PR Measurement needs more in-house PR activists to start a conversation with their bosses on what best defines the PR success. A talk to Katie Delahaye Paine
- 19 Mai 2015 |
- Dana Oancea
PR Romania had the opportunity to conduct a second interview with the Queen of Measurement, Katie Delahaye Paine. One of the most respected leaders in the field of public relations measurement and evaluation, Katie will hold a keynote speech in Bucharest, on 25th May, at the measurement conference organized by GMP PR. Katie argues in our conversation why having good metrics is more important than ever and why PR professionals should measure what matters not just what it is easy. Katie explains why the recently adopted Principles and Standards never made it into the heads of most CEOs and CMOs who are accustomed to seeing big numbers from their advertising agencies. ‘For whatever reason, PR people seem to be reluctant to have the conversation with their bosses to insist that they change the definitions of success’, says Katie. The interview visualizes also the long and quite winding road to PR measurement and evaluation.
Katie, when we look at white papers and some declarations of principles agreed by the international PR community in the last years, we could hope for some progress in the field of measurement and evaluation of public relations. However, a substantial gap between wish and practice is still there. How do you explain this gap? Which are the main barriers in the field?
First, let’s set the record straight. It’s been five years since the Barcelona Principles were declared, but only two years since standards were written and published. In the intervening years, hundreds of companies have made the transition from AVEs to measuring business outcomes. There have been a number of studies, from the USC Annenberg GAP studies to research done by PR News, Bulldog, Ragan, and others which show that the number of firms using AVEs has declined since 2009. Plus, whenever I give a speech, I always ask people how many use AVEs and the number of people who raise their hands has decreased enormously (of course it’s a biased audience. The reason they’re probably listening to me speak is that they want to move away from them. :))
There are several reasons why the gap between wish and practice exists. First, while the Barcelona Principles were big news to us, many practitioners are still unaware that the Principles and the Standards even exist. So part of the gap is caused by inadequate communications around the new standards.
But the bigger reason is that the Principles and the Standards never made it into the heads of most CEOs and CMOs who are accustomed to seeing big numbers from their advertising agencies. For whatever reason, PR people seem to be reluctant to have the conversation with their bosses to insist that they change the definitions of success. They need to say to their bosses: “Rather than this meaningless metric that counts column inches in an era of digital media and compares PR to an increasingly discredited form of communications called display advertising, let’s agree on PR metrics that show how PR impacts the business. What business impact to you expect from PR?” That’s a very scary conversation to have, but it has to happen if that PR person wants to keep their job and/or budget.
It’s been now more than 30 years since James Grunig lamented about the lack of evaluation when he wrote in 1983: “I have begun to feel more and more like the fundamentalist minister railing against sin; the difference being that I have railed for evaluation in public relations practice”. How have things changed since then? And how do you personally feel after 30 years of measuring and improving strongly the field itself?
Actually according to the USC Annenberg GAP studies, the number of organizations that AREN’T measuring results has declined dramatically in the last five years. I do dozens of surveys each year in organizations of all sorts (non-profit, B2B, B2C, Government agencies). When I ask them if they measuring results, 95% say yes. There’s a reason that GTCR has put $1 billion into acquiring measurement companies (Cision+Visible+Vocus+Gorkana+Viralheat). Measurement is no longer optional; it is a requirement in most organizations. There’s got to be a reason that I’ve been able to support myself for the past 28 years telling people how and what to measure. My simple explanation is that more organizations are trying to incorporate real outcome measurement into their programs, so they’re coming to me for help.
Some research studies show us a continuing use of rudimentary measures such as counting press clippings and even metrics such as Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs). So what’s holding PR professionals back from a more convincing practice of measurement?
I think many PR professionals, especially junior ones, are very reluctant to have the conversation about what business results their bosses expect from PR. A big piece of my workshops and consulting business is to help bridge the gap between PR people and their bosses. Typically, CEOs, CCOs, or CMOs hire PR pros or an agency to improve their reputation, or position the CEO as a thought leader in the industry, or help restore market share after a crisis. But PR people seem to think their job is to “get us on the front page of the paper” or “generate good press.” Getting consensus between the two about how PR contributes to the path to purchase is fundamental to changing what is measured. If that conversation were happening everywhere, AVEs would disappear very quickly.
Coming now to social media, it seems that the industry’s struggle with measurement continues with the new medium. There are a lot of terms and metrics used, often in confusing ways, both in PR measurement discourse and practice. Many providers claim to measure social media, but they often use different terms for the same key metrics. Does this effervescence in the measurement space help or not on the way to common standards?
The effervescence is definitely adding to the confusion, but that’s why The Conclave on Social Media Measurement Standards was formed (www.smmstandards.org). In 2013 we wrote and published standard definitions and best practices for social media measurement and we are doing our best to get the word out. We have worked with a number of vendors to change their language. The Media Ratings Council was set up to set standards for advertising and they are now working with us to incorporate The Conclave standards into theirs. They’re the government body that was set up to dictate standards for advertising and they have HUGE influence on major brands. Convincing brands that they are snared and they need to be adopted is the only way vendors are going to use standard definitions. For example, General Motors has told all of its vendors that they HAVE to use a common language.
I’ve recently analyzed the relationship PR > Procurement in Romania and noticed some differences in the use of measurement terminology. Most Romanian PR practitioners are using ROI when referring to measurement, while procurement people are speaking more of KPIs. How difficult is to bring the two groups inline? Does the international community envisage some joint standards in the field of measurement?
The procurement people are correct and Romania PR practitioners are misusing the term. The standard definition of ROI has been written and published by The Conclave. According to that definition, ROI (Return on Investment) is a financial performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio.
Which concepts are currently blocking the progress of measurement and should therefore be “killed”?
Let’s start with killing off AVEs and all of its interactions including trying to calculate “banner ad equivalencies” for social media. Then, let’s stop misusing the term ROI and have conversations about business outcomes. I’d also deemphasize impressions. To me they are like sperm, you may produce a lot of them, but very few of them actually produce a result.
What do you hope to bring back home with you from your trip to Bucharest? :)
As a gardener, I’m dying to see your Botanical Garden, and I’ll definitely be looking for local artisans to do some early Christmas shopping.
Interview by Dana Oancea. Copyright PR Romania.
Katie Delahaye Paine, The Measurement Queen (@queenofmetrics), helps companies define success and design measurement programs for their PR, Social Media and Communications programs. For more than two decades, she has advised some of the world's most admired companies and has been a leading promoter of standards in the PR and Social Media Measurement field, most recently as the initial organizer of the Conclave that released social media measurement standards.
She has founded two measurement companies, KDPaine & Partners Inc. and The Delahaye Group. Her books, Measure What Matters (Wiley, March 2011) and Measuring Public Relationships (KDPaine & Partners 2007) are considered must reading for anyone tasked with measuring public relations and social media. Her latest book, written with Beth Kanter, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, Using Data to Change the World, is the 2013 winner of the Terry McAdam Book Award. She writes a blog about measurement at kdpaine.blogs.com. Paine was recently inducted into the PRNews Measurement Hall of Fame and also named the Society of New Communications Research Fellow of the Year, for her work in support of Social Media Research. In 2008, she was named one of PR Week's 2008 Power Players for her advocacy of PR measurement.
Katie was an initial founder of the Institute for Public Relations special commission on measurement and evaluation and is a Founding Fellow of the Society for New Communications Research. Katie was named one of PR Week's 2008 Power Players for her advocacy of PR measurement. KDPaine & Partners won the prestigious Award of Excellent from the Society for New Communications Research in both 2009 and 2010. Her firm was also awarded the 2008 Jack Felton Golden Ruler of Measurement Certificate of Merit from the Institute for Public Relations. In 2006, Katie Paine received the Business Excellence Award for Excellence in Media & Marketing from New Hampshire Business Review. Paine has also been named Entrepreneurial Venture Creator, Person of the Year by the University of New Hampshire's Whitmore School of Business. A Cum Laude graduate of Connecticut College's class of 1974, Katie majored in history and Asian studies. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from New Hampshire College in May 1996. She is an Athena award winner and her life is featured in Mark Albion's books, 'Making a Life', 'Making a Living'. and 'True to yourself'.
For more about Katie, visit www.painepublishing.com.