ITL #491 The Platinum Age for PR measurement and evaluation: when is it going to dawn on us?1 year, 2 months ago
The covid-19 pandemic may have generated a ‘virtual code’ for unlocking the future of Comms. By Deb Camden.
Professor Tom Watson is a noted scholar and PR measurement and evaluation advocate with a long and close association with IPRA. In an insight-packed podcast for Global Measurement Month last November, he declared we are in “the Golden Age for measurement and evaluation”. In his view, the role of communication professionals in our pandemic-challenged world of case numbers, deaths and vaccinations, has never been more important and the role of measurement and evaluation never before more vital.
The global pandemic, he contends, is “the biggest communication measurement and evaluation scenario ever – the greatest data collection on behaviour change and attitudes we have ever seen”.
I agree with the learned professor and would go even further. Beyond the Golden Age for our profession, I believe changes in technology and stakeholder expectations are hurtling us towards a Platinum Age for measurement and evaluation – one that captures the new horizon for PR beyond the pandemic; an era based on a precious metal even more valuable than gold that is a vital input into the computer technologies on which we now rely combined with consumers who are more informed and data literate than ever before. (And of course, it’s a not-so-subtle nod to the world’s longest reigning monarch!)
It’s sobering to reflect that it’s taken 170 years to achieve the current state of play for communication measurement and evaluation from the humble beginnings of the world's first press clipping agency established in London in 1852 when Polish newsagent, Henry Romeike, found actors, writers, musicians and artists visiting his shop to look for articles about themselves. It was then he realised he could turn this curiosity into a profitable business laying the foundation for today’s flourishing world of media intelligence.
Now, the once-in-a-century global pandemic has fundamentally changed the world and our profession. Beyond long overdue recognition for communication and PR professionals as ‘essential workers’, covid-19 has been a catalyst for digital transformation in the many and varied ways organisations and their publics engage and interact. That same transformation now needs to drive change and innovation among PR teams and functions.
Transformation from the ground up
The ability to adapt is critical to success in this new age. And for those number-challenged comms/PR folks who are getting ready to switch off at the mention of the words “digital transformation”, be assured digital transformation is not just about technology. It’s about transforming the way we do business - from the ground up.
So what does the Platinum Age of Measurement and Evaluation look like and how can we embrace the digital cultural transformation that's upon us?
- Long-term communication managers need to gear up and fast, as savvy digital natives join the ranks. How?
- by learning the language of measurement and evaluation
- understanding the strengths and limitations of technology platforms
- remembering not all comms/PR is done online. People are still at the heart of what we do and to whom we relate so we need to be expert at listening and evaluating
- Gen X, Gen Z and Millennial PR practitioners are well-equipped to tackle and embrace digital challenges and we need to embrace their curiosity, competence and skills. After all, they enter the workforce complete with LinkedIn profiles, Instagram and TikTok accounts along with an in-depth understanding of their followers, likes, shares and comments. Their challenge is that as early to mid-career professionals, they haven’t necessarily been exposed to communication planning and the nuances required to show the effectiveness of complex and comprehensive strategies. The cross-over in both the need and opportunity for proof of performance is happening here.
- Clients are wanting and expecting more but finding our profession lacking in the rigor and robust metrics of our organisational colleagues like strategy, finance and HR. If ever there was a time internal and external clients should be expecting more from comms/PR it's now as they work hard to recover the losses from covid-19 and adapt to the new normal. Clients everywhere should be asking “So what? Now what?” when it comes to communication performance. What difference has it or is it making? What difference isn't it making? In short, where's the proof?
If there was a divide before in the ‘them and us’ who are passionate about proving PR’s value, covid-19 has given us an unprecedented opportunity to fill that gap and prepare for this new age through:
- Education about the importance of ‘proof’ founded in measurement and evaluation. It’s true that any transformation is about the journey not just the destination, and measurement and evaluation as a process is no different. Granted, it may be difficult to get a read on just how long that journey is likely to be and how to plot your path. The champions and international experts in measurement and evaluation of communication at AMEC have produced a handy tool that does just that. Their Measurement Maturity Mapper (M3) helps professionals at any level of sophistication, and from any type of organisation, plan their measurement and evaluation journey by clearly benchmarking where you are starting from in the process. If you’re looking for formal M&E qualifications, AMEC’s Online College offers foundation and advanced courses you can study at your own leisure and which come with certification on completion.
- Empowering ourselves with knowledge of consumer behaviour, data and analytics. As Katie Delahaye Paine aka The Measurement Queen, so eloquently puts it: “Some just aren’t on the measurement bus yet, and others are trying to find the bus and the best route, and others are on the bus and enjoying it.” I’d like to take Katie’s analogy further to say, “the hybrid people mover has already left and it’s time to start running for it!”
If you don’t know where to start, think of yourself as a consumer and the behaviours you use when buying a new phone, a new car, or ordering your next food delivery. What has influenced your purchase decision? Who did you talk to about it? Where did you search for information? What criteria did you use to make your choice? How is your purchase decision being tracked? If you take some time to think about it, you’ll realise there are many first-hand experiences available to call upon to understand audience behaviours and the data that flows from them.
- Embracing technology and understanding how it can help lead to deeper and faster insights. At The Communication Dividend, our vision is “to bring communication intelligence into the hands of every communication professional in the world”. We know it's a grand ambition but one that we're striving to achieve.
For the complete novice, a great starting point is to become familiar with Google Analytics and to understand firstly, how to log in and secondly, to explore the wealth of information on offer and the insights to be gained from the data it holds. GA4 comes into full swing from 1 July 2023, so now is the prefect time to get acquainted.
When it comes to PR tools, you do have to pay for sophisticated analytics and media monitoring software, but you can augment your PR strategy and measurement efforts with a range of free online resources like the analytics found in your social media accounts.
While the world adjusts to the new normal, now is the time to harness covid-19 as the event that generated the ‘virtual code’ needed to unlock the future of our profession. Armed with education, empowerment and embracing new technology, communication and PR professionals in all types of organisations and serving myriad audiences will be well-equipped to transform ourselves and our profession for the Platinum Age of Measurement and Evaluation.
Deb Camden is a career communicator and self-confessed measurement and evaluation evangelist. She is the Australian innovator behind The Communication Dividend, a best-practice data and analytics solution that empowers communication professionals to prove their value, a Fellow of the Public Relations Institute of Australia and recently appointed co-chair of AMEC’s Asia-Pacific chapter.mail the author
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