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A deep dive into PR measurement and evaluation with global expert, Jim Macnamara

Why Measurement & Evaluation (and Learning) is critical to your success

Measurement, Evaluation and Learning is how we should be reframing the discussion around metrics in public communication according Jim Macnamara, in a special Measurement Month episode of PR podcast Smoke Signal.

Measurement and Evaluation in the New Normal – Jim Macnamara

Jim Macnamara is a Distinguished Professor of Public Communication in the School of Communication at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He is internationally recognised for his research into evaluation of public communication and for his work on organisational listening.
We begin this discussion with a look at Jim’s latest book – released in July this year – Beyond Post-Communication: Challenging Disinformation, Deception, and Manipulation.

The book challenges the notion that fake news and the rise of distrust on all levels is a result of a “few bad apples” such as Trump, Russian trolls or the power of social media platforms. Rather Jim presents a compelling argument, citing numerous examples in our discussion, to show that in fact professional communicators – PR professionals, government advisers, advertisers and journalists –are as much, if not more, to blame for widespread dissemination of disinformation.

However, the book is not about finger pointing but rather how we move forward as a profession – Jim shares some of his strategies for improving the practice of professional communication.

It is in this context we discuss, Measurement and Evaluation. If we’ve moved into a post communication, post trust world, how does measurement and evaluation need to evolve.

And for Jim, the oft-repeated reasons for not doing rigorous evaluation – lack of budget, lack of time – are simply excuses. To move from being a cost-centre to a value-add centre, we need to show outcomes and business impact. It is also, according to Jim, the key for PR professionals to progress their careers and truly get a “seat at the table”.

It is also why Jim talks more today about M, E & L. Measurement and evaluation is often looking in the review mirror, a process of looking back to justify. Rather, Jim says the emphasis should be more on the learnings – both how can we use these measures to assess how can we improve our programs and campaigns moving forward; and also applying learnings to ourselves and how can we can continually improve measurement and evaluation.

In this discussion, Jim uses two current case studies as examples of how measurement can showcase tangible business outcomes – a review he is leading for the World Health Organisation on its evaluation of communication programs globally and a project he oversaw for global financial services firm Achmea.

While these are large scale projects, Jim recommends practitioners start small, show a result, prove your value and then go back and say we can do more. And once the business sees tangible results they naturally become even more committed to PR and communications.

Jim’s final word of advice for practitioners when it comes to measurement and evaluation: Practitioners need to know research methods from Google Analytics and social media analytics through to surveys. You need to be evidence based – that is what is required by management. Too often in our field we rely on feeling and intuition.

The PRIA Education Community Committee is driving a series of initiatives to mark AMEC’s Measurement Month throughout November. Be sure to visit www.pria.com.au or www.educompria.wordpress.com to see a full list of events.

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal – Measurement and evaluation = strategic communication

This month, in partnership with the Public Relations Institute of Australia, we mark Global PR Measurement Month by speaking with adjunct professor, lecturer, researcher, presenter – Fraser Likely – from his hometown in Ottawa Canada.

PR Measurement and Evaluation with Fraser Likely

Having an industry level discussion to highlight the importance of measurement has never been more critical. According to a recent study into continuing professional development conducted by the Public Relations Institute of Australia, measurement and evaluation is one of the top three priorities for Australia’s professional communicators.

While Fraser Likely is today synonymous with PR measurement and evaluation, for 30 years, while running his own communication management firm, Fraser never spoke about measurement and evaluation. It was simply performance management.

And while the tools, technology and techniques are now more sophisticated, at its heart measurement and evaluation is still all about performance – whether that be of a program, a campaign, a team or an organisation.

Fraser defines seven units of measurement: we can measure a specific communication activity and associated messages; a project or campaign;  programs such as internal comms or issues management; how PR helps the whole organisation achieve its business goals; how organisation do in regard its environment and society around it (CSR or reputation); the performance of individual practitioners; or the overall communication function and what value it has to an organisation.

With measurement and evaluation more sophisticated than ever, the greatest question today is what is the uptake among practitioners? For Fraser, engagement with measurement and evaluation goes hand in hand with the role communications plays in an organisation. Those professional communicators with a seat at the table and part of the strategic management process will look at measurement and evaluation in a much more sophisticated way.

Fraser references a  recent research piece involving 20 Chief Communication Officers, that showed senior practitioners never showed the management team traditional media metrics, social media measurements or web hits for the simple reason this was backward looking intel. What they did was analyse this data to help inform insights for their management – here’s what we’ve learnt, here’s what we know, here’s what we think is going to happen so here is how we should adjust our strategic plan. Using the data to turn it into strategic insight to feed into the management decision-making.

Fraser says in recent years there has also been a more overt distinction made between measurement (effectiveness) and evaluation (value).

Measurement is what we all do. We are using tools and technology to collect and analyse data. What this shows is the effectiveness of our communication efforts. Did we reach who we wanted to reach? What impact did it have? Did it change opinion or behaviour?

Evaluation is more the assessment of value or the merit or worth of the campaign / program / project. It answers questions such as was this valuable for us or not?

Where measurement is objective and quantitative and looks at effectiveness, evaluation is subjective and looks at value. This is how management tend to assess PR programs and departments.

Looking forward, Fraser cites Maturity Models such as the one by AMEC that allows  users to compare and contrast against what you have in place now and best practice to help practitioners improve and further the organisation’s  measurement and evaluation capabilities.

Be sure to checkout the other initiatives on the PRIA website marking Global PR Measurement Month, including a recent webinar: Measurement: Get Serious to be taken Seriously

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 7 – Jim Macnamara Keep Learning

“Distinguished Professor of Public Communication at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) former journalist, PR practitioner and media researcher” – Jim Macnamara’s twitter profile was the briefest descriptor I could find to summarise the career of Jim who started as a journalist; has worked in agencies; owned and sold his own business; is a published author; award winning researcher; and today a Distinguished Professor at UTS.

I’ve had the privilege of being both a student of Jim’s during my Masters of Public Communication and a colleague when working as a casual tutor and lecturer at UTS. I am excited to have Jim as a guest on this episode of Smoke Signal.

Listen here or download on iTunes

In the field of Public Communications Jim has many passions (he truly believes society is communication) and among other things I was thrilled to talk about three of them in this podcast: education; measurement and evaluation; and organisational listening

The changing face of PR education

After months of research and feedback from industry bodies, agencies and alumni, UTS has recently unveiled two new Public Communications Masters degrees – Master of Strategic Communication and Executive Master of Strategic Communication. The former is for recent graduates and international students with little or no working experience; the latter is for working professionals and delivers advanced learning that applies back to their roles.

The degrees will include a lot of new material such as digital media; creativity and innovation; communication and media law; and research to understand audiences.

However, Jim is quick to point out education today is more than just sharing knowledge or what you can teach students today but rather is about creating an environment that gives students a life-long thirst for learning. Helping them be open to others, to be flexible, to be creative. These skills are what will help practitioners be able to adapt to new technologies, new challenges and new opportunities.

When it comes to Strategic Communication, Jim firmly believes it is important for students, and practitioners, to think more holistically. It shouldn’t matter if it is paid, owned, shared or earned. Practitioners of the future will not sit in silos but rather use whatever means is most appropriate/effective to solve a communication issue and reach and engage stakeholders.

Measurement and evaluation

Jim has worked with the PRIA, AMEC, the UK Government and the European Commission and the US Standards body and strongly believes, echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln, that the need for measurement and evaluation should be self-evident.

However, he realises the industry has lagged in this area for years and this is often because the majority of practitioners are creative people and measurement requires a more pragmatic approach.

For Jim, this needs to change. And the reason? Because until we measure outcomes, PR is simply a cost centre, not a value-adding centre.

And there is no excuse, as there are many many methods to measure from low cost and simple through to sophisticated, but it requires practitioners to build their knowledge.

Brexit didn’t surprise me as the government wasn’t listening

We’ve treated communication for many years as disseminating organisational messages but the reality is we need to do more listening, as that is the only way to regenerate the continuing falling trust in organisations.

Jim is in the midst of an international research project looking at communication in 55 organisations globally, looking at how often they are talking, i.e. disseminating messages, versus how often they are listening to their stakeholders. The shocking conclusion is that 80-95% of what we call corporate communications is actually putting out information and messages from the organisation

For Jim, if the UK Government had listened they would have seen Brexit coming.

Jim sees a great opportunity for tomorrow’s practitioners to shift strategic communication from mass, top down communication. The reality is, Millennial and Gen Z don’t tolerate that approach and organisations, and communicators, are struggling to adapt with a new generation that is more educated, that want to be listened to, want to be involved, want to participate and want to have a say. The organisations that do adapt and engage in true communications will be very successful.

Following the discussion with Jim, in the news this episode I look at the recent investigative series into the state of journalism by Mumbrella. The statistic that just one quarter of journalism grads find a job in media was one that resonated with me.

I have long been concerned that while journalism courses continue to rise in popularity, and universities continue to pump our journalism grads, the number of journalist roles is falling. So where will they all go? This, to me, this is an issue not just for the journalism profession or PR practitioners but society more broadly as we should be encouraging and supporting the next generation of journalists.

 

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