So, here we go….

posted by Brendan Hodgson

So here we go… Just last week I attended a conference on PR measurement… Now typically I show up at these things with two objectives in mind, and if I achieve one or both, then I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth, or should I say the company’s money (let’s call a spade a spade). The first objective is to actually learn something during the conference – which can often be difficult depending on the quality of the speakers and their presentation skills, and dare I say the amount of booze consumed at the networking events held the night previously… you probably know what I’m talking about… these are the typical two-day sessions involving a bunch of speakers and several hundred Powerpoint slides… The second objective, which tends to happen more than the first, is to simply re-affirm that I’m in the same boat as everybody else with respect to where we all stand on a specific issue or topic… If I can accomplish both, then I can really claim that this was money well spent.

Modesty aside, I think I’m a pretty sharp guy when it comes to communications… I’ve played in the PR and communications space in a variety of capacities for about 10 years now – both agency and client-side… media relations, writing and editing, crisis and issues management, marketing and branding, and online communications… so I think I get it (others may argue). So when the opportunity came to actually learn a bit more about how we measure the value and impact of the “dark science”, I jumped at the chance. The speakers looked good. The attendees included senior communicators from major Fortune 500 companies, some of the other big PR agencies, and even the US military to name a few. The topics of the presentations seemed interesting, and… well… sometimes it’s just kinda nice to get away and have the opportunity to really think about subjects like this… because let’s face it, measurement is an issue that is becoming an increasingly bigger blob on the radar screen. We’ve got to figure this out… individually, collectively… whatever. If we want to play at the c-suite and justify our role in an increasingly commoditized market, we’re going to have to do better than simply track media hits, ad equivalencies, and bums on seats…

Now of course, there were no shortage of vendors showcasing various flavours of automated dashboards and online tracking tools to the conference attendees. A large debate into which I waded a number of times was the question of whether you could really automate the process of assigning sentiment to an article (me, I don’t think you can, though am eager to be shown otherwise). In addition, much of the conference was spent discussing some pretty heavy statistical… um… stuff around demonstrating the impact of comms on bottom line revenue. And while I’m sure all of that statistical… erm…stuff is good and meaty (it certainly kept us all pretty enraptured), and when all the data is sliced and diced shows some niftly contours and graphs… is it something that can truly be applied to the situations that each of us (or our clients face) and the budgets that we have to deal with, notwithstanding the fact that we all are likely victims of Finagle’s law of information in some way or other, which certainly doesn’t help?

I guess the question is really around what is truly achievable based on the information we have and the time and resources available to do it. The principles are there… I’m sure we’ve all read or been exposed to the Institute for PR’s Guidelines for Measurement… but its how we apply them (and other measures) that will distinguish the truly strategic from the wannabes.

So that’s my starting point on this issue… stay tuned. I’ll be adding some links on this topic and others in the coming days…

1 Comment


Niall Cook

Welcome to the conversation, Brendan. Nice first post.

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