Media measurement has been around for decades, but rather like the embarrassing relative at the family wedding, it has not always been welcomed with open arms by the PR industry.
But all that is now changing, thanks largely to the demonstrable benefits measurement providers bring to the PR mix.
For new practitioners entering the industry, some historical background may help to put into context the occasionally uneasy relationship between an agency and a measurement provider. Personally, I’ve often felt that the root of the problem lay in the blurring of the traditional client/supplier hierarchy.
Were we suppliers, or partners?
Yes, we were suppliers in the traditional sense, of course, so we occupied the same space as the web designers, printers, event planners, monitoring agencies, and all the other satellite industries which orbited Planet PR then, and continue to do so today.
Each of us offered distinct and specialist skills, so we could all stake a claim to a seat at the partners’ table.
But I argued then that measurement’s ability to provide meaningful, business-changing insights should, at least, merit a reappraisal of where we sat in the hierarchy of suppliers.
While it would be stretching the point to claim that the argument has been entirely won, there can be little doubt now that PR consultants have a massive opportunity for greater collaboration with measurement experts to make their work better informed and more results-driven.
Measurement’s evolution, from providing simple evaluation to measuring the effectiveness of communication – as reflected in AMEC’s name change – goes hand in hand with the PR industry’s commitment to greater professionalism and, yes, to be taken more seriously as a management discipline.
So, in the spirit of this greater cooperation, here’s my five-point solution – TRUST – for a more positive and productive working relationship.
Trust takes many forms. PR agencies occasionally accuse us of not trusting them to present our work in pitches, so why not let us do it instead? We understand our own language, and would no more expect to discuss specialist communications strategy with a prospect, than we’d be happy about a PR agency debating the use of metrics, or semantic interpretation, with the same client.
We don’t claim to be PR professionals, but we do know about research and what it takes to build a measurement model.
The PR world must start viewing us as a complementary force, rather than as a potential threat to it and its client relationships.
Understand what each brings to the table. If a PR agency has reasons not to involve a measurement provider when taking a measurement brief, then let’s discuss it together before committing anything to the client.
We want our PR partners to respect us for our special expertise and to earn the right to be an official partner for the quality and depth of the services we supply. That would give us the self-respect and credibility we deserve.
Measurement providers are occasionally accused of failing to explain what measurement is, and of shrouding it in mysterious and complex jargon. That is possibly true, but our response is: don’t worry about the processes, and focus instead on the outcomes of a successful measurement programme.
Those outcomes can – and frequently do – equip agencies and their clients with the intelligence that allows them to refine their communications strategy, or to change it altogether.
Let’s all be clear that measurement’s ability to help businesses or organisations make better, informed decisions, which impact the bottom line, has a clear value. A client can avoid making a potentially expensive error of judgment. The agency or in-house team can rely on measurement data or insights to back a judgment or strategy call, or to advise a complete change of direction.
And, for the measurement provider, there is the satisfaction of demonstrating commercial relevance.
What better argument is there for a far more inclusive partnership, one in which the PR world sets aside its concerns and starts to view measurement as friend, rather than foe?