Changing the communications measurement paradigm

There are a couple of things that have bothered me over my years in channel measurement. Well, you might think that if there's only a couple of things that have bothered me over the years, I'm better off than most.  But I have a high tolerance for pain and irritation.  These two things are wolverines gnawing at my shins.

The first relates to how channel measurement, be it web, social media, email or even print and broadcast media, is often considered in isolation of the other channels.  In fact, I've seen incredible growth in analytics at the channel level, but rarely have I seen organizations with a central group that takes a multichannel measurement approach.

I find this fascinating, since communications strategies are rarely focused on a single channel.  What I have seen are communicators who collect measurements from the various channel analysts and attempt to analyze them on their own (or worse, merely drop the numbers into the evaluation section of the communications strategy, as if their very existence somehow proves the success of their campaign).

I hope for a day when measurement teams lead by a Chief Measurement Officer are as common as web analysts are now (not that the latter are common enough yet).  This team would collect and analyze all communications measurements from the various channels and activities and, from its bird's eye vantage point, be able to inform the continuous improvement of communications planning and execution.  The CMO would have sufficient autonomy and power to ensure:

  1. the CIO provides adequate support for data collection and analysis, and
  2. the Mar/Com head integrates measurement results into the communications planning and execution cycle.

I recently came across an interesting article on the role of the Chief Measurement Officer on CMO.COM.

The other irritant is how communicators and marketers, and those that measure the fruits of their labour, focus on outputs instead of outcomes.  I've rarely seen a communications or marketing strategy that actually identified short-, mid- and long-term outcomes. In fact, what I have seen is that the outcomes are usually assumed and an accounting of outputs is used to justify the assumption.  This is a form of confirmation bias that is so entrenched, it would take considerable effort to recondition the mind to traverse.

I am encouraged, however, to see the communications measurement sector slowly catching on to the need to provide greater evidence and actionable insights to their clients.  Over the last couple of years, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC) has been trying to move the PR, Marketing and Communications sector away from nominal measurements of outputs to an outcomes based approach.  In 2010, at their European Summit on Measurement, they released 7 principles of measurement, commonly referred to as the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles:

  1. Goal setting and measurement are fundamental aspects of any PR programmes.
  2. Media measurement requires quantity and quality – cuttings in themselves are not enough.
  3. Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) do not measure the value of PR and do not inform future activity.
  4. Social media can and should be measured.
  5. Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring media results.
  6. Business results can and should be measured where possible.
  7. Transparency and Replicability are paramount to sound measurement.

Subsequent summits have built upon these principles, resulting in tools and approaches we should all be considering when developing our measurement strategies.  These tools include the Social Media Valid Framework.  What I find as fascinating as this evolution in communications measurement, is the collegial discussions it has fomented.  For example, Philip Sheldrake weighs in on the Social Media Valid Framework on his Blog, receiving great insight from fellow measurers.

We seem to be entering a new era of communications measurement and I'm excited to bear witness to it.  Maybe the wolverines will soon tire of my shins on move on.

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