The Barcelona Principles are being updated and the PR industry seems to be more abuzz about PR measurement and PR analytics than ever, and that’s great! Obviously we are big fans of the industry following a set of standards, getting away from meaningless metrics and digging deep into what PR measurement should entail.

In a recent MediaPost article, Barby Siegel of the Zeno Group was quoted as saying, “To come up with a big creative idea is brave, but to then say we are not going to go ahead with that idea because it’s not going to sell more phones or tablets, bottles of juice or whatever is even braver. Our guiding light every day is the fearless pursuit of the unexpected, but it is not creativity for the sake of it.”

Likewise, PRWeek recently wrote about the International Association of Measurement and Evaluation in Communications (AMEC) conference. In their report, the author quotes Stuart Smith, global CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations, (who incidentally was quoting a colleague of his), stating “PR people have a collective failure to be curious about why what they do works.”

Amen… and wait, what?

PR measurement has traditionally been more focused on outputs only, with agencies providing status reports on activity that took place. Not that measuring outputs is bad - after all, productivity is used in many professions as a metric of success. But it can’t the the only metric of success. Outcomes must also be measured and, more importantly, analyzed. We need more of the why , not just the “what.”

Data isn’t a new thing, it’s just easier than ever to gather it these days. The issue in PR isn’t that professionals don’t have the ability to gather and view data, but rather that the analysis has rarely included a deep dive into what worked - and what didn’t - and why.

Here at SeeDepth we like to say that we help you recognize success patterns so you can repeat what’s working and pivot from what isn’t. That last part - pivoting - is crucial and the element that many PR professionals have been missing. Take a PR agency for example. They are paid to create a successful strategy and execute upon that strategy. When it doesn’t work, they very often spend more time explaining their activity (or interruptions to it) rather than truly analyzing patterns of non successful outcomes so they won’t repeat the same mistakes. Sure, from time to time something major happens, like once, years ago, I had a client who was going to be on MSNBC but then war broke out and pre-empted all planned programming, including the client’s interview. Certainly that’s a special case and one out of control of any PR executive. But overall, PR experts need to take a look at and benchmark campaigns both good and bad - why did one work better than the other? What is in the recipe of successful vs non successful campaigns? Was it the strategy that didn’t work, or did tactics fall through?

Another issue is that most of the time PR teams find it difficult to be honest and say “Our strategy didn’t work and here’s why,” or as Barby said - to tell the client adamantly that a seemingly creative idea won’t move the needle on the business. PR must keep the bottom line in mind in all strategies - simply racking up numbers (media hits, followers, fans, content) is no longer enough. Think about what you’re going to be measured against in the Board Room. Align strategies with those desired outcomes.

Until we can recognize that vanity metrics are temporary pleasers and dig into why something did or didn’t work, measurement will continue to be pointless. It’s not enough to simply report on what happened, but we must analyze why and how it happened. True PR measurement analyzes patterns of success and patterns of failure. Only then can you begin to truly create stronger strategies with more positive outcomes than not.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Interview Series_Final-2