At the recent European Communication Summit, which took place in Brussels on June 29 and 30, 2017, CARMA’s CEO Mazen Nahawi delivered a presentation on simplifying measurement to drive successful communications efforts.
Mazen began by outlining three main reasons for employing communications measurement efforts, citing the process as an ethical imperative, a marker of performance, and a way to gain respect.
Communicators are ethically obligated to engage in the process to guard organizational and client reputation.
Additionally, the process allows professionals to show the progress of their performance. It creates a plan that can be tracked and adjusted to optimize communications efforts. Measurement provides verifiable evidence that goals are being met.
Measurement also builds respect for PR and communication professionals and the work they do. PR is no longer an afterthought in communications and business plans. Having a measurement plan in place illustrates the value of PR and demonstrates why it warrants a portion of the overall budget.
The evolution of measurement
Within recent decades, technology has evolved and developed to allow stronger searching and analysis capabilities for monitoring and measurement tools. Additionally, there have been changes in mindsets and approaches to measurement.
Mazen cited better standards, such as AMEC’s effort to eradicate AVEs as a PR metric, growing interest from the C-suite, and better recognition within the communications industry among the changes influencing measurement.
As measurement continues to evolve and adapt, Mazen noted that the most retained clients and highest PR budgets are from those who participate in regular, meaningful measurement.
According to Mazen, however, only 58 percent of clients measure regularly. Globally, measurement also tends to consist of AVEs and basic output reporting. As mentioned above, global PR and measurement organizations are emphasizing the inability of AVEs to provide accurate data and meaningful insight.
Automated technology is also changing measurement processes. Automated capabilities are expanding, and a larger divide is emerging between automated analysis, which costs less and tends to be driven by more junior staff members, and human analysis, which costs more and is driven by more senior members.
An audience member attending Mazen’s session proposed a question about the rise of this technology, asking if robots will take over measurement and analysis. Although this technology does facilitate measurement efforts and it is important to strike a balance between automation and human curation, measurement is not about numbers and tools but insight.
Measurement in a post-truth world
The public’s trust in communications is dwindling, due in large part to the breakdown of trust in political and corporate communicators in the news.
There are four contributing factors to this breakdown in trust in communications: poor measurement and research, a failure to communicate, a failure to build relationships, and failure in results.
Scandals and a distrust of politicians is not new, but the scale with which this is occurring is accelerating. For communicators and measurement professionals to navigate this situation, trust and credibility must be key parts of their measurement strategy.
The emergence of “Modern Tribes”
In addition to a collapse in trust, traditional institutions have crumbled, being replaced by Modern Tribes. Mazen defines these groups of people as, “transient communities that now are increasingly setting the global agenda and redefining social contracts.”
These Modern Tribes have replaced traditional stakeholders. Unlike traditional stakeholders, Modern Tribes are unpredictable and temporary. Metrics such as gender and age no longer accurately measure Modern Tribes. Instead, newer, less concrete metrics, such as mobility and social contract, define these groups.
Effective measurement in three steps
For professionals to engage in measurement that provides the most value, plans should include objectives, methodology, and execution.
Professionals should define clear objectives in any measurement program. PR, content marketing, and communications objectives should connect to business goals, and they should be defined with specific metrics.
A brand that wishes to increase knowledge about their company, for example, could simply set an objective to raise awareness, but a stronger objective would involve setting specific goals to meet this objective, such as aiming to increase web traffic by 50 percent and double email subscriptions.
According to Mazen, this step is the most important of any measurement program. Methodology is based on three key metrics: outputs, outtakes, and outcomes. Methodology should allow you to define success at the beginning of a plan and gauge success at the end.
This step involves reporting the findings from your measurement efforts by connecting the right data set with the proper reporting format. Professionals must identify the best way to clearly communicate the three key metrics of outputs, outtakes, and outcomes, based on business objectives and clear definitions of success.
What can you measure?
A variety of activities, topics, and objectives can be tracked through measurement programs.
During the launch of a new product, for example, brands can track the performance of the product by rating the sentiment of news stories covering the launch. Overwhelmingly negative sentiment about a specific aspect of a product could indicate to the brand’s professionals that changes are necessary.
Similarly, brands can measure the performance of their executives or spokespeople. This can be done by measuring the volume of media coverage against favorability scores.
Other communication areas for measuring include brand performance, reputation and credibility, stakeholder perception, and message resonance.
How much is it going to cost?
The cost for a measurement program will depend on the scope but Mazen provided a few budget principles to consider:
- Some measurement is always better than no measurement.
- There is no ‘Cheap’ nor ‘Expensive’ – it’s either good value, or not.
- Don’t get confused between low-cost SaaS solutions and higher value human validation solutions.
- Streamline your spending, especially if you are a multi-national. Coordinate with marketing, research, and colleagues around the world. It will save huge costs.
- Pay for insights not for passwords.
- Don’t forget copyrights.
What does all of this mean for communicators?
The development of new technology, refined expectations and approaches from industry professionals, and changing stakeholders affect modern measurement processes, but this doesn’t mean measurement needs to be a difficult process. By following the three steps of measurement—objectives, methodology, and execution—defining your organization’s definition of success, and finding the measurement tools and plans to fit your budget, you’re able to gain meaningful insight that drives successful communication efforts.
Refer to the slide deck from Mazen’s presentation on Slide Share for more information, or contact CARMA to learn more about communications measurement and how they can help to employ a plan for your organization.