Learning to measure and measuring to learn

PR measurement and evaluation
The CIPR is in the process of updating its research, measurement and evaluation guidelines (PDF). The current edition is dated March 2011 and harks back to when I used to chair the CIPR's measurement deliberations; the current initiative is being led by Matt McKay and Martin Turner.

Here's a short but important extract from the current guidance:

Every organisation should have a mission (why we exist), values (guiding behaviour), a vision (what do we want to be), objectives (breaking down the vision) and strategy (how we intend to get there / achieve the objectives). Given that measurement isn't just the detached collection, analysis and presentation of data but a powerful management tool in itself, a powerful way to align each employee’s day-to-day activities with the strategy, this cascade must continue robustly, transparently and visibly.

People perform as they are measured, so the measures must drive strategically important behaviour.

And as each marketplace is unique and as your organisation is unique, your strategy will be unique. And so, therefore, will be the suite of measures you design, deploy and manage by.

It's simply unprofessional to have no research, measurement and evaluation capability, and yet early forays can prove, well, next to useless too. Take for example the number of times I've seen tool selection dictate metrics rather than strategically defined metrics dictate the tools. Fortunately however, while a top notch approach will take some time and effort to develop it's not too difficult to get things rolling properly.

From Chapter 5 of The Business of Influence:

I find myself repeating one criticism too frequently: ‘measurement because we can, not because we should’. This chapter is about aspiring to measure only what we should.

I was never satisfied with common PR measurement approaches, or indeed with many other approaches to marketing measurement. They too often appear vague. Measurement and evaluation come across too frequently as more about post-rationalizing our decisions to pursue particular strategies and campaigns or proving to our clients that they should continue to retain us, than about seeking to secure an objective organizational learning opportunity.

Take the traditional reliance of the PR profession on advertising value equivalence (AVE); a greater waste of time and effort you couldn’t hope to find.

... even if best practice doesn’t turn out to be as simple or even as generic as AVE (and it doesn’t), we will at last have something of true value and practical insight to bring to the board table rather than a specious sum based on false assumptions using an unfounded multiplier, only addressing a fraction of the PR domain.

The whole chapter is available freely (PDF) if you'd like to see where I go from here, including a critique of increasingly common 'influencer' approaches. You may also like my presentation: What, exactly, is the value of social?

If you'd like to contribute to the CIPR's work this second half of 2014 please do get in touch with Matt or Martin. Regardless, I think they'll be reaching out to every CIPR member in the not too distant.