In some parts of the world, ‘tis the season of mulled wine, cosying up in pubs with fires, frantically shopping for last-minute presents, eating, drinking and socialising more than is humanly possible… and securing budget for the next year.
For us PR and comms folks, this is a particularly stressful time.
The sad reality is that PR can be seen as a cost centre – a business expense without revenue-generating results – and too often we are fighting to secure and defend our budget when competing with other departments who are more readily able to clearly demonstrate proof of return.
I don’t have any advice for how to survive the holidays. But when it comes to budget, here is a quick refresher on how we can level the playing field with meaningful measurement and evaluation to secure that piece of sweet budget pie we deserve:
Don’t just measure outputs. Include out-takes and outcomes.
Likes, impressions and the ‘thud factor’ of a clippings report are easy and cheaper to measure but they don’t tell us how our activities have impacted business results, which is why they add no value in our case for budget. These output metrics simply prove that we’ve done stuff.
What we really need is to show how our efforts have contributed to broader organisational objectives and we can do this by investing in more sophisticated measurement and blending data from other parts of the business, such as sales, customer service, website, brand research, etc.. These crucial extra steps will help us identify the out-takes (how our target audiences respond or react to our activity) and more importantly, the outcomes (how have our activities changed our audiences’ behaviours). Measuring outcomes can help us link our PR efforts directly to revenue and prove the impact on the business’ overall goals. AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation Framework (IEF) is a great tool that can help you articulate outputs, out-takes and outcomes, as well as help you structure a solid measurement framework based on industry best practice.
Meaningful measurement and evaluation is a combination of ‘automation and curation’.
Automated monitoring tools can quickly and cost-effectively collect data, but they don’t tell us much beyond that and are useless in a boardroom. A layer of human analysis and insight needs to be applied on top of the data to bring the story behind it to life (here are a couple of examples of how we’ve done this at CARMA). This does require a larger investment upfront but it’s worth it – human analysis can surface the link between the data and business results, allowing us to make like-for-like comparisons with other departments’ activities and prove that we deserve more budget than we’d typically get.
Ditch AVEs once and for all.
AVEs, or advertising value equivalents, date back to the 1930s and have been denounced by the global PR industry for more than 20 years, so why does it still live on? Misguided business leaders are tempted by the ability to attribute a monetary return on PR but as clearly laid out in The definitive guide: why AVEs are invalid by CARMA’s co-managing partner and chair of AMEC, Richard Bagnall, we all know that advertising and PR are two completely different beasts that cannot and should not be contained, or measured, in the same way. AVEs do not allow us to compare the impact on business results between PR and other departments.
So, if you’re still having to fight for your budget this year, keep these three tips in mind when setting up your measurement and evaluation programs in 2020 so that this time next year you can spend less time stressing out about budget and more time drinking mulled wine in a pub by the fire.