How to prove value with communications measurement

Jessie Bland

15 Aug 2023

From defensive, big number battle shield to strategic spear

The comms industry has fallen into the trap of thinking ‘the bigger the better’ when it comes to results. Big numbers have become our battle shield for communications measurement.

But using these numbers defensively can hold us back from explaining why or how that big number is good. They hide the context as to whether a campaign was actually effective.

From PR to marketing and everything in between, we need to measure results in a way that proves real business value. Connecting measurement with strategy and business goals to demonstrate effective results that truly drive the business forward.

Proving value with how you measure communications isn’t easy but it’s worthwhile. Putting down the defensive battle shield and picking up the strategic spear can prove a liberating experience.

How do you measure comms and marketing?

Everything we do as marketing and comms professionals should be about reaching our audience in the right place, with the right message. The industry easily makes the mistake of prioritising publications and platforms over audience.

For example, in PR, we use the term ‘earned media’ and it’s called that for a reason – it’s really hard to earn. A lot of effort goes into securing press opportunities for brands. It takes a lot of relationship building, the right storyline and a hard news moment. And what you put in, doesn’t immediately come back with a result. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean significant focus is needed to prioritise publications to get the desired results.

In marketing, there’s a tendency to focus on what the latest algorithm wants. That might result in chasing LinkedIn’s ever-changing algorithm or creating content that works for Google’s ‘Helpful Content’ update.

Proving clear business value with communications measurement means connecting outputs with metrics focused on outtakes and outcomes, per the AMEC measurement framework. Outtakes are what your audience does with your output, and outcomes are the effect your output has on your audience. So, by uniting these metrics to your output we can get closer to showing business impact.

To me, this all starts with working out the move your business needs to make. Are you a ‘new-around-here’ brand looking to drive awareness in a new geography? Or are you an incumbent brand wanting to shift your reputation and change perceptions?

Identifying and articulating this move is often the first step to creating useful measurement. By starting with the business first, you can access and analyse metrics and methods that accurately demonstrate how your activity creates real business value.

Here’s five steps for effective communications measurement:

  1. Identify your ‘move to make’ to help your communications align with your business objective – find out how to make your move here.
  2. Understand your audience and plan your activity for them, not the other way around.
  3. Identify the metrics that will help you prove you’ve met your comms objective and your ‘move to make’.
  4. Connect outputs to outtakes and outcomes to prove real value to the business.
  5. Build a measurement framework that covers outputs, outtakes and outcomes. Use this to consistently report impact back to the business.

With these five steps, you can begin to move from a big measurement battle shield to a strategic spear when measuring PR and comms.

Interested in reading more about comms measurement? Check out why Share of Voice might not be the best metric for PR.