The missing link – the love-hate relationship with communications measurement
“We need to measure our impact”. This sentiment is shared so often in meetings, pitches, and at campaign launches. But very seldom do we ask the most basic question – why should communicators measure impact? And even less frequently – why do we evaluate communications activity?
I see the relationship between measurement and evaluation in communications as a true love-hate. On one hand, measuring impact and providing hard numbers helps to satisfy internal stakeholders. It also helps show value and, bluntly, ensures financing of subsequent communications campaigns and activities. It also helps us adjust and assign resources to the most effective quarter.
On the other hand, some claim that measurement kills creativity, or that it simply impossible to measure communications. It is intangible. Almost artistic.
This way of thinking is one of the reasons why communications can struggle to make its way into board rooms. Yet it is a corporate function that shapes the most precious if intangible, asset – reputation.
This love-hate relationship between communications professionals and measurement has led to some very disappointing results. For years, companies and organizations measured their communications effectiveness using Advertisement Value Equivalents (AVEs) – literally measuring how much space an article about an organisation took up in a newspaper, and working out how much the same space would cost in advertising.
It is clear why that is a bad metric, since recognised as such by the Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC). Thankfully AMEC came up a new set of principles to guide the measurement of communication activities, known as the Barcelona 2.0 Principles.
We believe that measurement and evaluation doesn’t have to be complicated. Nor does it need to be too costly. The following questions will help to develop a robust communications measurement framework for any company or organisation:
- What do we want to achieve from an organisational / business perspective? Yes we want to increase sales, donations etc., but across which demographic, and in which portfolio?
- What is the best communications strategy to deliver on this objective?
- How do our target audiences perceive us, and our strategy?
- What are the best tactics to improve our image and reputation within target groups? What do they care about? How do they like to communicate?
- What emotions do we want and need to steer? Which behaviors do we lead our audience on, in relation to our brand?
- What is the final impact for our company or organisation?
Always coming back to the objectives closes the measurement and evaluation loop. It also grounds measurement and evaluation in a clear context that is relevant for organizational performance.
Leidar is an Associate Member of AMEC.