Measuring success – how to stop doing ‘fluffy’ PR

The PR industry is sometimes viewed – unfairly – as being the ‘fluffy’ marketing discipline, and measuring results hasn’t always been the industry’s strong point. Managing Director Libby Howard gives her top tips on how to measure success and take the ‘fluff’ out of PR.

I hate the fact that many people regard PR as a ‘fluffy’ marketing discipline.

While it is arguably harder to measure its impact than other marketing activities, it is by no means impossible. Instead of complaining that clients don’t appreciate us, I believe the profession needs to raise its game and to work harder at demonstrating its vital role in modern-day communications.

Intelligent Conversation has made some good progress in this field – developing our own dashboard of measures to track the success of campaigns, upskilling the team and encouraging clients to give us access to business data we can link to communications activity.

But there is always more to do. This month, the agency joined AMEC (the Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) – a leading voice in the field. It’s a signal of our commitment to this important area of work and I’m excited about the opportunity to work more closely with AMEC in the future.

Top tips

Not everyone shares my passion for measurement – and for many PR people it’s a bit of a scary subject.

If you’re looking for advice, here are three key pointers that will help you start to take the fluff out of PR:

  1. Set a target

How do you know what success is if you don’t define it? Setting a target is the simplest and most effective thing you can do to be clear about the value of a piece of work – yet it’s amazing how many projects are undertaken without this nailed at the start.

Targets come in many shapes and sizes: number of website hits, placing an article in an influential media outlet, the combined reach of a big campaign, data capture or actual sales. Whatever it is, be brave, set a target and you’ll be amazed at how it focuses the mind on the work ahead.

It’s also a fantastic feeling when you meet it!

  1. Learn to love Excel

PR and communications people tend to be Word people not Excel people – but the importance of data and analysis in measurement can’t be overstated.

Improving our data capture and analysis skills is a major challenge for the profession – and Excel is a cheap and powerful tool for crunching the numbers.

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel

A huge amount of good work has already been done in this field, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. AMEC is a fantastic source of free information and tools, including examples of simple measurement frameworks you can adopt in their entirety or tweak to suit your own needs.

The PRCA have also worked with AMEC and ICCO to produce a ‘Definitive Guide to Measurement’ for PR professionals. And the CIPR website also has good measurement resources for members.

A useful ‘state of the nation’ summary can be found below. It’s a round-up of theory and practical advice from a recent presentation delivered by myself, fellow agency MD Rick Guttridge of Smoking Gun PR and Lancashire measurement guru Steph Bridgeman.