The ICCO World PR Report revealed that PR measurement and analytics is the top area of investment for 2023 with 24% of respondents intending to increase investment. These are my 10 PR measurement resolutions for you to include in your communications and PR plan for 2023.
1) Make PR measurement part of your routine as it’s best used before and during, not simply to report at the end
PR measurement isn’t something to think about when you’re finished and need to report the results or success of your work. Communications measurement is something you need to do at every stage and the most crucial elements are before you start and while you are doing it. It’s impossible to create an effective PR and communications measurement report of your results if you haven’t planned how you are going to do measurement from before you started.
2) Use data, analytics and measurement for better insight to improve planning
PR professionals are often notoriously poor planners. They chose PR and communications because they are creatives and aren’t number people. Their favourite subjects at school were languages and humanities, rarely maths or physics. PR professionals must overcome their fear of numbers and embrace the data. Done properly it doesn’t stifle creativity but enhances it.
3) Use measurement to improve performance as if you do better work then the results you report will be better by default
British cycling coach Dave Brailsford is credited with using ‘marginal gains’ to improve the performance of the Great Britain cycling team. The principle is that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.
We can apply the same concept to public relations and communications. If we identify everything we do and find a way to measure and improve it by a tiny amount, then the overall results will be much better.
Most of the PR measurement metrics we use to do this incremental improvement will only be relevant to the PR and communication team and don’t need to be reported elsewhere.
4) Don’t focus on proving the value of PR or ROI, as that’s never the main benefit of PR measurement
The reason most PR professionals want to improve how they measure communications is because they want to prove what value they’ve added.
Crudely they want to show how important they are. PR agencies want to keep clients and secure an increase in fees. In-house professionals want to secure next year’s budget or get a pay rise or promotion.
Starting by trying to prove PR value is also the worst way to approach PR measurement.
The value of public relations is far greater than just tracking crude metrics such as ROI (return on investment) or trying to do PR attribution to show that PR led to website visits or sales. Both of these things are rarely possible anyway and if people claim they are doing it then they are usually misleading it you.
The two most important stages of PR measurement are using data and analytics for insight and using it to incrementally improve what you do. If you get these two stages right, then your results become better by default.
5) Always set clear communications objectives
You need to know where you are starting and where you want to go. Once you know this then you can create a plan that gets you there. To do this you need to know how you are going to know you’ve got there.
To do this you need to set communications objectives that have a clear connection with organisational or business objectives. If you can’t see how a communications or PR activity is contributing to achieving a business objective, then you need to ask if you should be doing it.
6) Use PR measurement to help you improve the future, not just report on the past
Ask yourself which is going to be most valuable to your CEO or C-suite. Is it telling them what you’ve achieved or is it providing information to help them in future decision making? Academic research tells us that it is the latter. Professor Jim Macnamara’s research finds that CEOs “are more likely to pay for what they do not know and what can change the future”.
7) Measure what matters, less is more
There are hundreds of potential metrics than can be used to measure public relations and communications. But just because they exist, doesn’t mean we should use them. The metrics you choose to use will depend on the objectives you are trying to achieve. Different objectives require different metrics, so different activities and campaigns might be measured in different ways. There is no single answer or silver bullet metric.
8) Stop using vanity metrics and AVEs
AVEs (or advertising value equivalents) have never had any value. AVEs have always been a fraudulent, inaccurate and misleading metric. Despite this the 2022 ICCO World PR Report revealed that globally 61% of respondents use AVEs. The UK had the lowest percentage at 48%.
But AVEs aren’t the only nasty metric. We still come across dubious metrics such as reach and followers.
9) Report value, not costs
Many PR and communications measurement reports are full of output metrics that are costs to a business, instead of focusing on outcome metrics which show how PR has added value to the business.
The PR measurement metrics you use for incremental improvement will usually be different to the metrics that you report to the CEO, C-Suite and other teams.
CEOs and boards are too busy to be inundated with lots of detail. They need just enough reliable information to enable them to make better decisions. And use language and terms they can understand, rather than terms that mean more to PR and communications professionals.
10) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Good PR and communications measurement is hard. There is no perfect answer. There is no silver bullet. That’s why organisations like AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evalution of Communications) and the other professional bodies invest so much time in helping to improve professional practice.