Today’s post is the second in that series, to help us understand how we can enhance the evaluation efforts we’re already putting forth.
Our guest presenter was Jon Meakin, Global Head of Strategic Services for Grayling PR, and founding chair of AMEC’s Agency Group where, earlier this year, he established an initiative designed to embed measurement and evaluation best practices throughout the agency sector called ‘Common Ground’.
Clinging to Old Practices
Jon believes the reason so many communicators are clinging to old measurement practices is because we don’t really know what to do, how to change, or where to begin—not because we don’t recognize there are better ways of doing it.
A common refrain of in-house PR professionals under pressure is concerns about budgets, increasing focus on ROI (return on investment), and being able to prove success.
The ability to prove our worth and demonstrate tangible results is of the utmost importance.
Why is the PR Profession So Bad at Evaluation?
While Jon says the list of reasons is “probably as long as your arm”, he believes there are five top reasons.
- History. Being wedded to outdated, outmoded and discredited metric models. Being able to compare year over year means we have to continue to use the same old model. Or it could be the C-suite only understands AVE (advertising value equivalent) dollars.
- Silos. We realize there is more than “counting clips” or “reach of press cuttings” and that there is data–but it exists in multiple places. Especially within large organizations, there may be a separate digital team, separate owned content team, separate agency buying ads, different team managing search, etc. and no one really wants to give you their data.
- Skills gap. The old adage creeps in, “I didn’t get into PR to do math”. Let’s be candid, most of us are words and pictures people. But proper measurement and evaluation requires a different skill set. It necessitates using a different part of your brain or to employ people who have those skills. We need to be recruiting strategically–not just the same humanities graduates we always look for.
- Budget. Public Relations usually wants to spend the majority of their budget on executing PR campaigns, not on research, measurement and evaluation.
- Confusion. The language we use when talking about evaluation and reporting can be confusing. Reporting has historically been “look at the results we got, here’s this great coverage, look at the reach we received”, but that’s not what evaluation is. Proper evaluation is much more scientific and in-depth–and must answer the questions “so what” and “now what”.
Rewards for Getting it Right
So, why should we even bother? Why should we spend 10-15% of our budget on evaluation?
- Better, more effective campaigns make us better at our jobs.
- If you prove your success, you can protect or even grow your budget.
- Awards! When various awards are being judged, evaluation is an important component. If that part of the campaign is missing or not well done, it’s not likely to get high marks.
- Who doesn’t like kudos?! Respect and credibility comes with strong evaluation–others can see that the campaign helped to sell more products, gain market share, attract more investment, or whatever it is that matters to your organization. Who knows, you might even get a pay raise!
What Does Great Evaluation Look Like?
- Tailored. Every organization and campaign is different–one solution does not fit all.
- Integrated. This means not just earned media, which is why we must reach out to other teams. Embrace social metrics, Google Analytics, and integrate everything. Your audience doesn’t differentiate between the places where they consume the information.
- Impacts. Going beyond counting outputs. We have to think about:
- Outtakes–how we make our audience feel
- Outcomes–what our audience did
- Impacts–what difference we are making to our organization
- Prescriptive, not descriptive. Evaluation is not something we just do at the end of campaign looking back. We need to do this throughout so we change tack, make adjustments along the way.
I really like what Jon said here, “We need to not just be recorders of history, but forward-looking at what works and what we should do more of in the future.”
Jon believes there are three keys to getting started. First, stop what you are doing! Second, study best practices, and make use of available resources–like those that AMEC offers. And third, acknowledge that measurement and evaluation is a journey.
There seems to be a great fear factor that if we can’t get everything perfect, why should we even start. But Jon says any step along that journey is a good thing.
It could take one, three, or even five years before you get to the point where everything is fully integrated, forward-looking and offers insights about how you and your organization should move forward in the future. And, the best time to begin is NOW!
NOTE: Please keep in mind, this is by no means a full transcript of the webinar–there was so much great information! I strongly encourage you to watch and listen to the full playback of the webinar, including the Q&A at the end.
What are you and your organization doing to move your evaluation efforts forward? We want to hear from you! Feel free to share your experiences and/or thoughts with us in the comments section or on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn–whatever works for you.