Measurement: Four priorities, one answer?
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Holmes Report
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Measurement: Four priorities, one answer?

Paul Holmes

AMEC, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communications, concluded its annual summit last week, and delegates established four measurement and evaluation priorities for the next few years: 1. Determining how best to measure public relations' ROI 2. Creating and adopting global standards for social media measurement 3. Solidifying campaign and program measurement's role as an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit 4. Instituting client education programs such that clients insist on measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results from public relations programs. I don’t disagree with any of those priorities, and I think developing them was probably a better use of the association’s time and energy than last year’s summit, which was devoted to driving a stake through the heart of advertising value equivalency—a topic unworthy of more than a second of anyone’s time, and a methodology that in any event won’t die until we find a cure for stupidity. But I wonder whether we couldn’t address three of these four priorities with a single focus—on developing an effective measure that focuses on engagement, and its impact on relationships. I’d take as a starting point Fred Reichheld’s “net promoter score” concept. For those not familiar with NPS, it’s a measure based on the number of advocates for a brand (product, service, corporation, etc.) relative to the number of detractors—those who spread negative messages. Reicheld’s research indicates that NPS is a strong indicator of future performance—in some ways a better indicator than sales, which can be bought through discounts, and perhaps be counterproductive (if a company is selling to people who don’t like the product and ultimately become detractors, for example). Net promoter score is a promising metric for public relations for a number of reasons: 1. It relates directly to business performance. 2. It measures an outcome (the strength and value of relationships)—rather than an output (reach, frequency, opportunities to see, advertising equivalency) 3. It measures engagement rather than just communications In short, it’s a metric that plays to PR strengths: it’s a lot easier to imagine public relations activity that creates advocates (or reduces criticism) than it is to imagine an advertising campaign that does the same. As for those four priorities established by AMEC: a methodology based on NPS would provide evidence of return on investment (it should be possible to put a dollar value on each advocate created, or detractor dissuaded); it would be an ideal measure for social media, where much f the necessary engagement takes place); and it would encompass output, outcome and business results. It might also encourage PR firms to incorporate measurement as “an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit.” Net promoter score, ad developed by Reichheld, may not be perfect, but it provides a solid starting point for the best minds in public relations measurement and evaluation to begin the address all of the priorities raised at the recent AMEC summit. I know some PR firms are already incorporating NPS into their work, but real and lasting value will only come if the industry coalesces around a measurement standard. And I have yet to see anyone come up with a standard more robust than this one.
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