In 1996, Seeing a huge opportunity for growth and refinement in measurement within the PR industry, Richard Bagnall left a successful career as a PR practitioner to join the start-up media evaluation company Metrica (now part of the Gorkana Group) as Managing Director.
Today, Metrica is a highly respected measurement firm with a global presence; the leading company in its field. Richard is well-known within the PR and communications industries as a thought leader in his roles as both Metrica’s MD and Chairman of AMEC’s (the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) social media measurement standards group.
Social media threatens to put us back into the dark ages
Just as the PR industry started to move away from the spurious metrics of the past like AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalents) towards adopting the Barcelona Principles, social media came along and threatened to bomb us back into the dark ages where measurement is concerned.
There is still a lot of confusion on how to best measure social media content, which is why the work led by AMEC and its social media measurement group is so important.
We’re looking to help the industry understand which metrics matter and which don’t, as well as looking to clear up confusion over what social media influence really means, what is engagement – and whether it matters.
The advent of social media provides an opportunity to PRs to move their measurement away from focussing largely on outputs (newspaper cuttings), to out-takes (what people now think) and out-comes (what they have now done). Proving the effect of PR is now potentially a lot more tangible, although this upside is counterbalanced by the extra complexity of dealing with vast oceans of data!
One of my concerns is the number of software development companies – keen to jump on the social media bandwagon – which have launched social media monitoring products and brands. These companies often have little understanding or practical experience of PR, meaning that they’ve developed systems that boast metrics that are easy to capture, but that aren’t meaningful or relevant.
I think that the social media monitoring organisations have a lot to learn from the traditional PR measurement firms.
Would you let schoolchildren mark their own exams?
We focus our metrics on measuring what matters to PR professionals: delivering messages to key tailored target audiences in order to drive an outcome is at the heart of what they are trying to do and our metrics reflect this.
When PR agencies undertake measurement of their own campaigns, there is always a concern around how impartial they’ll be when the chips are down.
Schoolchildren don’t get to mark their own exams, and finance departments don’t audit their own company accounts – both for a very good reason.
My other concern is that people work in PR agencies because they want to become PR consultants, and not because they want to provide measurement and analytics. They are different skillsets that attract different types of people. I believe that the best measurement is done by specialists who are focussed on their work, which is one of the reasons I saw the potential in Metrica in the first place.
The reason clients rely on our services is that they’re objective, meaningful, easy-to-understand and open. We were confident enough to move away from confusing or misleading proprietary scoring systems. (This meant anyone could replicate our results and led to us relying on our excellent customer service to retain our clients, but it was a decision which has served us incredibly well.)
Measurement should be the first thing graduates think about
I’d like to see graduates enter the PR profession with the understanding that measurement should be the first thing they think about when planning a new campaign.
By considering what you will need to measure at the end of the campaign to demonstrate success, you’ll be forced to think carefully about what you are trying to achieve – which will in turn drive your objectives. Only then can you plan your strategy and your tactics.
Once this is done, it’s important to make sure that your metrics are meaningful and shaped around the objectives. Simple!
It’s becoming more and more important for PR practitioners to think analytically. The days of viewing PR as a black art that can’t be measured – or can be measured with a single number – are firmly behind us. The structural changes in the media industry are bringing all marketing disciplines into contact with each other. Silos are opening up.
Smart people from the advertising world are going to be competing for PR dollars soon. They don’t ignore analytics: the PR industry will do so at its peril.
Where to go for more information on PR measurement
If you’d like more information on PR measurement, I’d recommend:
AMEC - this organisation does fantastic work driving education and pioneering new measurement methods
The IPR - in the USA, the IPS leads the way with heavy-hitting academic research into the effects of PR
Blogs – I recommend Gorkana’s Measurement Matters, Don Bartholomew’s MetricsMan, Katie Paine’s Blog and Shonali Burke’s Waxing Unlyrical. All of these share great tips and techniques on how to undertake a proper measurement system.
- Jemma Watkins