, the communicators at Philips and OneVoice have developed the right tools to manage how we work together and, perhaps more important, how we work with our partners in other parts of the Philips organization, its advertising group and other agencies.
These suggestions aren’t difficult to implement and are relevant to the communications professional, irrespective of whether they are on the client or agency side. It’s about putting a system in place that doesn’t cost too much and only measures what matters. At the same time it should create a culture of working together toward continual improvement in communications performance to drive brand marketing and corporate reputation.
The PR practitioner who says, “We got 500 hits, which generated 250 million impressions with an AVE of $2MM!” is a thing of the past. That same person is probably also saying that social media is just a fad and we can ignore it. The Barcelona Principles set the standards. The future is about smart measurement, proper budgets, the language of business and consistency across an organization in how we approach traditional and social media. Let’s plan on bringing that level of professionalism to the entire industry as we move further into 2011.
Andre Manning is the head of global marketing and communications at Royal Philips Electronics. He has held positions of progressive responsibility in communications at Philips throughout his career.
David B. Rockland, Ph.D., is partner/CEO and managing director for the research and change communications businesses at Ketchum.