Why is Measurement Usually an Afterthought?

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This is the fourth in a series of blog posts for Measurement Month.

When it comes to public relations, “measurement” is seen as what you do at the end of a campaign. Whether it is to prove success or simply catalogue mentions, measurement is only discussed at the end. Unfortunately, this usually leads to very basic reports filled with vanity metrics. Vanity metrics, according to author Ryan Holiday, are the metrics that feel important but are ultimately superficial or, worse, deceptive. These are the numbers that you can get through most automated tools, but without any sort of context (impressions, share of voice, etc.). If we want measurement to actually make an impact, it needs to be discussed before, during and after an event.

The good news? It is getting better. AMEC, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication has dedicated an entire month to the topic of measurement. September’s Measurement Month has been filled with free events, articles, and webinars with the aim of not only explaining how to start and perfect measurement, but to also explain how to use it as a tool to showcase true value and ROI.

One of the most important learnings – listen and ask the right questions before a campaign to make sure you are setting measurable objectives and your metrics are tied to actual business goals. [There are two AMEC archived webinars to help explain this process called “Setting Measureable Objectives” and “Beyond Vanity Metrics” that can be found at amecmmna.com]. By starting before the campaign or project begins, you can make sure you are gathering the correct data and including the correct stakeholders ensuring your reports will resonate. These questions can include:

  • What is the strategic goal of the PR/ Marketing program?
    • Specifically, what is the business goal
  • Who are the key audiences?
    • Consumers? Investors? Employees? Etc.
  • What platforms will be affected?
    • Traditional Media? Social Media? Events/ experiential? Paid Ads? Website? Emails? Measurement should go beyond just media.
  • What are the internal key performance indicators (kpi’s) that are being used?
    • How can we tie our metrics back to these internal metrics?
  • What is the internal reporting structure?
    • Who will be receiving these reports? Do we need to provide different metrics for different divisions?
  • What insights are we hoping for?
    • Imagine yourself at the end of your campaign or project, if everything was a success, what would you hope to prove? It is helpful to think of the ideal ending so you can work back and make sure you have created the best measurement program possible.

Once you have these answers, you now have the ability to design your measurement program. AMEC has even helped with this process with their new measurement framework. This framework assists you in defining your objective, inputs, activities, outputs, outtakes, outcomes and the final impact.

The conversation around PR measurement is constantly evolving. Access to data and feedback keeps getting easier, and tools keep getting more sophisticated, but it is important to still start the process with the right questions. No two PR programs are the same, so why should their measurement reports be? How do you know you are measuring the right things? – Ask the right questions.


nmNicole Moreo is Director of Research and Insights with Peppercomm, Inc., a strategic communications firm headquartered in New York. Follow her on Twitter @kikimoreo.

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