We’re witnessing a data revolution in PR, says Cision’s Abe Smith

Media measurement has changed significantly in the 10 years since the first AMEC Summit in 2008. Not least because the media landscape that communication professionals now operate in is so different.

In the last decade we’ve seen the boom of social media, the slow decline of print publications, new communications specific technology come to market and a refresh to AMEC’s measurement framework; better known as the Barcelona Principles.

When AMEC updated the Barcelona Principles in 2015, it did a good job of making sure the principles are flexible enough to adapt to any PR or communications campaign. It gave communications professionals a solid framework to use as a starting point to think about measurement differently, doing away with vanity metrics and embracing an approach which proves the value of earned media to the Board.

As a result, we’re finally at the point where metrics such as measuring AVEs are dying off, a clear sign things have been moving in the right direction. But, there’s still more to do.

On stage in Barcelona, surrounded by hundreds of global PR professionals, it hit me – right then, right there - the idea of a PR evolution cresting into a PR Revolution.

Earned media has an opportunity to prove its worth. On stage in Barcelona, surrounded by hundreds of global PR professionals, it hit me – right then, right there - the idea of a PR evolution cresting into a PR Revolution. There couldn’t be a better time for that revolution to show its real value, not only to communications teams but to boards in terms of driving business strategy and decision making.

The impact of social

The rise of social media has impacted everything and changed the way brands and business now operate. Analytical insights from these channels is inevitably changing the way businesses measure and target individuals.

But in parallel with this we’ve also seen a new wave of vanity metrics for measuring PR campaigns appear. ‘Reach’ isn’t much use as a metric if you’re reaching the wrong audience with the wrong message.

Now that the social media industry is starting to mature, there’s a much better understanding of what matters and what doesn’t. And what matters is demonstrating the impact your work is having on the business’ objectives.

Technology evolution

The adoption of AI and a new wave of quantified results has been in part driven by the upstarts of Silicon Valley, now jockeying for position at AMEC.

When the first media monitoring services launched, people were literally cutting clippings from newspapers. However there are still comms teams out there who hark back to those archaic approaches. Clippings are not enough without analysis, despite these not being the metrics clients of today’s media world wants.

Deploying an integrated marketing and communication strategy combines technology with the framework needed to measure the business contributions and return that campaigns are delivering.

Adopting a communications measurement platform which supports this approach can help ensure teams are tracking the right metrics for their goals, providing them with the datasets to optimise campaigns now and in the future.

This technology can automatically track your campaign across print, digital and broadcast media in real-time using AI and advanced analytics as part of an integrated platform; making it easier than ever before to prove the value of PR.

Convincing the Board on investment

Despite all these steps forward, the true value of earned media still remains a largely unrealised opportunity for businesses that lack the tools to effectively measure their campaigns. Often, this is an organisational issue.

Whilst the discussion at the 2018 AMEC Summit referred to the Barcelona Principles and talked about the death of AVE, there was an undercurrent looming. Despite the potential to help optimise media measurement and business operations, almost a fifth of businesses are still using AVEs; suggesting traditional mindsets are arguably the biggest hindrance to measurement success.

Convincing internal teams to culturally buy in and invest in the technology is what will allow businesses to effectively measure earned media. Therefore, comms teams need to work with the wider business to illustrate the potential of embracing modern measurement methods. Otherwise, without the right tools proving value is going to be an uphill battle.

Though some communicators struggle to get internal buy-in, others simply don’t know where to begin when it comes to improving their PR measurement practices. Yet, as the number of technological options and advancements increases, it becomes harder for teams to identify the best option for their individual needs.

Gumtree is a great example of a company that has got this right, tracking the right metrics for individual goals and using that data to optimise campaigns that are being delivered.

For Gumtree, the goal was to transform intended perceptions of PR, as this has held back the business from investing in modern technologies. Deploying an integrated measurement framework empowered Gumtree and its agencies to prove the value of PR to its senior leaders. As a result, the ability to ascribe pick up to positive business outcomes happening, Gumtree doubled the proportion of people thinking it has a safe and trustworthy service over the course of 12 months.

Cases like this demonstrate the importance of the Barcelona Principles today, and how it supports the changing landscape of media measurement. It is no longer enough to measure just results. Instead, it is imperative that the effect on organisational performance is measured. Without this insight, business communications outcomes will suffer.

Looking to the future

The way media measurement has developed over the years is just the beginning, and technology is set to pave the way to a better future of success measurement. For example, we are soon going to be able to track a complete user journey; from the moment someone reads a review on a blog, to seeing a post on social media to making a purchase, everything can be attributed.

Ultimately, communications teams which are more cognisant of the varying measurement requirements a campaign has, and how to best illustrate results, will be the ones who gain the most from the business in return.

Keeping up with technological change is only going to help communications professionals prove their worth and better demonstrate the impact they have on hard business metrics, thus making it more likely for businesses to secure more budget and making the case for greater investment in PR and communications.

I left Barcelona optimistic and energetic because there are specific trends I see happening in the next five years. These include democratisation and availability of data for everyone from the hands of analysts, the movement from insights to PR prescriptions and the optimisation of workflow for practitioners to do their job better with more precision and better hit success.

It’s a heady time for the industry, but it’s time to dive in, shake it up and carry forward with a fresh foot, while taking stock in the strides made in the past. It’s time to join the revolution.

Article written by Abe Smith, President EMIA, Cision

Originally published on prmoment.com

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