Apr 17, 2019 / by Alister Houghton


When you see something relating to PR measurement, which of the following best describes how you feel?

Are you one of PR’s “measurati”, someone who consumes all things analytics and spreads the measurement gospel at every opportunity? Do you think it’s a load of pseudo-science which stifles creativity and gets in the way of producing imaginative campaigns? Or are you more in the middle, knowing it is important but not being sure what to measure and what its full benefits are?

Whichever camp you are in, the Easter break heralds the start of a whirlwind couple of months for earned media measurement. The first aspect of this #measurementmania (my own hashtag) begins next Thursday, as Cision hosts a webinar on artificial intelligence in PR measurement with AMEC (International association for the measurement and evaluation of communication) global MD Johna Burke and Cision Insights COO Timo Thomann-Rompf.

Then, of course, mid-May sees the return of a fixture in the PR measurement calendar – the AMEC  summit. This year’s three day industry celebration is centered around analytics, algorithms and augmentation, capped by the AMEC Awards ceremony on the gathering’s final evening.

The conclusion of #measurementmania is still a bit of a secret. But suffice to say, there’s a new measurement event in town which will be very different to anything you’ve seen before. All I can reveal is that you should leave Tuesday 25 June free in your diary and keep an eye on our social channels and events page.


Why does measurement matter?

If you’re in either of the first two camps I described above, you’ve already circled those dates as either must-attend or a great time to book a holiday. However, if you’re in that third category of communicators who know a bit about PR measurement but you’re unsure as to how it can help you, these events are great ways to find out more.

But, why should you spare some of your precious time to discover more about measurement?

It all goes back to increasing your budget and demonstrating ROI. The metrics traditionally used by communicators (reach, impressions, amount of coverage gained etc.) deliver very impressive numbers, of which none attribute any financial value.

While I’m sure we all agree that getting positive coverage on page two of The Times is a fantastic achievement, communicators have been unable to say how it contributes to overall organisational performance. The closest the industry got to producing a monetary value is by using advertising value equivalents (AVEs) to measure how much editorial space would have cost as an advert in an equivalent space. So, in the past, PR’s most dynamic financial measure of success was literally measuring column inches.

It’s this that leads me into reproducing an overused – yet still shocking – statistic: the budget split between paid, owned and earned media is 95%-4.5%-0.5% according to analysis by Burton Taylor.

Put another way, advertisers get 190 times more budget than their PR cousins. So, why should you care about PR measurement? Because it’s a lack of measurement and attribution that has led to this.


A new PR world

Is advertising 190 times more effective than PR at supporting organisations to achieve their objectives? Of course not, and I doubt even the most bullish ad professional would try to claim that. But that is the effective conclusion when borne out by the budget split.

Thankfully, comms professionals have realised that they key to greater financing is by demonstrating that they are invaluable to their organisation. Thankfully, measurement has long moved beyond AVEs and now the technology and metrics exist for communicators to prove their value in a manner similar to advertisers.

But, and it’s a big but, effectively measured PR activity linked to organisational objectives is still the exception rather than the norm. Measurement is still seen as a relatively niche aspect of the comms profession, left to data scientists and specialist analytics companies.

While data scientists and analytics firms can certainly help and advise comms professionals navigate the measurement world, knowing what can be measured and what should be measured will help them in all aspects of your work.

In February, FleishmanHillard Fishburn executive creative director Kev O’Sullivan told us that the insights and analysis provided by the agency’s director of research, analytics and measurement Ben Levine and his team played a huge role in defining his creative direction. Proof again that aligning science to the art of PR has a tangible effect on the quality of campaigns.

So, my Easter message to you: If you don’t know about measurement or don’t think it affects what you do, attend some of the menagerie of upcoming events and learn why it matters.

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About Alister Houghton

Alister Houghton is UK Content Marketing Manager at Cision, writing and commissioning thought leadership, interviews and opinion pieces covering the earned media, marketing and journalism spheres. As well as working in a variety of roles across the business, he has previously managed media and web content for the British American Football Association.