Principle One: Goal Setting & Measurement – Two Sides of the Same Coin
I use this coin analogy in the title intentionally, since this is a post about business. In their first principle, AMEC states the “fundamental” nature of goal setting and measurement for PR.
Why did the AMEC delegates agree that goal setting and measurement are fundamental aspects of PR programs? Couldn’t one argue (as I’ve occasionally witnessed) that the quality and effective placement of communications are the only fundamental aspect of PR programs, and that everything else is just nice to have?
I’ve worked with many PR teams who do understand the importance of goals and the value of measurement. But I’ve also encountered far too many communications teams who have trouble answering the question “what does the business expect from you?” (This is true, and increasingly common, for dedicated “social media” teams as well.) Equally concerning is the far-too-broad response “to raise awareness/visibility of the company/brand”.
Communications teams can get away with not having a business case, or having a very general business case, for a while, and sometimes even for years. But eventually, someone in the organization will begin to wonder about the value of keeping communications-as-usual versus adding more marketing, or sales staff, or operational improvements, and at that point, the lack of a sound business answer to “why are we here” becomes deadly.
And why shouldn’t it? After all, how can anything done without a plan, anything done for its own sake, be a sound business practice? You wouldn’t put your own money in a bank account that can’t tell you if it has an interest rate when other accounts exist that can quantify their value. So why would a business invest more money in a department that can’t quantify its return, besides making the case that communication is its own reward?
Am I overstating the issue? Aren’t most communications departments creating some kind of report on their practice? Yes, there are plenty of reports being produced, but what are they measuring? Typically, they are simply counting media impressions in several different ways. Now, knowing whether my company was seen more or less than a competitors company in a given week is a very good piece of information, but does it measure accomplishment of a business objective? It depends. Where were each of the competitors seen; by whom? Were the people who saw us the people we wanted to reach? Will what they saw create value for our business?
Which brings us to goal-setting; do we know who we want to reach, and where we can best reach them? Do we know what reaching them should accomplish from a business standpoint; exactly how we’d like them to respond after we reach them? These are objectives.
Which returns us to the “fundamental” nature of goal-setting and measurement. PR teams need to have focused business objectives for their work, if they don’t, their efforts will be increasingly discounted by managers who think of nothing but business reasons. And they need to have a method to plan for and evaluate the impact of their actions in meeting those objectives, not just counting units of text, but assessing the impact of those texts. With clear goals and targeted measurement, PR teams establish a foundation for work that has clear organizational value.