Finding the finish line: the secrets to effective measurement




Alice Anning

Communications professionals have long struggled to show the value of their work, often choosing the false comfort of massive reach figures rather than drilling down to true commercial achievements. In an exploration of the last of our seven steps to effective thought leadership, we look at how honest evaluation can provide a fresh focus

The latest of our Thought Leadership Project events featured Johna Burke from AMEC – the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication – and James Ralph, Director of Good Relations’ Business & Corporate team. An open discussion with an assembled audience of senior communications professionals drilled down to four key considerations. 

1. “Avoid the false finish line” 

Too often, creating noise can be taken as success. AVE rates and cost per thousand provide a temptingly simple, and often impressive, measure for campaigns. While we all crave simplicity, there is no one score that can effectively sum up all communications activity.

For an industry focused on words, key messages, nuance, it seems odd that we so often hide behind big numbers. With this in mind, our panel urged us to consider outputs, outtakes and outcomes as three separate measures. When the call to action has a demonstrable outcome, correlating spikes in activity can be attributed directly to communications pushes, creating a meaningful measure of success.

As PR professionals it is too easy to get distracted by the details of what we do, rather than what we achieve. Few of us want to be introduced to the pig that will become our BLT: it’s the bacon you’re buying into, not the pig. In the same way, internal and external investors buy the bacon – the audience action and its impact – so any project pitch must start with that, not labour the method to achieve it.

3. “Not all coverage is equal” 

A single piece of content that genuinely moves the debate on is more valuable than a number that simply echo the status quo. How many people have cited your concept? Where? Who responds to your ideas? Why?

Just as social media marketers differentiate between engagement and click throughs, and scientific journals track citations, so must PR professionals recognise that eyeballs are not the end goal: content must prompt a course of action and deliver a concrete boost to the business.

2. “Use technology wisely” 

Certain tactics are better at bringing home the bacon than others. Proactive, honest and rigorous measurement should be integrated from day one to recognise and balance for this.

As time-consuming as it may seem, there is simply no way to automate the process – qualitative aspects such as audience connection and the quality of delivery by spokespeople are essential. Such insight requires professional input, there is no automated system that can reflect this level of experience and lock in lessons learned.

4. “Take a look in the mirror” 

Regular reflection is always worthwhile for communications teams. AMEC’s Measurement Maturity Mapper provides just such a look in the mirror. After teams understand where they are on their journey they can plot their activities and work toward demonstrating outcomes using the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework.

If any of the above sound familiar and you’ve a story to share about how you overcame the challenge, please do get in touch.

Join our LinkedIn group, visit our website, or if you would like to attend the next Masterclass or one of our events, contact Holly on

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