Advancing communications measurement and evaluation

5 Reasons to Re-Brand the Measurement Industry


The measurement industry needs better PR, starting with what it calls itself. It’s time we give ourselves more credit—and take more credit—for what we actually do. We wield the complex and powerful tools of big data, vast computer networks, and arcane statistics. We bring insight and intelligence to bear on the thorniest problems of communications programs and strategy. And yet we tell the world we do “measurement.”

Any robot with a ruler can measure something

Measurement schmeasurement. Measurement is just not what we do. As Jim Macnamara writes in “Evaluation and Insights Are What ‘The Measurement Industry’ Actually Do – Or Should Do” the definitions of what we do are largely inadequate, and by no means encompass its complexity.

Sell the sizzle, not the steak

I don’t think the esteemed Professor Macnamara goes far enough. Aren’t evaluation and insights the tools we use to improve PR and communications? Let’s learn from our apparently-more-self-assertive cousins in the advertising industry and sell the complete package. We are really in the improvement-of-communications-strategy business. That’s a heroic and inspirational mission: Why don’t we start waving the flag?

5 reasons to re-brand the measurement industry

1.) “Measurement” is a relic of our less sophisticated past.

It’s time for an update. Today almost anyone who “measures” their PR or communications is actually undertaking a complex process of developing metrics, gathering and analyzing data, comparing results to objectives, generating insights, and using those insights to improve their programs. By continuing to call this sophisticated endeavor “measurement” we do not adequately describe what we do. This confuses some people.

2.) Measuring something is the least valuable part of the measurement industry.

Measurement—as in the simple act of measuring something—implies the mindless collection of data. Where the measurement industry actually provides and proves its value is in using that data to gain insight and improve strategy. Brains beats yardsticks any day of the week.

3.) “Measurement” implies that it’s an easy job.

“Measurement” makes it sound like it is possible to evaluate PR and communications just by measuring something. How hard can it be? No wonder people keep clamoring for one easy number; the very name of our industry implies that there ought to be one.

4.) “Measurement” limits our aspirations.

If we want a seat at the table, then we’ve got to dress for dinner. “Measurement” sounds like we are limiting ourselves. Like we don’t want to think big. Case in point: Just think of how many blog posts or newsletter articles you’ve seen that are about measurement and that are illustrated with an image of a ruler or a tape measure. Really? If that’s all we think we do, then that’s all we’ll do.

5.) “Measurement” limits the respect we get, and our paycheck.

Once we start taking credit for the full range and value of what we do, we can start getting paid for it, too.


(Thanks to Kernut for the image.)

Bill Paarlberg
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Bill Paarlberg

Bill Paarlberg co-founded The Measurement Standard in 2002 and was its editor until July 2017. He also edits The Measurement Advisor newsletter. He is editor of the award-winning "Measuring the Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Katie Paine, and editor of two other books on measurement by Katie Paine, "Measure What Matters" and "Measuring Public Relationships." Visit Bill Paarlberg's page on LinkedIn.
Bill Paarlberg
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