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The great social media debate part 3: reinvent the wheel, or borrow from the best ideas out there?

Posted by Louise Moran on 13th January 2012

As covered in this earlier blog on the failings of Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE), it’s clear that we need a new approach to measurement in the tech PR and wider PR industry. AVE is not only inaccurate and unscientific; it is also not suitable for measuring social media PR campaigns.

While there was overwhelming support at the AMEC European Summit on Measurement 2011 for the establishment of global social media measurement standards, the market still has some way to go.

Judging by the poor performance of the social media measurement solutions available on the market today, as assessed by Richard Bagnall of Metrica, we need improved measurement standards fast.

The Seven Principles of measurement agreed at the AMEC Barcelona summit

  1. Importance of Goal Setting and Measurement
  2. Measuring the Effect on Outcomes is Preferred to Measuring Outputs
  3. The Effect on Business Results Can and Should Be Measured Where Possible
  4. Media Measurement Requires Quantity and Quality
  5. AVEs are not the Value of Public Relations
  6. Social Media Can and Should be Measured
  7. Transparency and Replicability are Paramount to Sound Measurement

 A question of collaboration

Are these principles enough for the PR industry to agree a common framework for measurement of PR campaigns, and social media? Will tech PR agencies really work together to collaborate on a shared system for measurement, or will tech PR agencies devise their own measurement systems to differentiate themselves from competitors?

Either way, at the Dublin summit in 2012 AMEC plan to finalise a shared framework and PR and communications professionals are invited to submit their comments by emailing barryleggetter@amecorg.com before January 27th 2012.

Should tech PRs reinvent the wheel or borrow from global best practice?

Philip Sheldrake got everyone’s attention at the AMEC ‘The Big Ask’ conference when he argued that rather than reinvent the wheel, PRs should borrow from existing global best practice. His argument was that all industries are in the business of influencing – the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something – and that measurement is an important management tool, which allows us to measure our progress against objectives.

He criticised the PR industry for buying into social media measurement tools without knowing how they work, slaves to an algorithm whose inner workings are not understood by the people being measured by it.

Sheldrake is not the only one to feel this way – Richard Bagnall compared social media measurement tools and presented his quite shocking findings at a recent PRCA event and Monty Mountford questioned the faddishness of such tools in his recent article for the Telegraph.

A better solution

Sheldrake argued that PR should adopt the balanced scorecard as a measurement tool. This is a strategic planning and management system commonly used by management consultants worldwide to ensure activity is aligned with strategic vision and agreed KPIs.

Adapted from Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, “Using the Balanced Scorecard as a Strategic Management System,” Harvard Business Review (January-February 1996): 76.

Devised by Dr Robert Kaplan and Dr David Norton initially as a performance measurement framework, it combines financial and non-financial performance metrics to provide all stakeholders with a balanced view of performance. One of the key advantages of the balanced scorecard is that it does not only look backwards in time – as traditional PR measurement systems do – but measures progress over time, guiding an organisation to keep the business on track.

The future of PR and social media PR measurement?

While the global PR industry has not managed to yet agree on measurement guidelines, it’s encouraging to see that the debate has now begun about the next steps. The sooner we bin AVE once and for all and agree tangible measurement standards for PR, which are aligned with business goals, the better.

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