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Making success measurable

Companies cannot overlook effective evaluation
Scales of success

Measurement and evaluation are terms frequently used by communications professionals, usually with good intentions, but despite it being cited as an issue within the discipline for as long as I can remember, it is still often overlooked in practice. Time pressures, budget constraints, concern about exposing failure and a lack of confidence in the techniques all play their part.

In addition, for too long there has been a misguided acceptance that communications is inherently a discipline to be managed more by intuition and 'feel' rather than data and hard numbers, with senior management expected to instinctively understand the value contributed.

But against a tough economic climate, which is demanding prudent use of resources, and alongside the growth of a far more sophisticated marketing mix, a significant increase in the accessibility of data, greater commitment and focus from key companies, and global consensus on measurement best practice, driven by industry organisations such as the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC), there's a changing wind in the industry.

Measurement of communications activity is now increasingly being considered a strategic requirement rather than an option, and about time too.

So that's the why, the next question to answer is what to measure?  A great deal of energy and expertise is often spent trying to get people's attention but still not enough attention is paid to the ultimate goal, that of attitudinal or behavioural change. As communicators, we're in the business of connecting with people and creating reactions; so to flourish, we need to be totally focused on what those reactions are and the impact they have.

Setting measurable goals should be part of the cultural fabric of a communications agency. But how can you do it?

Firstly, through engagement - by creating interest and excitement in the topic of measurement among the team and our clients, challenging negative misconceptions and demonstrating the potential benefits on offer. As part of our work, we created a 'measurement manifesto' that all employees subscribe to, and as all clients are introduced to it at the outset of working with us, we squarely put the topic on the agenda.

Secondly, through education, putting in place a programme of training for our team and our clients, based on the Barcelona Principles (a set of seven voluntary best practice guidelines established at the AMEC International Summit in 2010) and referencing leading thinking within the measurement industry. And thirdly, through empowerment, by making sure our clients and all members of the team have the knowledge, confidence and tools to ensure a consistently high quality approach to measurement. It's been a journey well worth making.

If you want to make measurement and evaluation a bigger priority within your business then below are five golden rules to keep in mind.

Start with the business goal and never lose sight of it

At the heart of every programme should be clear business/organisational goals. If you're not clear what the goals are then make sure you are asking the right questions to those within your organisation who can define these. Without this clarity, a communications programme will lack direction and meaning. A good trick is to start with the end in mind and work backwards from the ultimate desired results.

Set SMART objectives

It might not be new or terribly exciting, but setting and agreeing SMART objectives is pivotal to the evaluation process.  There are three main principles here: ensure your objectives build on the business/organisational goals; ensure you focus on outcomes (something that has happened as the result of a campaign eg a measurable change in awareness, knowledge or behaviour), as well as outputs; and each objective must be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive.

Keep measurement front-of-mind

It's crucial to take the time before the programme starts to establish a robust measurement framework and to ensure that parameters are in place to enable effective measurement. Metrics need to be tailored to what it is that you are trying to achieve but remember to embrace available sources of free data, such as Google Analytics, and to be creative. Sometimes a relatively small tweak to a programme can mean a big difference in terms of your ability to track success. Important too is that you don't wait until the end of a programme to assess whether it has worked. Instead measurement should be continuous throughout the programme, helping deliver constant learnings and providing you with the opportunity to report/discuss progress and make changes if required.  If you can't measure it regularly then you can't improve it.

It's not just size that matters

For years, inappropriate measures such as Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) have dominated discussions around media measurement but these should be well and truly a thing of the past.  Consider factors such as tone and sentiment, how influential the authors are, the fit of the media with your target audience, the prominence of the article, the key messages communicated and your share of voice versus your key competitors.  The comments left by people at the end of online coverage or on social media can provide a valuable insight into how the messages have been interpreted.  Furthermore, you can track the impact your campaign creates in terms of your campaign call-to-action, whether that's the number of calls generated or an increase in traffic to a website.

The power of presentation

To ensure communications is discussed at the highest level of your organisation, you should be reporting in a style and language which is easily digested by senior management. Communications professionals need to think, speak and behave like businesspeople, ensuring work is rightly seen as an investment that brings value back to the company, not a nice to have.  It is also vitally important that you are delivering insights and not just data.

Measurement presents a massive opportunity to help ensure the real value of the work we do as communicators is recognised. Furthermore, taking an outcomes-driven approach ensures constant streams of learnings are secured that help improve programmes, that expectations are aligned with a yardstick for success established; and that efforts are focused on what really matters.

  • Read the case study Migraine management to see how this approach to measuring success works in practice

Article by
Chris Webb

Associate director and head of measurement at Pegasus. Email him

22nd December 2014

From: Marketing



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