The client view of what measurement looks like.
When I think back, to not more than five years ago, the norm in press offices across the country involved staff busily issuing statements, circulating press releases and basically ‘sending out stuff’. These outputs were easily measured, and the larger the numbers were, the better. The problem of course was that these results did not account for sentiment, whether the readership was the target audience or what difference the coverage made to profits, sales, behaviour or other organisational objectives.
I’m not saying these outputs shouldn’t be recorded – knock yourself out - but alongside evaluation of whether communications achieve (or contribute to) business outcomes. Having worked in this field for a few years now, I recognise that outcomes are typically more difficult to measure than outputs. But gone are the days where a supplier can provide metrics, a tool or pretty dashboards with no understanding of whether these are useful to inform what we do next. Now the most successful evaluation businesses are collaborating with their clients, really listening and asking the right questions. Measurement to me looks at the big picture – the objectives, the performance of our channels, the outcomes achieved and what we’ve learned from successes and failures along the way.
‘Actionable insights’ is a term I say a lot – it’s probably rather annoying - but honestly it’s the bottom line. We must be able to demonstrate our value, show how communications contribute towards business goals and quickly respond to what works or doesn’t so we can focus efforts on activities that are successful. And we need our partners working with us to do the same.
The introduction of the Social Media Measurement Framework by AMEC at its fifth annual summit in Amsterdam was much welcomed and was supported by the UK Government, PRCA, ICCO and CIPR. This updated framework is easy to use, downloadable and came with a helpful list of recommended metrics to consider.
I’m a great lover of frameworks and process – but like any tools, they need to be used in a way that’s appropriate for the campaign. The best measurement I’ve seen in Government has been where the individual evaluating the communications really gets it, recognises where success is evident against objectives and uses metrics in a way that informs future campaigns.
Why is it important?
Finding gems of insight that change what we do next eliminates waste, helps us to better understand our audiences, anticipate their interests and meet their needs while achieving our goals.
Measurement has an important part to play before, during and after campaigns and also during times of crisis. So I assess measurement and evaluation by asking a number of questions – What is the business and communication objective? What impact did press releases or social media posts have? Did they drive people to take up a Government scheme? Did the target audience change their behaviour? Did our partners, influencers or stakeholders contribute in a positive way? What is the sentiment within the target audience? Is there a mix of qualitative and quantitative metrics so we can identify why the change occurred? If there are no direct measures, are there indicators or proxies we can use to assess success?
So what do we need?
This is chapter 9 of this PR Measurement Guide so this is not the first time SMART objectives have come up. But I have to reiterate how important they are. SMART objectives make measurement and evaluation effective, and having them nailed from the start means investment in communications can be demonstrably well spent – this is particularly important for Government spending tax payers’ money.
Modern measurement always involves social media – it has a key part to play in evaluation and its fast paced nature provides real-time tracking and can even be used as an early warning system. It is however one piece of a bigger jigsaw and the industry is moving towards a more integrated approach to telling the full story. There is a wealth of data out there so choosing the metrics that matter is important. For a typical government campaign, that can be anything from social analytics to call centre volumes/correspondence, to export rates, take up of apprenticeships or affordable homes.
With all this data, it means that the typical communicator needs good agencies and suppliers that really listen, that collaborate and get underneath what the organisation is seeking to achieve. Modern communicators now need to be multi-skilled in communications and measurement.
✔ Don’t measure for vanity. Measure what matters against your objectives and demonstrate successes; but equally use measurement to identify what didn’t work and take action as a result.
✔ Fully understand the problem and objectives before you plan. At this planning stage set out the key metrics you will track including outputs, outtakes and outcomes.
✔ Don’t overcomplicate the reports. Communicate the findings with context so they make sense to those who are not expert in the field and tell the story of what it means for the organisation.
Head of Profession, Communication Insight and Evaluation, Prime Minister's Office and Cabinet Office Communications. UK Government