Is it working, and how would you know?

Allison Adams

I had the pleasure of speaking last week at PR360, PR Week’s Global PR Festival and Awards. When it came to determining the topic, we thought a good deal about what makes us at FHF unique as a business – and for us, that comes down to our focus on driving real change for our clients. We understand that you can’t demonstrate change if you’re not measuring it.

Which is why I joined a room of senior marketers on a Wednesday morning to ask the question: Is it working and how would you know?


Brands have moved away from press-centric structures – away from the clippings mentality that has defined press measurement for the better part of the last century. Instead we are looking to develop multichannel strategies because intelligent, integrated work that drives real-world change doesn’t happen in silos.

With financial pressures on businesses and CMOs also increasing, the bottom line for marketers is: where there is budget, there is measurable work.

And for those of us in PR, the hard truth is that we are rapidly ceding ground to advertising and other marketing disciplines more adept at using data – to justify plans, back up ideas, and demonstrate results.

PR has been too slow to modernise and risks being cut from the marketing mix if we cannot prove our worth. We need to revolutionise how we define and talk about success if we are going to survive as an industry.

How to do that? Let’s start by ruling out what won’t work: Vanity metrics aren’t going to cut it. Clips, clippings, OTS, interviews secured aren’t enough. Imagine going in to the C-Suite of a blue-chip company and having nothing to talk about but clips generated. Vanity metrics aren’t what the C-suite looks at – not when they’re gauging programme success and not when they’re divvying up budgets.

Second: we need to rethink what we call “reporting.” How often have you received reporting as a clippings book? Or simply reporting a list of top stories?

I would bet the majority of us have presented examples like the above as results at some point during the course of our careers. And who could argue? That’s industry standard at present. But the lack of clarity here in how this is helping the business achieve its overall goals – be that sales or a shift in perception – is what’s locking us out of conversations and budgets.

And at the risk of rattling cages: that isn’t to say that rolling it in glitter – or code as the case may be – is the answer either. In addition to separating out what we call “reporting”, as an industry we need to be more disciplined in not equating measurement and analysis with dashboards. We need to not fall prey to shiny object syndrome. Analysis tells you what the data means. It tells you what to do with the information in front of you. Dashboards just tell you what the information is – monitoring in slightly swankier clothes.

So how do we fix it?

1. We need to start by intrinsically tying ourselves to business objectives. Far too often we settle on loose goals of ‘raising awareness’ or ‘driving engagement’ without specifying what it actually means – let alone how that ties back to the larger targets of the business. Instead, we need to set KPIs and align to measurement frameworks so that all partners understand what constitutes success.
2. We need to stop focusing on output metrics and start putting our time into quantifying outcomes. So fewer goals about “500 mentions of the campaign hashtag”, and more conversations about driving sales, or visits to store, or shifts in perception within key target audiences.
3. We need to set targets and report against them. Unfamiliar territory for PR to be sure – having a hard number to hit. But this transparency will help us better understand how you can improve during and after campaigns.
4. If we can do all that – the last step is translating our reporting into something that travels through the C-suite. At the end of the day, our measurement must be beautiful, easy to understand and easy to pass on.

To sum it all up: We need to drive a revolution in how we evaluate our business. We need to invest in measurement as an industry or face the consequences.

Which will you choose?