Values are required in all departments of an organisation, not just PR; measurement is an everyday tool, and a vital one at that.
At a conference I attended last summer on the strategic value of PR, Mike Daniels from the Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) claimed that only 11% of clients asked for social media measurement. He went on to say that in the majority of cases this is mostly handled by marketing, product departments, R&D - any department except communications.
As organisations adapt to the radical change in the communication landscape - and with it, the realisation that social media is here to stay - measurement falls low on the agenda, as comms teams focus on integration and convincing the board to permanently direct resource to social media functions.
It's hardly surprising that measuring online channels is afforded little priority, given that the measurement of long-established traditional methods, such as print, are questionable. The crude debate of using advertising value equivalent (AVE's) is as prevalent as ever, with its supporters claiming it justifies the existence of the PR function to non-marketers, whilst those opposing it decry its failure to capture outcome, message delivery or presence on online channels. Furthermore, the multipliers used by organisations vary wildly, and are often random and therefore not credible - AMEC found multipliers ranging from 0.5 to 7 when it researched its use in organisations.
In response to this debacle, The Barcelona Principles were established in 2010 as a joint venture between AMEC, the CIPR, the PRSA and the Global Alliance for Public Relations, in order to agree a set of evaluation and measurement guidelines. The Principles are, in brief:
1. The importance of goal setting and measurement - goals should be as quantitative as possible and address the who, what, when and how much impact is expected from a PR campaign. Traditional and social media should both be measured as well as changes in stakeholder awareness, comprehension, attitude and behaviour.
2. Media measurement requires quality - this principles considers that taking a figure on the amount of coverage received, for example, is meaningless. Instead, media measurement should account for the tone, credibility of the source and media outlet in order to determine the value, and should also consider message delivery, prominence and visual dimension. Crucially, quality can positive, neutral or negative.
3. AVE's are not the value of PR - as discussed above
4. Social media can and should be measured - measurement must focus on communities and conversations, not coverage
5. Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring media results - shifts in awareness, comprehension, attitude and behaviour, relating to purchase, donations, brand equity, corporate reputation and employee engagement should be measured - outcomes, not results.
6. Organisational results can and should be measured
7. Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement - we already know how social media is driving the changes in transparency, but this highlights the need for it to be replicable, also
In summary, what the Principles suggest is that we must move from evaluating outputs to evaluating outcomes, and create a culture where continuous improvement is at the core. Good communication makes the difference - good communication is not a money return in the bank and can't be seen on the balance sheet.
Organisations must also budget for measurement from the outset, not as an afterthought when the kitty is almost dry; experts suggest 5% of your total PR spend, which might sound a lot, but not if we consider that this 5% provides you with an honest assessment of how you're performing.