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Measure me this, measure me that: the eternal riddle of PR analytics

28 March, 2017 Reading: 2:37 mins

In our latest of blog post, our Head of PR Kate Matthews looks at the challenges the PR industry continues to face when it comes to analytics, despite recent strides forward.

Measure me this, measure me that: the eternal riddle of PR analytics

Like most PR professionals my age, on the first day of my job I was presented with a huge pile of press cuttings and told to get out my ruler and start measuring! Back in those days, PR measurement literally meant painstakingly measuring each individual clipping and then calculating that dreaded AVE score so that at month-end we could present our client with a nice neat number that apparently proved the value of our work.

Fortunately we have come a long way since those days and the huge strides made by the likes of AMEC have done a great deal towards changing the way the industry presents its results and importantly, helps us better demonstrate the value of our work. Account Executives today have no idea the bullet they have dodged!

The Barcelona Principles and AMEC’s measurement framework are fantastic tools for providing a more meaningful way of reporting back to our clients. Both have done a great job in shining a light on poor PR practice that despite often generating reams of column inches can do little to improve a client’s business, consequently eating away at our industry’s reputation.

But as an industry we have a long way to go. I was surprised to learn recently that more than a third of PR agencies still use AVEs and figures show that the Barcelona Principles are not being widely adopted by a lot of PR practitioners. Unfortunately, a lot of the time this comes down to available budgets. Whilst analytics is often built into ad budgets, clients often expect their PR agencies to provide this service free of charge, whilst at the same time demanding of us better accountability for their PR budgets.

At a recent PR Analytics conference from the good folks at PR Moment, it was interesting – and reassuring – to hear how much of the industry is still feeling its way in this new data-driven landscape. Hearing from brands including the Met Office and Paddy Power, one thing stood out and that was that each brand has a unique take on how best to measure the impact of PR on their business.

As someone who has only worked in PR agencies until very recently, it has been a wake-up call to see how much more emphasis integrated agencies approach measurement and utilise data. As we see more convergence and integration across the disciplines, it is clear the PR industry needs to up its game to compete.

The growing emphasis during award season on outcomes and impact, over basic outputs, is heartening to see and collectively we must continue to educate clients on the importance of setting time and resource towards the analysis of PR efforts. This will in turn help those in-house PR managers sell back the value of PR to their board and continue to raise their own and the profile of PR more generally amongst the marketing disciplines.

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